Program Policies

Master of Science in Data Science (MSDS) Program Policies 2023-2024 

Please also review the Honor Code of the University of San FranciscoStudent Resources for Maintaining Academic Integrity, and University Policies.

This document contains seven separate policies that apply to all students who are currently enrolled in the Master of Science in Data Science (MSDS) program at the University of San Francisco (USF). Detailed here are the program's policies concerning (a) failing grades in courses; (b) low cumulative grade point averages and academic probation; (c) confidentiality of data obtained from our practicum partners; (d) the practicum (i.e., nine-month internship) and outside employment; (e) applying to take a leave of absence or withdrawing from the university; (f) expectations for professional communication practices; and (g) periodic use or distribution of your name, photograph, likeness, or resume.



Failing Grades and Student Conduct



The MSDS curriculum is developed around a comprehensive sequence of courses that build on each other. The boot camp courses (MSDS 501, MSDS 504 and MSDS 593) serve as prerequisites for the first module of the program – as do the linear algebra self-study modules and testing requirement. Successfully passing the three boot camp courses, as well as passing the linear algebra examination, is required in order to continue in the program. Mastery of course material is required before a student may move on to subsequent courses, since each course builds upon previous courses. A grade of F in any MSDS course results in disqualification from the program and prevents a student from continuing in the program. Such students can apply for readmission to the program for the following academic year.


1.    A grade of F in any boot camp course (e.g., MSDS 501, MSDS 504 or MSDS 593) will result in termination of an MSDS student's enrollment in the program shortly after the end of the first summer module (i.e., by approximately mid-August).

2.   Students have up to two attempts to pass the examination based upon self-study and review of the program's linear algebra modules. Students must do so by the final day of boot camp, August 11, 2023.

3.    A grade of F in any other post-bootcamp MSDS course will result in termination of that student's enrollment in the program. The termination date will be at the end of the module in which the student received the grade of F.

4.    Faculty grade assignments are subject to the appeals process as described in the University Catalog.

5.    If a student violates academic standards of conduct as defined in the USF Honor Code (e.g. cheating, plagiarism, etc.), that student receives a zero on that particular task or artifact (e.g., assignment, project, quiz, etc.). The program director and program staff are informed of the incident, who then maintain a record of the student's academic performance and conduct. The student is required to sign a letter acknowledging the violation and their standing in the MSDS program is jeopardized. The violation of USF Honor Code is also reported to the University Academic Integrity Committee.

6.    If a student violates standards of conduct a second time in the program, that student receives an F in the course in which the violation occurs. The student's enrollment in the MSDS program will be terminated and the incident will be reported to the University Academic Honesty Committee for further action.

7.    If the receipt of a zero on a particular assignment due to violation of standards of conduct causes a student to receive an F in a course, the student's enrollment in the MSDS program is terminated at the end of that module.

8.    By violating the USF Honor Code, the student also forfeits any program scholarship awards for the remainder of their enrollment in the program. For example, if a cheating incident occurs in the first module, the student will no longer be eligible to receive MSDS program scholarship funds in the subsequent fall and spring modules.

9.    A student whose enrollment in the MSDS program is terminated due to a failing grade, unrelated to an honor code violation, may reapply to the program for the following academic year. Readmission to the MSDS program is not guaranteed.

10.    If you are a student with a disability or disabling condition, or if you think you may have a disability, please contact USF Student Disability Services (SDS) for information about accommodations. Students should contact SDS and make all arrangements for accommodations before the class start date. Accommodations are not retroactive, so please be thoughtful and plan ahead.

11. If you fall ill or have an emergency (personal or otherwise) that significantly affects your ability to complete a project or take an exam, you must notify the instructor before the task or deliverable is due. Do not simply skip an exam or an assignment and say you were sick after the fact. Always make arrangements with the instructor beforehand, rather than declaring illness or emergency later. Accommodations are not retroactive. Illness and emergency related situations must be disclosed to the instructor, Administrative Director and Academic Director in writing. Illness-related issues must be accompanied by a doctor’s note.

12. Students must complete all coursework by the end of the module. All students are held to the same rigorous standard -- a grade of Incomplete (I) for one student would be unfair to the other students that finished on time, therefore Incompletes are not assigned.

13. The instructor has the right to assign grades based on the rubrics outlined in the syllabus. The MSDS program expects high standards in academic performance. Generally, an A grade is considered to be above and beyond what most students have achieved. A B grade is considered average for a student, or what could be referred to as 'competence' in a business setting. A C grade indicates that either a student did not or could not put forth the effort required to achieve competence. Anything below a C implies that a student did very little work or faced significant difficulty compared to other students in class. 

Academic Probation



Students must maintain a high level of academic excellence, as measured by cumulative grade point average, to remain enrolled in the MSDS program and to graduate from the MSDS program.


1.    In order to earn the Master of Science in Data Science, a student must have a final cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or higher.

2.    If, at any point during the program, a student's then-current cumulative grade point average falls below a 3.0, that student will be placed on academic probation. The student will be notified in writing about their probation status.

3.    A student on academic probation has one additional module to lift their then-current cumulative grade point average to 3.0 or above. Upon successfully doing so, the academic probation will be lifted and the student informed of this change in status in writing.

4.    If, after an additional module has passed, the student's then-current cumulative grade point average remains below 3.0, the student is subject to immediate disqualification from the program.

5.    If, at any time, program personnel determine that a student on academic probation cannot, under any set of circumstances, bring their final cumulative grade point average to 3.0 or above, that student will be immediately disqualified from the program.

6.    If, at any time, a student's then-current cumulative grade point average is less than or equal to a 2.5, the MSDS program director has the option (per University policy) of dismissing the student without any additional period of academic probation.


Practicum Confidentiality, Data Management and Related Responsibilities



The relationship between the MSDS program and its practicum partners is of vital importance to the program. A key feature of that relationship is the professional and responsible treatment of data, models, work assignments, etc. associated with each practicum company.


As part of the practicum courses, you will have access to proprietary information and data that is confidential to the companies with which you are working.

1.    At no time will you use data or information for purposes other than for practicum work without the explicit written permission of the practicum company.

2.    Without explicit written permission from the practicum company, you may not use company data for other courses in the MSDS program.

3.    You will follow the terms of any non-disclosure agreement you sign as part of the practicum component of this academic program.

4.    You will not discuss confidential data or aspects of your practicum projects with other students who are not also on the same practicum team.

5.    You may only discuss practicum projects with MSDS faculty members that have signed your practicum company's non-disclosure agreement or who are otherwise covered by a USF-company level agreement.

6.    You are responsible for taking all reasonable measures to protect confidential client company data by, for example, using anti-virus software, strong passwords, two-factor authentication, a strict firewall, encryption, not emailing confidential data, sanitizing your data storage devices before disposing of them, securing data backup devices, and physically protecting your laptop computer from theft. (This list is meant to be illustrative rather than exhaustive). In particular, you should not store data on anything other than company-approved devices without written permission. For example, exporting data to your local machine or remote repository may not be allowed if the company requires data access to be done only through its systems.  

7.   Each student is expected to work 15 hours per week per student during each module for which there is a practicum course. This is an average number of hours that will vary from week to week based on other demands of the program. Do not log lunch hours, breaks, or travel time to and from your practicum company as working time.

8.    If working with a group of students on a practicum, all group members are expected to contribute equitably. A lack of equitable contribution by an MSDS student is grounds for censure and/or receiving a failing grade in the practicum. Breach of any standard of conduct related to practicum confidentiality or data management may result in a grade of F for the then-current practicum course or disqualification from the MSDS program, subject to the grade appeals process set forth in the University Catalog. Depending on the nature of a particular breach of confidentiality, that breach may be regarded as academic misconduct and it may be reported to the Academic Honesty Committee for further action.


Practicum Work, Outside Employment, Program Engagement



International students are obligated to respect all United States labor laws while engaged in practicum work. Separately, all students in the MSDS program are forbidden from taking paid or unpaid employment outside of the practicum program without the written permission of either the Administrative or Academic Director of the program. The MSDS program is an intense, 12-month program and students historically report needing 40-70 hours per week to attend to academic and practicum responsibilities. Outside employment is not compatible with those responsibilities. You are expected to be available for both scheduled and unplanned MSDS activities on weekdays. Attendance at the Data Science Seminar Series is mandatory. Periodic events may be scheduled outside of those hours which may also be mandatory. Maintaining regular electronic communication with professors and program staff is of critical importance.


1.     All international students must attend a mandatory International Student Orientation at the beginning of the MSDS program at which topics like United States labor laws, optional practical training (OPT), and curricular practical training (CPT) will be discussed. This orientation will be administered by the university's Office of International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS). International students will also attend mandatory CPT and OPT workshops to be held later in the year.

2.    All international students will register for curricular practical training in connection with each and every practicum company to which they are assigned for the duration of the program.

3.    International students must respect all United States labor laws while in the United States on an academic visa. If you have doubts, questions, or concerns about your rights and responsibilities as an international student in the United States, contact the Office of International Student and Scholar Services at 415-422-2654 or

4.    The Administrative Director will not issue letters in support of either curricular practical training or optional practical training unless the international student in question is in good academic standing and is expected to graduate from the program.

5.    All students, both domestic and international, will inform the faculty practicum director and the Administrative Director in writing (e.g., email) when their practicum assignment entails, or comes to entail, remuneration (i.e., payment) of any kind.

6.    All students, both domestic and international, are forbidden from taking paid or unpaid employment outside of the practicum program, unless permission has been granted in writing by either the Administrative Director or the Academic Director of the program. Further, students must not work on significant side projects (e.g., launching start-up companies) that diminish their performance or otherwise interfere with their MSDS responsibilities.

7.    All students are expected to be available for MSDS curricular or co-curricular activities every weekday, and acknowledge that attendance may occasionally be required at program activities on the weekends and outside of these hours.

8.    Attendance at the MSDS Data Science Seminar Series - generally held on Fridays - is mandatory and permission to be excused from a seminar must be granted in writing by the faculty instrutor for the zero-credit course associated with the seminar series or the Administrative Director.

9.    The MSDS program uses Slack, email and Canvas as its primary communication tools. All students must monitor program communications on Slack, email and Canvas, checking and responding to messages daily. It is each student’s responsibility to engage in regular correspondence with professors and program staff. Failure to do so may impact your grade.


Leave of Absence



1.    Students in good academic and financial standing wanting to leave the University temporarily must receive permission, in writing, from the Administrative Director. The Administrative Director will review requests for leave on a case-by-case basis in consultation with the Academic Director.

2.    It is the student’s responsibility to contact the Administrative Director and/or program staff to understand the full implications of their Leave of Absence, including a plan for a reintegration into their program of study before submitting the Leave of Absence form.

3.     Leave of Absence requests will be granted in the case that international students are denied a visa after they have already begun the program and are unable to arrive in-person in the United States. This provision extends to academic year 2023-2024. Leave of Absence requests will also be granted for international students unable to arrive in-person by the start of fall semester module 1 (August 22, 2023) due to an inability to obtain a visa or visa appointment.

4.    All decisions regarding a student's ability to complete coursework, continue with the program and/or take a Leave of Absence will be made by the Administrative Director and Academic Director in consultation with the dean’s office. Every reasonable accommodation in support of a student remaining enrolled in classes or taking a Leave of Absence will be made, though the extent of the accommodations made is up to the discretion of the Academic Director and Administrative Director, as well as the deans, based on the nature and requirements of the course(s) in question.

5.    A Leave of Absence may be exercised for up to one academic year while enrolled in a degree program. Students who do not return for the semester specified on the Leave of Absence form are considered to have withdrawn from the University. Students who choose to absent themselves from the University without filing a Leave of Absence form will be withdrawn for lack of attendance during the first semester of absence. In this case, when a student returns and wishes to re-enroll in courses, he or she must reapply to the University.

6.    Students who withdraw or take a Leave of Absence from the University on or after the first day of the semester must comply with the official USF withdrawal or leave of absence policy to be eligible for a refund of tuition charges and residence hall fees. A pro-rated refund of charges will be applied for students withdrawing or taking a leave of absence by the census date each fall and spring semester.

7.    Students who exercise a Leave of Absence while on Academic Probation must complete their probationary semester once they return to the University.

8.    Students receiving federal financial aid in the semester that they take a leave of absence will be considered to have withdrawn from the University. The enrollment change will be reported to the federal Department of Education and can affect the start of federal loan repayment. Additional information is available on the Financial Aid website. For further information, see “Withdrawal from the University” below and “Federal Student Financial Aid (Title IV Policy).


Withdrawal from the University



1.    Students planning to withdraw from the University are highly encouraged to meet with the Administrative Director to discuss the consequences of withdrawal upon their academic future at USF and/or other universities.

2.    The withdrawal becomes final only when a completed Withdrawal form or an intention to withdraw has been filed with the Office of the University Registrar.

3.    Students who simply absent themselves from class without providing appropriate notice of intention to withdraw will have failing grades (F) posted to their records. Ceasing to attend classes or informing your instructor does not constitute an official withdrawal. Instructors cannot award grades of W. Withdrawal from the University must occur on or before the last day to withdraw from classes for any semester.

4.    Students who withdraw or take a Leave of Absence from the University on or after the first day of the semester must comply with the official USF withdrawal or leave of absence policy to be eligible for a refund of tuition charges and residence hall fees. A pro-rated refund of charges will be applied for students withdrawing or taking a leave of absence by the census date each fall and spring semester.

5.    Students who have withdrawn from the program and who wish to return to USF to complete their degree will be required to apply for readmission.


Communication Policies and Best Practices


The nature of communication — between co-workers, or between professors and their students — has changed remarkably over the past decade. Furthermore, the global pandemic has accelerated the development of new communication tools, created new expectations for remote learning and working, and raised questions about appropriate communication practices in a professional context. The purpose of this policy is to set expectations for MSDS students concerning their communication practices.



1.    The policies and best practices enumerated in this document are generally superseded by any policies or practices established by an MSDS professor for one of their classes. The professor will typically articulate these policies or best practices in their syllabus for the course.

2.    In general, the preferred venue for communication between MSDS stakeholders is Slack. Typically, channels will be established for particular projects (e.g., practicum teams), particular courses, or particular topics (e.g., for those interested in hiking over the weekends).

3.    In general, post questions for which the answer would benefit your peers to the appropriate Slack channels rather than directly messaging a staff or faculty member. This practice will reduce the number of messages that MSDS program faculty and staff have to manage directly.

4.    MSDS program faculty and staff are committed to responding to Slack messages within a business day.

5.    However, it is not reasonable to expect instantaneous responses from MSDS program faculty and staff, or responses outside of normal working hours (i.e., 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday). 

6.    For private communications between a student and an MSDS program faculty or staff member, both email and Slack are acceptable venues. However, most MSDS program faculty and staff seem to prefer the use of Slack for MSDS and Data Institute business.

7.    Practice professional communication skills in all of your written communications. In general, emails (and, perhaps less so, Slack messages) should begin with a salutation (e.g., “Hello, Professor Smith,…”) and they should close with a valediction (e.g., “Sincerely, Surbhi”). Do not capitalize all of the words in a communication or use grossly excessive punctuation (e.g., “Why didn’t the quiz reflect the material you lectured on in class?!?!?!?!”).

8.    Think carefully about whether or not a topic is best addressed over email or Slack rather than an in-person visit during office hours. For example, it is often better to check in with a professor during office hours to discuss health issues or how a recent quiz was graded.

9.    Treat all communications as an opportunity to demonstrate the same professionalism that you will very soon need to display in an office or work setting for your practicum project.

10.    Please upload a headshot to both your Canvas and Slack profiles. It will help your instructors and program staff to learn your names faster!

Your Name, Likeness, and Resume



For marketing purposes, the MSDS program will occasionally need to disseminate photographs, videos, names, or other personally-identifiable information on its web site, in brochures, or other program materials. Additionally, in order to successfully place students into practicum projects at companies, or to assist with securing student employment, we require permission to send students' resumes to prospective employers and industry contacts.

I acknowledge that the University of San Francisco has my permission to use my name, picture, and other media for marketing purposes.

I also acknowledge that the University of San Francisco has permission to distribute my resume to companies and to the University's industry contacts for the purpose of securing practicum or employment opportunities for me.