U.Va. breaks ground on data science building
The foundation for the University of Virginia’s new School of Data Science will begin to take shape in the coming months at the corner of Emmet Street and Ivy Road.
The $35 million, 61,000-square-foot building is expected to open to students in spring 2024. It sits on part of a 14-acre site that formerly housed the Cavalier Inn. Additional plans for the site include a hotel, a performing arts center and other academic buildings.
The building is being financed with annual debt service paid completely from the university’s largest private donation — a $120 million endowment created in 2019 by alumni Jaffray and Merrill Woodriff through their nonprofit Quantitative Foundation.
Hopkins Architects of London is the building’s designer, with Charlottesville-based VMDO Architects serving as executive architect.
Arlyn Burgess, the school’s chief of staff, says the design process has involved careful thinking about how physical spaces have had to evolve as technology and the pandemic have changed the way people work and learn.
For example, operable windows that can let in fresh air are a nod to heightened attention to wellness in the workplace. Co-working spaces will let data school participants work during breaks, making it easier for businesses to send employees for activities.
“We are trying to find ways to bring companies into the building so that they can participate in the life of data science at U.Va.,” Burgess explains.
In April 2021, Capital One’s Center for Machine Learning made a $2 million gift to name the school’s central gathering space the Capital One Hub. Featuring floor-to-ceiling windows, a two-story gallery and a large video wall, the space will be visible to people passing by the building.
In operation since 2019, the School of Data Science has grown rapidly — the school added 13 faculty last year and plans to add just as many this year, Dean Philip Bourne says.
“There is clearly a huge demand [for data science skills] across all sectors,” he says. “Every industry is trying to figure out how to leverage their own data or other people’s data to make them more cost-effective and more competitive.”
Bourne notes that employers are demanding more graduates with deeper data science research skills — a reason the school is developing Virginia’s first Ph.D. program in data science. Officials are hopeful it will launch in the 2022-23 academic year.