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1 Increasing the Pipeline Through Undergraduate Programs: Statistics at Liberal Arts Colleges Katherine Taylor Halvorsen Department of Mathematics & Statistics.

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Presentation on theme: "1 Increasing the Pipeline Through Undergraduate Programs: Statistics at Liberal Arts Colleges Katherine Taylor Halvorsen Department of Mathematics & Statistics."— Presentation transcript:

1 1 Increasing the Pipeline Through Undergraduate Programs: Statistics at Liberal Arts Colleges Katherine Taylor Halvorsen Department of Mathematics & Statistics Smith College Workshop for Chairs of Statistics and Biostatistics Programs JSM, Denver, CO August 2, 2008

2 2 Overview Whats a liberal arts college? Statistics in liberal arts colleges Challenges for statistics faculty in liberal arts colleges Characteristics of liberal arts students Attracting and keeping liberal arts students in graduate statistics Synergies between liberal arts colleges and statistics graduate programs

3 3 Whats a Liberal Arts College? Liberal Arts Colleges: Provide general education, not vocational Instill habits and methods of learning Emphasize breadth over depth Attain breadth through –Distribution requirements –Strong advising –Majors often limited to 10 required courses –May require at least half of total credits taken outside major

4 4 Whats a Liberal Arts College? Typically LACs are small and old –1200 to 2400 students – full-time faculty, most with PhDs –Few adjunct faculty –Bowdoin founded 1794, Grinnell 1846, Dickinson 1783, Mount Holyoke 1837, Smith 1872 Most started as single-sex institutions –Many became coed in the 1970s –Smith, Wellesley, and MHC have remained womens colleges

5 5 Whats a Liberal Arts College? Focus is on undergraduate education Classes are typically small (10-45 students) Graduate programs, if any, are small

6 6 Statistics in Liberal Arts Colleges* Few PhD statisticians among faculty –53% of colleges have none –40% have one Three standard courses offered –88% teach Intro (with or without a calc requirement) –81% teach Probability-Math Stat sequence (compared to 93% in 1993) Software heavily used in stat courses –75% of Intro courses use software –55% of Probability-Math Stat courses use software *Survey on Statistics within the Liberal Arts College, Tom Moore and Julie Legler, 2003

7 7 Statistics in Liberal Arts Colleges* Student projects incorporated into stats courses –68% of Intro courses use projects –48% of Probability-Math Stat sequences use projects Courses beyond the three standard courses are offered at 29% of schools surveyed. Courses include: –Regression –Stat II –Design –Linear Models –Multivariate –Non-parametric * Survey on Statistics within the Liberal Arts College, Tom Moore and Julie Legler, 2003

8 8 Statistics in Liberal Arts Colleges (Smith College as a typical case) Most introductory statistics courses are taught outside the Math & Stat Department At Smith College these departments teach their own stat –Math & Stat Psychology Economics –Government Sociology Exercise & Sport Over half of students who take stat, take it outside Math & Stat Department Department Students per year Math & Stat 130 (34%) Psychology 120 (32%) Economics 70 (18%) Sociology 35 (9%) Government 25 (7%) Total 380 (100%)

9 9 Statistics in Liberal Arts Colleges Students who take Intro Stat in Math & Stat Department come from a variety of majors Pooled data from Basic Stat, Engineering Stat, and Intro Stat courses at Smith –Biology, Biochem, Chemistry 26% –Math, Logic, Philosophy, CS 12% –Anthro, Psy, Soc, Econ, Gov 14% –Physics, Geology, Engineering 26% –Other departments 23%

10 10 Statistics at Liberal Arts Colleges (Smith College as a typical case) Statistics concentrators major in mathematics and take their electives in statistics Major requires 10 courses Calculus I, II, III Discrete Mathematics Linear Algebra Introduction to Probability & Statistics Regression (or Design) Probability Mathematical Statistics Analysis (or Calculus IV)

11 11 Challenges for statistics faculty in liberal arts colleges Expectations of faculty –Excellence in teaching –Teaching 2-2, 2-3, or 3-3 courses per year –Maintaining an ongoing research program (including grant writing) –Advising (premajors and majors) –Committee service (elective and appointed) –[Statistical consulting for colleagues, the college, and external groups]

12 12 Challenges for statistics faculty in liberal arts colleges Working in isolation (somewhat alleviated by ISOSTAT, JSM, AP Statistics Grading, ASA new faculty mentoring) Typically expected to teach calculus or other math courses Math colleagues have different expectations and assumptions Difficult to hire statisticians

13 13 Liberal Arts Students Students are of traditional age –Most are18-22 –Smith, Wellesley, and MHC have programs for non-traditional aged women (24 and older)

14 14 Liberal Arts Statistics Students Students are talented and motivated –Broad undergraduate backgrounds –Good communication skills: oral & written –Used to working independently –Used to projects that involve data collection, analysis, and interpretation –Strong computer skills in data analysis –BUT, have fewer math & stat courses than typical math or stat major at a university

15 15 Liberal Arts Students Students are used to: –A small-school atmosphere –Excellent teaching –Opportunities for research with faculty –Close relationships with some faculty including dinners at faculty homes –Inclusive departmental activities: talks, meals, clubs, contests, conferences, hiring decisions –Being encouraged in their work and taken seriously by adults

16 16 Liberal Arts Students Student plans for their future –Many expect to go to graduate programs eventually –Usually 1 or 2 go to graduate school directly from their undergraduate programs –Approximately 1 student every 2 or 3 years goes to graduate school in statistics –Most take a year or two off after college to work or explore (e.g., Teach for America)

17 17 Attracting and Keeping Liberal Arts Students in Statistics and Biostatistics Graduate Programs Students come from a background where they were nurtured as a whole person Coming from a small school, the adjustment to a large university may create significant stress They know they are bright and capable They are not used to a more competitive environment They are not used to struggling with academic work They dont know they are under prepared for graduate work They may conclude they are no good and drop out (or worse)

18 18 Attracting and Keeping Liberal Arts Students in Statistics and Biostatistics Graduate Programs And there is a two-cultures issue in many graduate programs –Many Asian students come to U.S. graduate schools already holding masters degrees in math or stat from their own country –Their undergraduate programs consisted almost entirely of math and stat courses –And they speak to each other in their native languages outside of class –U.S. students feel overwhelmed and excluded. The math and stat are above their level and so is the pace.

19 19 Attracting and Keeping Liberal Arts Students in Statistics and Biostatistics Graduate Programs For US students the transition from undergraduate to graduate school is analogous to the transition from high school to college Graduate schools might try some of the strategies colleges use to help less well- prepared students to succeed

20 20 Attracting and Keeping Liberal Arts Students in Statistics and Biostatistics Graduate Programs Some possible strategies –Initiate summer programs students attend in the summer before their first year in graduate school –Discuss the issue of prior preparation with entering students. Tell them what you expect them to know and tell them how to address their lack of preparation –Assign trained advisors to the first-year students to ensure that students get appropriate advice on their first semester courses –Ensure student success by enrolling them in courses they can complete

21 21 Attracting and Keeping Liberal Arts Students in Statistics and Biostatistics Graduate Programs More suggestions for addressing the problem –Group students on prior experience and use strong advising to guide different groups into different courses –Allow students entering with only a bachelors degree more time (one or two semesters) before taking the qualifying exams

22 22 Attracting and Keeping Liberal Arts Students in Statistics and Biostatistics Graduate Programs Additional suggestions –Welcome students to your program through social events with the department –Spend time with students outside of class (office hours, department events) –Create a department culture that values students –Reach out to students who struggle –Use student evaluations to monitor teaching quality

23 23 Synergies between liberal arts colleges and statistics graduate programs Liberal Arts Colleges can provide talented, hard working, enthusiastic students to graduate programs Graduate programs in statistics can encourage their talented students to consider careers in liberal arts colleges

24 24 Resources Statistics at Liberal Arts Colleges, Thomas L. Moore and Rosemary A. Roberts, The American Statistician, May 1989, Vol 43, No. 2, Survey on Statistics within the Liberal Arts College, Tom Moore and Julie Legler, Report to ASA Board from the Strategic Initiatives Workshop on "Strengthening connections between liberal arts colleges and graduate programs in statistics" Tom Moore


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