Cal State LA Big Data Project

In the Fall of 2018, the College of Natural and Social Sciences was awarded nearly one million dollars from the National Science Foundation to partner with the City of Los Angeles, Community Partners, and other local nonprofits to promote community civic engagement and big data literacy. Working with the City’s LA GeoHub, faculty and students design and implement projects in coordination with the goals of local nonprofits. The grant connects the university to the community through the work of nonprofits by mapping City-wide data relevant to three focus areas: Social Justice, Urban Environment, and the Arts.

The NSF Big Data Grant follows a cyclical pattern each year to provide a variety of ways for faculty and students to become exposed to big data, interact with non-profits, and research using city data.

Fall Exposure and Introduction: The College of Natural and Social Sciences’ Introduction to Higher Education was redesigned to introduce students to big data and civic engagement through guest speakers, webinars, applied projects, and a town hall with our partners.

Spring Experience and Integration: Faculty apply to redesign their upper division courses in alignment with the grant goals and structure.  Students complete projects and display them at our annual Public Forum Day in April/May.

Summer Immersion: Students who successfully enrolled in and completed one of the redesigned Spring courses can apply to be a Social Equity Engagement geo-Data Scholar (SEEDS), which includes a paid internship at one of the participating non-profits. SEEDS interns work collaboratively with the non-profit to complete research and data mapping projects.

Through this cycle, students gain exposure to big data and civic engagement in introductory courses, experience by working directly with non-profits on community issues, and immersion as summer interns. Our overall goal is to produce agents of change committed to community engagement through big data literacy.

Social Equity Engagement geo-Data Scholars (SEEDS) Program 

The Social Equity Engagement geo-Data Scholars (SEEDS) Program is open to any students who participated in the past year(s) Spring Big Data courses that focused on projects using the LA GeoHub and working with local non-profit organizations. The intention of the SEEDS Program is to provide paid summer internships for Cal State LA students to work with non-profits and leverage their knowledge of the City of Los Angeles’ open-data portal. By the end of the program, we expect SEEDS to be well informed about the importance of big data and the challenges facing non-profit organizations and local citizens in big data literacy. We hope that this internship helps students promote civic engagement by gaining a strong sense of responsibility for democratizing big data and ensuring that data is shared, collaborative, and open to the broader community.

About Big Data Grant Partners 

City of Los Angeles

About us (Mayor's Data Team): Mayor Garcetti is a fourth generation Angeleno and the 42nd Mayor of Los Angeles. His agenda is focused on creating a safe, livable, and prosperous city.  The Mayor's Data Team implements Mayor Garcetti’s data strategy for the City of Los Angeles by making data accessible to all. We work with city departments, the civic tech community, sister cities, private partners, and academics to develop insights and digital tools that make the City more livable and equitable for all Angelenos.

Grant affiliation: The Mayor's Data Team provides data resources and training to faculty, students, and nonprofits so that they can better leverage this City asset. In doing so, the Mayor's Data Team is integral in helping individuals and organizations advocate for meaningful community change through the effective use of City data. The City's data can be found at and

Big Data Grant Team Members 

Pamela, Scott-Johnson, Dean of the College of Natural and Social Sciences, Cal State LA
Hengchun Ye, Associate Dean of the College of Natural and Social Sciences, Cal State LA
René Vellanoweth, Professor of Anthropology, Cal State LA
Jessica Bodoh-Creed, Lecturer in Anthropology, Cal State LA (Project Manager)
Preston Mills, Community Coordinator, Cal State LA
Sari Ladin-Sienne, Chief Data Officer, City of Los Angeles, Data Office
Phyllis Owens, Senior Program Director, Community Partners
Ravi Shah, Program and Operations Manager, Community Partners


For Inquires, please contact: Jessica Bodoh-Creed, Project Manager, at