Concentrating on Statistics

Statistics Concentration

NANA KARAYAMA, Features Editor

Students will now have the option of having a Statistics Concentration, a decision that was approved at a faculty meeting on Sept. 21. It was the first concentration approved after the Curriculum Committee modified the requirements of a concentration last Spring.

According to Professor Christopher French, Mathematics and Statistics, who represents the science division on the Curriculum Committee, the new definition removed the previous requirement that all concentrations must be interdisciplinary. The definition of interdisciplinary differed among faculty, so removing this requirement allowed for more leeway for potential concentrations.

“We can actually allow for more interdisciplinarity at Grinnell because we won’t be stopping people from creating concentrations,” French said. “Changing that legislation made [the statisticians in the Math Department] comfortable pursuing that statistics concentration.”

Students aiming to complete the statistics concentration must complete two required courses, Applied Statistics and Statistical Modeling, and a minimum of four elective courses. These span a multitude of departments, from Sociology to Computer Science.

“We really wanted to address the depth of the statistics knowledge as well as the breadth of the use of statistics,” said Professor Shonda Kuiper, Mathematics and Statistics. Kuiper is a member of the Statistics Concentration Faculty Committee.

This curriculum encompasses national standards and was based on the 2014 Curriculum Guidelines for Undergraduate Programs in Statistical Science. Following these guidelines, there are three key options students may want to focus on: applied statistics, theoretical statistics and computational statistics.

“It’s very common across the nation for concentrations and majors to include a course that involves the application of statistics into a different discipline,” Kuiper said.

One primary goal of establishing the concentration was to formalize the advising structure for students interested in statistics.

“This way a student who might not want to be a math major but who might be interested in statistics can have an advisor who can help them craft a plan that fits their goals and helps them prepare for what they want to do when they graduate,” French said.

Another goal was to accredit students who demonstrate an interest in statistics.

“I’m really happy that they’re doing it because it’s a way of giving legitimacy to people doing extra work in statistics and data analysis. Otherwise you would just take a few courses on it and there’s nothing signaling that to anyone,” said Noah Sebek ’17, who works in Grinnell’s Data Analysis and Social Inquiry Lab.

The proposal for the statistics concentration was first sent for review to the Curriculum Committee, which according to the Faculty Handbook has “immediate oversight of the educational programs of the College, [and] shall consider primarily concentrations, majors, department curricula and the organization of the general education at the college.”

This initial step is not required, but recommended.

“New concentrations are encouraged to seek comment from the Curriculum Committee, which gives feedback on making the proposal something easier for the faculty to approve,” French said.

The proposal was presented to each division and then sent to Michael Latham, Dean of the College and Vice President for Academic Affairs. The final step took place at the faculty meeting, where the concentration was approved through a majority of votes.

The details of the statistics concentration, such as with whom students can declare, have yet to be finalized and the details on the current website may be altered.

“I think right after [fall] break we should be able to run with this, so we’re not accepting any concentrators or anything right now,” Kuiper said. “It’s approved, but not ready until the registrar and other offices have things in place.”