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3 Universities Join Alation’s Data Intelligence Project

A data solutions company will provide course instructors at three universities in the U.S. and U.K. with free digital tools and resources to train students for work in data administration.

A person holding a laptop while typing on it.
A trio of universities this week joined a philanthropic project by the data intelligence company Alation to train students for careers in data-driven enterprises.

According to a news release, the addition of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, University of Cincinnati and University of Stirling in Scotland marks a major expansion of the Data Intelligence Project, a philanthropic initiative launched by Alation in 2021 that provides universities with free access to its data intelligence platform and is designed to give students experience with collaborative data catalogs.

“At Alation, our vision is to make a more curious and rational world, where all decisions are data-informed,” Alation co-founder Aaron Kalb said in a public statement. “Our data intelligence software helps achieve that vision, but that utopian world also requires a data-literate workforce. So, it’s our responsibility to help academic institutions train the workforce of the future. By adding more universities to the Data Intelligence Program, we’re providing students around the world with real-world experience using data and technology. We’re proud to partner with these vision-aligned educators to inspire and empower the next generation of data users and decision-makers.”

The news release said the initiative — now international with the addition of the University of Stirling — also gives universities access to expert guest speakers on topics such as data analytics, data intelligence, data science, IT and engineering, as well as supplemental course content and training resources to tailor the curriculum to workplace needs and give students experience working with data tools.

Russell McMahon, an associate professor at the University of Cincinnati, told Government Technology that the real-world training students gain through work with tools like Alation’s data catalog is particularly important today, given growing demand for data administration professionals across industries that have become increasingly digitized in recent years.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall employment of database administrators and architects was projected to grow 9 percent from 2021 to 2031, with about 11,500 job openings projected each year on average as workplaces become increasingly digitized to streamline daily operations.

McMahon said the University of Cincinnati plans to make more use of Alation’s resources to train students for work in data administration and governance after using them to supplement the curriculum in his data technology administration course last year. He added that much of the Alation curriculum focuses on preparing future data professionals to work with other staff “at all levels of an organization” to make the most of their data for daily operations.

“With the incredible amount of growth of data [for companies to manage], you don’t have any data to make sense of if you don’t have some control over it. ... We want to use these tools and have students know how to use them,” he said. “We want to slowly keep integrating [Alation] into our curriculum and maybe push it down to another course as well, so that students can be introduced in one course earlier before they get to this one.”

In addition to training resources, the announcement added that the program has also helped universities like the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee make students more competitive applicants for companies that use Alation, such as Cisco, General Mills, Hertz, NASDAQ, Pfizer, Riot Games, Salesforce and Virgin Australia.

“Data intelligence is one of the fastest-growing occupational fields, a highly sought-after role nearly every industry is hiring for,” Dr. Maria Haigh, assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, said in a public statement. “However, many undergraduate programs do not provide the technical data literacy skills or real-world experience students need to succeed beyond the classroom. Partnering with Alation allows us to tailor our curriculum to real-world demand and provide our students with the tools and experience they need to ignite their career paths, no matter the industry.”

McMahon said these types of networking opportunities were among the key reasons his university partnered with Alation, adding that he hopes to build more collaborative relationships with other universities in the initiative.

“Knowing that Alation has customers in Cincinnati and Ohio is really helpful, because we’re always looking for companies that might want to hire one of our students,” he said. “That was a big selling point.”

The announcement added that Alation will select up to four more institutions globally next year to join in the Data Intelligence Project. Applications are available on the company’s website.
Brandon Paykamian is a staff writer for Government Technology. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from East Tennessee State University and years of experience as a multimedia reporter, mainly focusing on public education and higher ed.