The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign has recently announced the selection of 11 projects, with budgets totaling nearly $15 million, as part of its Investment for Growth Program. These projects, chosen in the program's fifth round of funding, embody the spirit of collaboration, innovation, and the potential to make a significant impact on the campus community and beyond.
Since its establishment in 2018, the Investment for Growth Program has enabled the university to invest over $91 million in seed funding for projects that generate revenue, advance teaching and research missions, and address areas of high student demand. Previously funded initiatives have included projects such as "Supporting and Promoting the Practical Value of a Humanities Education in the 21st Century," "Jump Start Data Science Education at Illinois," "Supporting Growth of Master of Engineering (MEng) Programs and Professional Education," and the "South Campus Center for Interdisciplinary Learning (Feasibility/Architectural)."
One of the standout proposals selected in this round is the project titled "National Leadership in Data Science Education Supporting a Significant Visible Social Impact." This proposal, submitted by Professor Karle Flanagan of Statistics and Professor Wade Fagen-Ulmschneider of Computer Science, focuses on the DISCOVERY platform and its integration into the Data Science Discovery course (STAT/CS/IS 107).
DISCOVERY, an open-access data science resource initially created at the University of Illinois, forms the foundation for the introductory data science course and several related programs. Within a span of fewer than two years, DISCOVERY has served as an essential resource for over 1,000 students annually in the cross-disciplinary introductory data science course. Furthermore, it has emerged as a public service, garnering thousands of daily page views and appearing in over 10,000 Google search results each day.
The transition of DISCOVERY from a prototype to a permanent platform will establish the University of Illinois as a national leader in undergraduate-level data science education. With the platform's expansion, the cross-disciplinary team aims to generate one million monthly page views for University of Illinois content dedicated to data science. They also plan to create over 3,000 articles, tutorials, projects, videos, and other resources covering various topics in data science, making them accessible for learners worldwide.
Internally, DISCOVERY will serve as a comprehensive repository for students across all majors, providing valuable review materials and additional learning support. It will also enable undergraduates in non-technical majors to build micro-credentials on their resumes by completing each lesson. The team behind DISCOVERY plans to collaborate with the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning (CITL) to develop a campus-wide program that assists faculty in teaching courses with visible social impact. The program will deploy accessible tools for instructors and ensure maximum student enrollment and retention across undergraduate, graduate, and online programs.
The Investment for Growth Program not only promotes the realization of bold and innovative ideas but also encourages colleges and departments to think big and dream beyond conventional boundaries. As the university continues to invest in impactful projects, it invites faculty, staff, and students to explore their potential and contribute to the next round of Investment for Growth proposals. Interested individuals are encouraged to reach out to their department heads and deans to initiate conversations about their ideas.
Through strategic investments like these, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is committed to maintaining its position as a trailblazer in higher education, fostering excellence in teaching, research, and outreach while addressing the evolving needs of its students and society at large.