Program Policies

Master of Science in Data Science (MSDS) Program Policies 2024-2025 

This document includes critical policies applicable to all students enrolled in the Master of Science in Data Science (MSDS) program at the University of San Francisco (USF). These policies address 

  1. The consequences of failing grades in courses and student conduct;
  2. The implications of low cumulative grade point averages and academic probation; 
  3. The confidentiality of data acquired from practicum partners; 
  4. Regulations regarding the practicum and external employment; 
  5. Procedures for requesting a leave of absence 
  6. Procedures of withdrawal from the university; 
  7. Standards for professional communication and 
  8. The periodic use or distribution of student names, photographs, likenesses, or resumes.

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

I. Failing Grades and Student Conduct

The MSDS curriculum is strategically structured with a sequence of interconnected courses. For example, the foundational boot camp courses (MSDS 501, MSDS 504, and MSDS 593) are prerequisites for the initial program module, along with self-study in linear algebra and an associated examination. Mastery of these initial courses and the linear algebra exam is essential for progression within the program. A failing grade (F) in any MSDS course will result in disqualification from the program, with the opportunity for students to apply for readmission in the subsequent academic year.


Receiving a grade of F in any foundational boot camp course (e.g., MSDS 501, MSDS 504, or MSDS 593) will lead to the termination of a student's enrollment in the MSDS program following the conclusion of the first summer module (approximately mid-August).

  1. Students are allotted two attempts to pass the examination based on self-study and review of the program's linear algebra modules, with the final attempt due by the last day of the boot camp on August 9, 2024.
  2. A grade of F in any post-bootcamp MSDS course will result in the termination of the 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.
  3. Assignment grades determined by faculty are subject to an appeals process, as outlined in the University Catalog.
  4. Violations of academic standards of conduct, as defined by the USF Honor Code (including cheating and plagiarism), will result in a zero for the affected task or artifact. Incidents are reported to the program directors and maintained on record, impacting the student’s standing in the MSDS program. An acknowledgment of the violation must be signed by the student, and the incident is also reported to the University Academic Integrity Committee.
  5. A second violation of conduct standards within the program will result in an F for the course in which the violation occurred, leading to the termination of the student's enrollment in the MSDS program. The incident will be reported to the University Academic Honesty Committee for future action.
  6. If a violation leading to a zero on an assignment causes a student to fail a course, the student's enrollment in the MSDS program will be terminated at the end of that module.
  7. Any breach of the USF Honor Code results in the forfeiture of scholarship awards for the duration of the student’s enrollment in the program. For instance, a cheating incident in the first module disqualifies the student from receiving scholarship funds in subsequent modules.
  8. Students terminated from the MSDS program due to a failing grade not related to an honor code violation may apply for readmission in the following academic year, although readmission is not guaranteed.
  9. Students with disabilities or those who suspect they may have a disability are encouraged to contact USF Student Disability Services (SDS) to discuss accommodations well in advance of class start dates. Accommodations are not retroactive, so please be thoughtful and plan ahead.
  10. Students facing illness or emergencies that significantly impact their ability to complete coursework or exams must notify the instructor and program directors in writing prior to the due date.  Accommodations are not retroactive. Documentation, such as a doctor’s note, is required for illness-related absences.
  11. All coursework must be completed by the end of each module. Incompletes(I) are not granted as all students are held to the same rigorous academic standards.
  12. Instructors are entitled to assign grades according to the rubrics specified in the syllabus. The MSDS program maintains high academic standards; grades reflect levels of achievement, with an A representing exceptional performance, a B indicating competence, and a C or lower reflecting inadequate effort or understanding.

II. Academic Probation

The MSDS program demands a high standard of academic excellence, reflected in maintaining a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0. Falling below this threshold at any point will result in the student being placed on academic probation, with specific measures and timeframes outlined for remediation. Failure to meet these requirements can lead to termination from the program.


  1. To qualify for the Master of Science in Data Science degree, students must achieve a final cumulative grade point average (GPA) of at least 3.0.
  2. Should a student’s cumulative GPA fall below 3.0 at any point during their enrollment, they will be placed on academic probation and notified in writing regarding their probationary status.
  3. Students on academic probation are granted one additional module to elevate their GPA to 3.0 or higher. Students readmitted to the program will have two additional modules (until the end of Fall Module 2) to raise their cumulative GPA to 3.0. Successfully meeting this requirement will result in the removal of the academic probation, with formal notification of this status change provided in writing.
  4. Failure to increase the cumulative GPA to 3.0 after the additional module (two modules for readmitted students) will lead to the student's immediate disqualification from the program. If program personnel determine at any stage that a student on academic probation is unable to meet the minimum required cumulative GPA of 3.0 under any circumstances, immediate disqualification from the program will ensue.
  5. At any time, if a student’s cumulative GPA is 2.5 or lower, the MSDS program director may, according to University policy, dismiss the student from the program without a further probationary period.


III. Practicum Confidentiality, Data Management and Related Responsibilities

The professional management of confidential data and information obtained through practicum partnerships is essential. Students must rigorously comply with non-disclosure agreements and utilize data solely for the purposes of their practicum projects. Breaches of these standards and violations of these protocols can result in serious academic and professional consequences.


During the practicum courses, you will gain access to proprietary information and data that are confidential to the respective companies you are engaged with. You must follow strictly the below policies: 

  1. You are prohibited from using any data or information for purposes other than your practicum projects unless you obtain explicit written permission from the practicum company.
  2. Company data may not be used for other courses within the MSDS program without explicit written consent from the practicum company.
  3. Adhere strictly to the terms of any non-disclosure agreement you have signed as a requirement of participating in the practicum component of this academic program.
  4. Do not disclose or discuss any confidential data or details of your practicum projects with other students who are not members of your practicum team.
  5. Discussions about practicum projects are permitted only with MSDS faculty members who have either signed a non-disclosure agreement with your practicum company or are covered under a USF-company agreement.
  6. You are responsible for implementing all reasonable security measures to safeguard confidential company data. This includes using anti-virus software, employing strong passwords, enabling two-factor authentication, maintaining a robust firewall, encrypting sensitive information, refraining from sending confidential data via email, sanitizing data storage devices before disposal, securing data backups, and physically protecting your laptop from theft. This list is illustrative and not exhaustive; for example, you should not store data on any devices not approved by the company, and exporting data to personal devices or external repositories may be prohibited unless done through company-sanctioned systems.
  7. You are expected to dedicate an average of 15 hours per week to practicum-related work during each relevant module. This time commitment may vary based on the program's demands. Do not include lunch hours, breaks, or travel time to and from the practicum site as part of these hours.
  8. You must communicate with your faculty mentor and company mentor about taking practicum time off due to school holidays or other excuses. You must provide written approval to the faculty mentor from your practicum company for absences from practicum work days.  
  9. If you are part of a practicum group, all members must contribute equitably to the projects. Inequitable contributions may lead to disciplinary actions, including a failing grade in the practicum. Any breach of practicum confidentiality or data management standards may result in a failing grade for the current practicum course or even disqualification from the MSDS program, adhering to the grade appeals process as detailed in the University Catalog. Depending on the severity and nature of the confidentiality breach, it may also be treated as academic misconduct and reported to the Academic Honesty Committee for further action.

IV. Practicum Work, Outside Employment, Program Engagement

Students must comply with all relevant labor laws and program guidelines concerning practicum work and outside employment. The intensive nature of the MSDS program, requiring significant weekly time commitments, generally precludes external employment unless expressly permitted by program Administrative or Academic directors. You are required to be available for both scheduled and time-sensitive MSDS activities during weekdays. Attendance at the Data Science Seminar Series is mandatory. Additionally, occasional events may be organized outside of regular hours, and attendance at these may be mandatory. It is crucial to maintain consistent communications with program faculty and staff.


  1. All international students are required to attend a mandatory International Student Orientation at the start of the MSDS program. This orientation, facilitated by the University's Office of International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS), will cover critical topics such as United States labor laws and maintaining legal status. Additionally, international students must participate in mandatory workshops on Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT) scheduled later in the academic year.
  2. International students must register for curricular practical training with each practicum company to which they are assigned throughout the duration of the program.
  3. International students are required to adhere to all United States labor laws while residing in the U.S. on an academic visa. Should you have any questions or concerns regarding your rights and responsibilities, please contact the Office of International Student and Scholar Services at 415-422-2654 or
  4. Letters supporting curricular practical training or optional practical training will only be issued by the Administrative Director if the international student is in good academic standing and expected to complete the program successfully.
  5. All students, regardless of domestic or international status, must notify the Practicum Director and the Administrative Director in writing (e.g., email) if their practicum involves receiving remuneration of any form.
  6. No student, domestic or international, may engage in paid or unpaid employment outside of the practicum program without explicit written permission from either the Administrative Director or the Academic Director. Additionally, students are prohibited from engaging in significant side projects, such as starting a company, that could detract from their performance or interfere with their responsibilities within the MSDS program.
  7. All students are expected to attend all MSDS curricular and co-curricular activities on weekdays, with the understanding that participation may also be required on weekends and outside regular hours on occasion.
  8. Attendance at the MSDS Data Science Seminar Series, typically held on Fridays, is mandatory. Requests for excusal from a seminar must be approved in writing by either the faculty instructor of the associated zero-credit course or the Administrative Director.
  9. The primary modes of communication within the MSDS program are Slack, email, and Canvas. Students are expected to monitor and respond to communications across these platforms daily regularly. Maintaining consistent communication with professors and program staff is crucial, and failure to do so may negatively affect your academic performance.

V. Leave of Absence


Students may request a leave of absence or withdraw from the university under certain conditions, which must be formally approved. These policies ensure that students are aware of the academic and financial implications of such decisions.

  1. Students in good academic and financial standing who wish to temporarily leave the University must obtain written permission from the Administrative Director. The Administrative Director will evaluate leave requests case-by-case in consultation with the Academic Director.

  2. It is the student's responsibility to consult with the Administrative Director to fully understand the implications of a Leave of Absence, including a plan for reintegration into their program of study, prior to submitting the Leave of Absence form.
  3. The Administrative Director and Academic Director will make decisions regarding a student's ability to complete coursework, continue with the program, or take a Leave of Absence in consultation with the dean’s office. Reasonable accommodations will be provided to support students in maintaining their enrollment or during a Leave of Absence. However, the scope of these accommodations is at the discretion of the directors and deans, based on the specific requirements of the courses involved.
  4. A Leave of Absence may be taken for up to one academic year while enrolled in a degree program. Students who fail to return for the semester specified on their Leave of Absence form are considered to have withdrawn from the University.
  5. Students absent without filing a Leave of Absence form will be withdrawn due to non-attendance during the first semester of their absence. Such students must reapply to the University upon their return.
  6. Students who withdraw or take a Leave of Absence from the University on or after the first day of the semester must follow the official USF withdrawal or leave of absence policy to be eligible for a refund of tuition and residence hall fees. A pro-rated refund will be applied for students who withdraw or take a leave of absence by the census date each fall and spring semester.
  7. Students on Academic Probation who take a Leave of Absence must complete their probationary semester upon their return to the University.
  8. Students who receive federal financial aid and take a leave of absence during a semester will be considered to have withdrawn from the University. This change in enrollment status will be reported to the federal Department of Education, which may affect the commencement of federal loan repayments. For more details, refer to the Financial Aid website under “Withdrawal from the University” and the “Federal Student Financial Aid (Title IV Policy).”

VI. 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.

VII. Communication Policies and Best Practices

Effective communication is vital for success in the MSDS program. Students are encouraged to use designated platforms such as Slack for most communications, adhere to professional standards in all correspondences, and proactively engage with faculty, staff, and the practicum team.


  1. The policies and best practices outlined in this document are generally subordinate to any course-specific policies established by MSDS professors. These course-specific policies are typically detailed in the course syllabus. Slack is the preferred platform for communication among MSDS stakeholders. Channels will be created for specific projects (e.g., practicum teams), courses, or interests (e.g., weekend hiking).
  2. To streamline communication, post questions that are beneficial to your peers in the relevant Slack channels, rather than sending direct messages to faculty or staff. This approach helps reduce the volume of direct communications that need to be managed by faculty and staff.
  3. MSDS faculty and staff are committed to responding to messages on Slack within one business day.
  4. It is unreasonable to expect immediate responses from MSDS faculty and staff, particularly outside of standard working hours (9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday).
  5. For private communications with MSDS faculty or staff, both email and Slack are acceptable. However, the preference for communications related to MSDS and Data Institute matters is typically Slack.
  6. Employ professional communication practices in all written interactions. Emails and Slack messages should start with a polite salutation (e.g., "Hello, Professor Smith,") and end with a formal closing (e.g., "Sincerely, Surbhi"). Avoid using all caps and excessive punctuation (e.g., "Why didn’t the quiz reflect the material you lectured on in class?!?!?!?!").
  7. Consider whether a topic is more suitably discussed via email or Slack, or if it warrants a face-to-face discussion during office hours. For instance, it is often more appropriate to address personal matters or questions about assessments directly during office hours rather than electronically.
  8. View all communications as an opportunity to demonstrate the level of professionalism expected in a workplace setting, which will soon be applicable in your practicum projects.
  9. Please upload a current headshot and your full name (First and Last) to your Canvas and Slack profiles so that instructors and program staff can more quickly recognize and learn your name.

VII. Your Name, Likeness, and Resume

The program may use students' photographs, videos, names, or other personally identifiable information on the website and distribute resumes to prospective practicum partners and employers, subject to students' consent, to enhance educational and employment opportunities. These policies are designed to uphold the integrity and academic standards of the MSDS program while supporting our student's professional development and success:

“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.”