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

March 2, 2023

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.” Portrait of Kerri Rittschof Kerri Rittschof, director of the ASU Library’s Unit for Data Science. Photo courtesy ASU Library Download Full Image

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:

Marilyn Murphy

Communications Specialist, ASU Library


Interplanetary Initiative pilot project to host inaugural hackathon

Event urges participants to address climate challenges tied to UN Sustainable Development Goals

February 24, 2023

The Arizona State University Interplanetary Initiative pilot project SpaceHACK for Sustainability will host its first hackathon March 24–25 to bring social justice-conscious teams together to address social inequities, sustainable development and environmental justice issues.

The event builds on current research exploring the impact of the space industry on our achievement of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals. ASU Interplanetary Initiative event poster, reading "How does space exploration and development impact progress toward achieving the UN SDGs?" Download Full Image

“Satellite data is having a tremendous impact on global efforts to address both climate change and social problems, such as poverty or access to clean water," said Eric Stribling, project lead for SpaceHACK for Sustainability. "This hackathon has been designed to make these seemingly complex technologies accessible to students and to involve them in real-world issues, where they can make an actual contribution."

During the event, participants will work in multidisciplinary teams to explore how satellite Earth observations and remote sensing technology from space can be used to better understand and address social inequities, sustainable development and environmental justice issues here on Earth. With guidance from top industry and academic leaders, participants will have the opportunity to focus on one of three engaging tracks with the chance to compete for prizes:

  • Climate Impacts on Brazilian Favelas: Leveraging space to assess worsening natural disasters disproportionately impacting the most marginalized in Brazil.

  • Sustainable Groundwater Usage in Nepal: Using space to see and govern groundwater.

  • Wildfire Risk and Social Disparity at the Wildland Urban Interface: Monitoring wildfires from space to help us to understand fire risk inequities and social disparity on Earth.

The Interplanetary Initiative is partnering with Planet, a provider of global daily Earth data, for the event. Planet will provide access to their visual data, which will allow participants to create maps and spatial correlations between the visual data and other data important for addressing the aforementioned three challenges. For example, if a team working on the Nepal track notices that certain crops are planted when the water table measurements are low, that finding can help inform forecasting efforts.

All participants will learn the basics of Google Earth Engine and use real satellite data from multiple sources to pull together insights around one of the above problem statements.

The event runs from 2 to 11:30 p.m. on March 24 and from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on March 25 on the third floor of Hayden Library on ASU’s Tempe campus and virtually. It is hosted by the ASU Interplanetary Initiative, Hayden Library and Planet in collaboration with faculty in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society.

Registration is now open. Sign up to join a team today.

Sally Young

Senior Communications Specialist, Interplanetary Initiative