Kerri Rittschof named director of data science and analytics at ASU Library


Portrait of Kerri Rittschof

Kerri Rittschof, director of the ASU Library’s Unit for Data Science. Photo courtesy ASU Library

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The ASU Library is pleased to announce Kerri Rittschof as the new director of its Unit for Data Science. Rittshof was previously the program manager and will now lead, plan and organize operations of the data science and analytics unit.

“Whether you are a social worker or engineer, understanding data science can help us all tell our stories more effectively,” said Debra Riley-Huff, associate university librarian for engagement and learning services at the ASU Library. “We’re excited to have Kerri step into leading the data science and analytics unit, a central hub where we’re able to reach all levels and all disciplines at ASU.”

Established in 2016, the unit was most recently led by Michael Simeone, associate research professor. The department connects students, faculty and staff to grow their knowledge of data science through workshops, tutorials, research and collaborations. 

Rittschof sat down with ASU News to talk about her journey and what’s on the horizon for data science at the library and beyond.

Question: What is data science and why is it relevant to everyone?

Answer: Data science helps us understand and to think critically about the massive amounts of information we process in our world in order to tell the story. What excites me about data science is that it applies to all fields and all individuals. It’s not just programming and coding, which is a common misconception. In data science we use statistics, the scientific method and various processes and analysis to tell that story. One very important component involves asking questions of stakeholders regarding the research or project and examining the data to assist in understanding and identifying the problem — the "why" behind it. For example, we can use data science to make predictions in fraud detection, social work, health care, animal medicine and in the arts. 

Q: You have a background in organizational psychology. Can you tell us a little bit about your journey to the ASU Library?

A: I began my career in child welfare, where I held various positions from investigations, case management, family advocacy and then designing, implementing and evaluating programs to ensure child safety. I knew I wanted more, to make an impact at an organizational level; therefore, I obtained a doctorate in organizational psychology. My original goal was to be a consultant to help identify and resolve various issues within the workplace. To help me learn and understand, I took courses to obtain a master’s certificate in program evaluation using R, sharpened my skills in project management, remained current on I/O trends, expanded research knowledge and utilized motivational interviewing. 

This is where my path changed in a great way, and I was at the data science unit at ASU Library. I learned about the needs and wants of the ASU community, and the external stakeholders involved to share their stories. Based on those wants and needs, I created events and provided library resources related to data science and their disciplines. I managed projects and conducted research with various internal and external stakeholders on their data science projects. I am now using data science in my work, and I do not have a data science degree. 

Q: Data Science and Analytics provides multiple workshops and events for students, faculty and staff. What can they expect to learn?

A: The open lab series and virtual workshops provide supplemental learning beyond the classroom and degree programs. We create a big tent around data science to make sure that those who are interested in data science can learn more about the topics and concepts. The ASU Library provides these opportunities to provide webinar style or hands-on instruction to learn and enhance one’s skills. We’re also excited to partner with groups like ASU’s Interplanetary Initiative on the SpaceHACK For Sustainability on March 24 and 25 at Hayden Library, to examine Google Earth satellite data to address the United Nations' Sustainability Development Goals.

Another way the library can help researchers is research data management, providing support to manage and publish your data. We are here to help researchers and provide them the support they need.

Q: What do you say to students who say, "Data science isn’t for me"?

Portrait of Kerri Rittschof

Kerri Rittshof

A: Last year at Passport to ASU, I met many first-year students who said, "Oh, data science isn’t for me," or "I will never use data science." However, after we started talking about their major and projects they’re passionate about, we could immediately make connections with tools such as predictive modeling and regression analysis that can infuse their questions process. That’s data science, and we don’t even realize it. Opening up dialogues with students and providing feedback for how data science can enhance their projects enables us to support student success.

Q: What’s on the horizon for data science in libraries?

A: Ever since we hosted the inaugural data science conference last June, we’ve been able to continue holding conversations with colleagues at other academic libraries from across the country. From MIT to Duke, we’re leading our peers in providing support for students and faculty. We’ll be continuing to create workshops that can take you from beginning to advanced sessions, and we hope to do more outreach to student clubs. We’re committed to providing opportunities to be collaborative across disciplines, and being at the library allows us to support everyone at ASU. 

Upcoming data science events:

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