2020 Virtual Class Day Remarks

Jeannette WingJeannette Wing
Avanessians Director of the Data Science Institute and Professor of Computer Science

Dear 2020 graduates of the Master's in Data Science Program at Columbia University in the City of New York: 

Congratulations on achieving this milestone in your life in these most unprecedented times. We continue to live with great uncertainty as to how the COVID-19 pandemic will play out: locally here in New York City, and globally across the world; in the next few months as we slowly start opening up, in the next year or so as scientists work on understanding this coronavirus; and in years to come as we collectively learn to live in a new normal.

Yes, we live in great uncertainty, but there are some certainties you can rely on. You are an outstanding class of 178 students strong, with today’s ceremony recognizing 175 degrees and three certificates. You are from 24 countries, a truly international cohort of graduates. But beyond these facts, you can be certain that you have learned new knowledge and new skills that will carry you for life. With the help of excellent instructors and a dedicated staff, you worked hard to earn your degree. It’s an honor to treasure for life. Data scientists continue to be in high demand, in all sectors, and you, graduating from the most rigorous Master’s in Data Science program in the world, are the best of the best. These are certainties.

But beyond the knowledge and skills you have acquired in earning this degree, there is another certainty you can rely on. Your own personal fortitude. No class of students has ever had to turn on a dime and go from in-person instruction to online instruction in a matter of days. With only remote access to data science faculty, industry mentors, and the Data Science Institute staff, you persevered and made it. You can rely on your resilience—perhaps a character strength you did not realize you had or one you had to develop—and know with certainty that you can do anything.

Finally, there is one more certainty for all of you: The Columbia Family. Please know that Columbia and the Data Science Institute will always be here for you, no matter where you are or what you are doing. Remember to keep in touch with us as you progress in your career and in your life.

And now to the 2020 class of the Master’s in Data Science Program at Columbia University in the City of New York: Be proud of your accomplishment! Go out and use your data science expertise to tackle societal challenges to make our world safer, healthier, and stronger for the future.


Tian ZhengTian Zheng
Professor and Chair, Department of Statistics and Associate Director for Education, Data Science Institute

Congratulations to the DSI Class of 2020. During a global pandemic, it is a huge blessing for all of us to come together and celebrate your achievements even in this virtual way. Thanks to the MSDS team for their hard work over the past weeks to pull this together. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we came to realize more of the importance of data science in combating crisis and supporting decision-making in the face of tremendous uncertainty. "Data quality", "selection biases", "projection uncertainty", "experimental design", and "ethical consequences of data science algorithms", all these concepts you have learned as part of your curriculum at Columbia, have become buzz words in today's news. I have never felt more proud of being a data scientist. I am confident that this pride is shared by everyone in our community at DSI. 

As you now move on to pursue a career in data science, I wish that you find data solutions and make them better than you find them. "Data for Good" is our DSI tagline and will forever be our shared belief. We, at DSI, are looking forward to hearing about your future "Data for Good" endeavors. 

Congratulations again and stay in touch.



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