Under the leadership of Dean Darnell Hunt, faculty in the Division of Social Sciences in the UCLA College are focused on building a big data infrastructure that will prepare students for data science degrees and careers.

The division recently gained its first corporate philanthropic partner in this effort thanks to a gift from LRW Group, a global research analytics consultancy that works regularly with nonprofits and corporate brands in the United States and abroad. LRW is headquartered in Los Angeles.

The UCLA Social Sciences LRW Big Data Research Partnership will create a dedicated UCLA staff position tasked with recruiting undergraduates and graduate students for paid summer internships in data science. The initiative also will help launch a two-quarter social justice course that will be part of a recently proposed data science minor. The partnership will feature support workshops and roundtables in social data science, as well as guest lectures by LRW leadership and employees.

“LRW’s commitment will seed our efforts to establish a pipeline of underrepresented students into the new social data science minor we are developing as part of the division’s larger big data initiative,” Hunt said. “Along with this generous and important contribution, LRW also has pledged to offer paid internships to some of our most promising students, creating an opportunity for them to envision future careers and gain workplace experience that enhances their academic pursuits at UCLA.”

A meeting at LRW Group.
Courtesy LRW Group
A meeting at LRW Group.

LRW Group CEO Dave Sackman is a UCLA alumnus who also serves on the board of the Social Sciences Centennial Campaign Committee. He said he was impressed by some of the great work coming out of the social sciences, especially with UCLA’s Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies and its Million Dollar Hoods policing research, and the work of the joint UCLA-Berkeley California Policy Lab, which partners with state and local policymakers on research into homelessness, education and other critical social issues.  

Sackman said LRW is also interested in diversifying its workforce, and so partnering with UCLA on this program seemed like a natural fit.

“LRW Group is a leader in sophisticated data analytics and we are excited to expand opportunities for the social sciences division’s diverse student base to build high-demand technology skills, and to show students that they can use these capabilities to build a career — and not just in Silicon Valley, but also for social good,” Sackman said.

Marcello Magno, LRW senior vice president of marketing and data science, will be working closely with the student interns. A former math teacher and UC Berkeley alumnus, he said he’s eager to give UCLA students a program like the one in which he participated, geared toward increasing diversity in STEM fields.

“When students apply data science to real-world problems in the social sciences, they will find these are complex problems with complicated datasets,” Magno said. “What we bring to the table for UCLA students is vast, direct experience in this area and the ability to collaborate on solving complex business problems for some of the world’s largest brands. The tools and techniques we use in commercial applications of data science offer a vast opportunity to help people and understand their motivations in the social sciences.”

The coursework and proposed data science minor is slated to begin in the 2020–2021 academic year and the LRW internships will begin in summer 2020.