JBU Receives $8M Walton Charitable Support Foundation Grant

John Brown University announced today a $8 million grant from the Walton Charitable Support Foundation in support of the university’s data analytics and computer science programs.

Two million dollars will be used to endow an academic chair for data analytics. The remaining $6 million will create an endowed scholarship to support students majoring in computer science or data analytics. Both programs are new for fall 2020.

“We are excited to expand our academic programs in these critically needed professions,” said Dr. Charles Pollard, JBU president. “This new endowed scholarship will help keep JBU affordable for students seeking to pursue data analytics and computer science in the context of a rigorous Christian comprehensive education.”

As top companies around the world rely on data to make everyday decisions, JBU’s data analytics program trains students to research, analyze and present information to impact those decisions.

“We know from talking with top employers that data analytics is an industry where holistically educated graduates are in high demand,” said Dr. Ryan Ladner, dean of the Soderquist College of Business. “This grant will help us create a quality program and help interested students develop important analytical skills while maintaining the distinctive soft skills our employers have come to expect from JBU graduates.”

The academic chair will be filled by Dr. Linda Vytlacil, former vice president for data science/global data & analytics platforms for Walmart Labs. Vytlacil’s technical credentials in advanced analytics across customer domains such as strategy, loyalty, digital marketing, pricing strategy, retail, product innovation, market research, econometrics, demand forecasting and performance measurement will bring valuable experience into the classroom.

JBU’s computer science program has 12 emphasis options, ranging from gaming/web development to cybersecurity and bioinformatics. JBU’s “head, heart, hand” educational philosophy will produce graduates trained in working in collaborative teams with creative problem-solving skills. JBU has also received $1.5 million from other donors toward its $2 million goal to endow a faculty position in computer science and a search for that faculty position is underway.

“Various employers gave us specific input on what they want to see from computer science graduates, and we tailor-made a program that will equip students with both hard and soft skills needed in the industry. This training at JBU will prepare each student to be a valuable team member and future leader,” said Dr. Ted Song, chair of the computer science department and coordinator of diversity and innovation. “We’re excited to know that interested students will have access to additional scholarship funds to help them attend JBU and make a positive impact on the Northwest Arkansas region.”

“JBU is known for graduating well-rounded students who become valuable team members for companies here in Northwest Arkansas and around the world,” said Mark Simmons, JBU board member. “This grant will support education in two areas where employees are in high demand.”

John Brown University is a leading private Christian university, training students to honor God and serve others since 1919. As Arkansas’ top-ranked university (Wall Street Journal, 2020), JBU enrolls more than 2,100 students from 36 states and 59 countries in its traditional undergraduate, graduate, online and concurrent education programs. JBU offers more than 40 majors, with top programs including engineering, nursing, family and human services, biology, graphic design and construction management.