Dr. Yan Li, Teacher, Mentor, and Data Science Pioneer

What good is a vast trove of data, if you have no way to access, manipulate and use it in a real world scenario?

According to Yan Li, assistant professor at CGU’s Center for Information Systems & Technology, that is at the foundation of her life’s work and research and how she approached helping to build and teach in the new online Master’s in Information Systems & Technology program. She also notes that while data science is more fluid than ever, the need to understand the basics remains constant.

“Data science requires sound architecture and a means to process the data,” says Li. “Without process, it’s just stored data that haven’t made the transition to usable knowledge.”

“Without process, it’s just stored data.”

Li says that regardless of the enormous changes in data science over the last decade and how data scientists perform their jobs, basic understanding of the methodologies used in the field must be ever present. She notes that data architecture, capture, modeling, concurrency control, security and performance optimization, are all traditional data management key principles and functions, and are still an integral part of overall data science workflow. These are data pipelines for building data science applications.

“With big data platforms and other new technologies, some people feel we don’t need all the traditional competencies anymore,” says Li, “NOT true. Every two to five years, there are major changes in our industry, new tools, new ways to do things. Anyone can learn a new tool. That’s not enough. Understanding the fundamentals and key principles is crucial. All the backend stuff, like the architecture, is what makes it all work.”

“Anyone can learn a new tool. That’s not enough.”

Pulling from her career designing and building systems for data and emergent information technologies, Li helped to develop the MS in Information Systems & Technology program and its courses. She admires CGU’s design and practice-based approaches to solve important business and societal problems, and she’s excited to work with CGU students. Originally from China, Li received an MS and PhD from Virginia Commonwealth University. She worked as a data scientist before joining CGU three years ago and says she was especially drawn to CGU because of its philosophical bent toward applied research. “The academic mission of Claremont Graduate University is to create new knowledge and prepare leaders to enter the world with the purpose and skills to make it a better place,” says Li. CGU also has “an approach to pedagogy that focuses on applied learning and research,” which Li appreciates. “It’s a very compelling mission,” says Li. “It’s research and theory, but also actual application for that research.” Working with students at the doctorate level, she says that she has seen her own research coincide with theirs.

“There’s an overlap that sometime occurs and a sort of co-learning,” says Li.

According to Li, the new online program and its concentrations of Data Science and Analytics and IT Innovation and Design are meant to give students powerful knowledge and tools they can immediately apply across industries. The rigorous coursework should attract career professionals ”who are intellectually curious and willing to work hard,” but she says she and the other professors will be available to assist students.

“Part of why I chose to go back to academia is to teach and advise students from a research perspective,” says Li “and I really enjoy serving as a mentor.”

Li views her relationship with students as cooperative and collaborative. She takes an open door approach and she’s willing to assist students, but she expects them to work toward specific goals.

“They need to be interested in learning and not afraid of problem solving,” says Li. “In coursework, they need to be able to encounter a challenge and be happy to solve it. After all, intellectual curiosity and problem-solving skills are what they need to be able to succeed in our field.”

Do you have a passion for Information Technology and the intellectual curiosity to use IT applications to meet and solve real world challenges? If you’re ready to advance your career and use technology to make a positive impact, consider the online MS in Information Systems & Technology program offered at CGU. Dr. Lin could be one of your passionate and able instructors! Request information to learn more now.

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