Laurel Ridge’s new data science degree developed to meet growing workforce demand

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For Immediate Release:
December 7, 2020

Primary Media Contact:
Sally Voth
Public Relations Specialist
[email protected]
Phone: 540-868-7134

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One of Laurel Ridge’s newest programs has been developed to meet the growing demand for data scientists. The associate of science degree in science with a specialization in computational and data science program began this fall.

“Data science plays an integral role when it comes to making critical decisions in many fields, including transportation planning, healthcare, the corporate world, farming and food production, education, finance, government, manufacturing, retail and criminal justice,” said Dr. Ia Gomez, Laurel Ridge dean of science, integrated technologies, engineering, math and health. “In fact, it would be hard to name an industry in which the skills of data scientists are not needed.

“Data science is emerging as a game changer among the most successful players in all markets. For example, financial institutions rely on data scientists to detect and prevent fraud, retailers depend on them for market research, and manufacturers can use their analytical skills to detect anomalies and predict – and thus prevent – problems. And, in these unprecedented times in which we are living, those skilled in decision sciences can make an impact on the global stage.”

Professors at Laurel Ridge collaborated on the program with their counterparts at George Mason University to ensure the degree would smoothly transfer into the program at GMU. However, the specialization is transferrable to other four-year universities.

Laurel Ridge’s program will be led by Beth Dodson, who has more then a decade of experience as a college instructor, specializing in statistics, data analysis, data visualization and curriculum development. Prior to coming to the college, she was director of analytics for a computational research lab with a focus on researching global humanitarian issues.

“The computational and data science specialization provides a solid foundation for students in the data science field pillars of mathematics, computer science and statistics,” Dr. Gomez said. “This solid foundation in math, statistics and computer language that goes into the more exciting fields of data science, such as machine learning, large data analysis and predictive modeling, will set our graduates apart in the job market.”

She said students could immediately enter the workforce upon graduating – entry level jobs include data scientist, business intelligence analyst, data technician, operations analyst, healthcare analyst and research statistician – or transfer to a four-year to complete their bachelor’s degree in the areas of data science, analytics or data-driven decision science. Many junior-level data scientists will be hired at the associate-degree level with the understanding they will pursue a bachelor’s degree in the field.

Learn more about the program at


Founded in 1970, Laurel Ridge Community College is a multi-campus public institution of higher education. With three locations — Middletown, Warrenton, and Luray-Page County — the College serves eight localities in the Shenandoah Valley and northern Piedmont regions. The localities are the counties of Clarke, Fauquier, Frederick, Page, Rappahannock, Shenandoah and Warren and the city of Winchester. Laurel Ridge offers more than 75 associate degree and certificate programs in a wide variety of disciplines, in addition to providing access to bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs offered on site by a four-year institution. Laurel Ridge also serves the business community by offering workforce preparation programs for employees and employers. Laurel Ridge serves more than 9,000 unduplicated credit students and more than 11,000 individuals in professional development and business and industry courses annually.

Laurel Ridge Community College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) to award associate degrees. Laurel Ridge Community College also may offer credentials such as certificates and diplomas at approved degree levels. Questions about the accreditation of Laurel Ridge Community College may be directed in writing to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, GA 30033-4097, by calling (404) 679-4500, or by using information available on SACSCOC’s website (

Laurel Ridge Community College is an equal opportunity institution providing educational and employment opportunities, programs, services, and activities. Laurel Ridge shall promote and maintain equal employment and educational opportunities without regard to race, color, religion, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity, marital status, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions including lactation, age (except when age is a bona fide occupational qualification), status as a veteran, national origin, or other non-merit factors. Laurel Ridge also prohibits sexual misconduct including sexual violence or harassment. Inquiries may be directed to the Associate Vice President, Human Resources, [email protected]173 Skirmisher Lane, Middletown, VA 22645, 540-868-7226.

Laurel Ridge Community College was known as Lord Fairfax Community College until June 2022. For consistency purposes, the college will be referenced as Laurel Ridge going forward.