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New Professorship in Education and Data Sciences Announced

By Jill Anderson on March 26, 2019 2:56 PM
The chair will be an opportunity to further explore lingering questions in education through data science.

Dean Bridget Long has announced the creation of the Bluhm Family Assistant/Associate Professorship in Education and Data Science — an exciting new endowed chair focused on transforming K–12 education at scale through effective and efficient use of data.

“Thanks to the generosity of Andy Bluhm, HGSE will now have increased capacity to answer some of the most pressing questions in the field using cutting-edge data science methods,” Long said. “I am thrilled that the Bluhm Professorship, once filled, will not only provide leadership in education data science for HGSE, but also for Harvard University and for educators across the country.”

Andrew Bluhm is a 1993 graduate of Harvard Business School and the founder and principal of Delaware Street Capital, as well as a co-founder of Otus, an educational technology company that centralizes data collection for educators in one platform. A passionate advocate for improving education through strategic data and analytics, Bluhm has long recognized the need for better use and management of data to truly make change in the classroom for every student.

“We all know how important education is and how at the end of the day it is a great equalizer in society. It’s also terribly important for this country, but how do we make it better?” Bluhm said, citing the creation of this chair as not only an opportunity to further explore lingering questions in education through data science — including matters of personalized learning, student motivation, school funding, and parent involvement — but also as the impetus for Otus, his Chicago-based edtech company. “We want education to be driven by facts of what works and what doesn’t work, and not by fads or gut-feelings. This is also the part of education to me where we can work together, through this position, to speed up that process.”

While the market for educational apps and technologies grows daily, and there’s an increased call for the use of data in education, Bluhm cited challenges with the broad collection of data and how to bring it together in useful ways for educators. “What was out there was really making [educators] inefficient and interfering with learning,” he said, which inspired him to launch Otus in 2011. When Bluhm observed his own children’s teachers and administrators struggle as they incorporated more individualized technologies like iPads into the classroom, he recognized how some business management practices, especially the utilization of data science, could benefit education.  “It’s so important that all of these worlds start to come together,” he stressed. “I think education and business can be married together in ways that are powerful and can make a difference, which inspired me about this professorship — particularly how it will make research easier and affordable, leading to new insights in the field. Students are not widgets, and we need to look at student data much more holistically than we do now if we want to effect sustainable change in education.”

Bluhm saw Harvard as the premiere place to explore how to better join these different field practices, especially considering the Ed School’s strong support of the use of data in projects like Data Wise, and Harvard Business School’s standing as a leader in management. The new chair position will represent cross-disciplinary work in data science, economics, management, learning sciences, and learning technologies, motivated by actual questions that teachers, students, and school leaders are asking.

Long anticipates the Bluhm Professor will produce groundbreaking research and also prepare the next generation of outstanding scholars and leaders in data science. “I am delighted that Andy’s gift will help us to grow our faculty in exciting new ways,” she said. “I look forward to seeing the impact the Bluhm Professor will have on educational access and opportunity for countless students.”