Elon University selects inaugural director of Data Nexus initiative 

Professor Crista Arangala from the Department of Mathematics & Statistics will oversee a new program designed to teach data competency through campus centers and academic programs that support student learning and faculty development. 

An accomplished professor of mathematics whose career has focused on engaging with and advocating for students and programs within a global context will lead a new university effort to foster data competency across campus.

Elon University Provost Rebecca Kohn has named Professor Crista Arangala the inaugural director of Elon University’s Data Nexus initiative following a national search.

Elon introduced its Data Nexus initiative as part of a five-year Quality Enhancement Plan developed during its most recent accreditation process. Data Nexus will serve as a coordinating hub for data competency initiatives at the university throughout the plan and beyond.

“Dr. Arangala’s exceptional record of teaching and scholarship, and her wealth of knowledge about the value of data competency in finding answers to many of the vexing problems that confront humanity, make her uniquely suited for this important responsibility,” Kohn said. “There is no doubt that Dr. Arangala’s approach to building collaborations and prioritizing student success will benefit countless Elon graduates in the years ahead.”

In her new role, Arangala will help faculty and departments design courses and academic experiences to enhance student learning of foundational data literacy skills as well as more advanced data competency working with quantitative and qualitative data.

Arangala will work with a faculty advisory committee and collaborate with a range of campus partners to:

  • Coordinate the implementation of the Quality Enhancement Plan and new, related initiatives;
  • Support student learning for data-oriented assignments and projects;
  • Connect and elevate existing data-intensive initiatives and programs;
  • Provide and support professional development opportunities for pedagogical development and research around data competency; and
  • Assess the ongoing success of the QEP and maintain a strong feedback loop to measure and continue to enhance student learning and data competency.

Arangala assumes her new role following eight years as chair of the Department of Mathematics & Statistics where she played a key role in the development of the department’s Statistics Practicum and the Data Analytics major. That included the creation and teaching of a course on mathematical methods in data analytics – and she serves as the director of the Data Analytics Scholars program.

“Data is everywhere. Data is the language of the digital age, and we all must learn how it’s gathered, how it’s used, and how it can be of benefit in solving some of our world’s biggest challenges,” Arangala said. “The Data Nexus initiative is another example of how Elon University is a leader in undergraduate education: it unites our community in the pursuit of new and exciting ways to prepare graduates for lives of deeply meaningful service and leadership.

“I am excited to serve as the conduit for this campus-wide collaboration – embracing the need for data-competency!”

Arangala earned her Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Allegheny College, a Master of Science and a Ph.D. in Mathematics from the University of Cincinnati, and a Master of Higher Education Administration Certificate from Stony Brook University. Her scholarly pursuits have focused on a variety of applications in mathematics including mathematical biology, mathematical physics, gerrymandering, and sentimental analysis.

Since joining the Elon faculty in 2000, she has mentored more than 35 students in undergraduate research projects, many of which are related to applied linear algebra.

Arangala has published five books related to mathematical modeling, data analytics, and inquiry learning in the classroom: “Exploring Linear Algebra: Labs and Projects with Mathematica”, “Exploring Linear Algebra: Labs and Projects with Matlab”, “Mathematical Modeling: Branching Beyond Calculus” and “Exploring Calculus: Labs and Projects with Mathematica.” Her most recent textbook, “Linear Algebra with Machine Learning and Data,” was published earlier this year.

She also is the co-founder of the Elon Traveling Science Center, which offers undergraduate students an opportunity to develop science and math exhibits for both local and international exhibitions.

Arangala traveled to Sri Lanka in 2014 as a Fulbright Scholar and previously served as associate director of the Periclean Scholars program at Elon University.