Mathematics Department institutes a statistics minor


Last week, Union officially recognized statistics as a minor.

“Personally, I felt that statistics was a glaring omission from what we have to offer students here at Union,” says Donald C. Brate ’45-Stanley G. Peschel ’52 Assistant Professor of Statistics Roger W. Hoerl. Since his first day of employment at the college, Hoerl remarks that students have been approaching him about establishing statistics as a minor. “Students have more of a say than they realize. If the student body is clamoring for a certain major/minor, they will probably get it.”

Hoerl accredits “100% of the math department,” as well as 7 to 8 other departments, and student motivation for the final creation of the statistics minor. Currently sponsored by the math department, statistics will remain a minor under the math jurisdiction until it gains enough influence to warrant a separate department.

As the only campus statistician, Hoerl revealed that a request has been filed to hire another statistician to support the new program. The request to fund the position must be accepted before the hiring process can begin. A major push for creating the statistics minor came from the need to “fill a gap” in Union’s education, largely to keep up with peer schools that have already offered the minor.

The biggest motivator, however, was to keep up with contemporary demand for data analysis skills. “Analytics is one of the hottest titles in job searches right now,” stresses Hoerl. In the modern job market and/or graduate institution, the ability to analyze data and execute quantitative research is becoming increasingly more sought after. “We feel thank statistics and the ability to draw conclusions from data is becoming more and more a requirement for responsible citizenship,” comments Hoerl.

Hoerl proceeded to emphasize how statistics can pair with many different majors. Political science, for example, utilizes statistical methods to examine election polls. Fields such as business, economics, and the hard sciences are becoming more quantitative in their research methods, due to more simulation-based research methods. “Not only do we want to fill in a gap, but going forward we see statistics being more integrated into a variety of different areas, not just restricted to the sciences and engineering,” Hoerl says.

Two new 300 level courses are currently being added to the program: Business Analytics, which includes analyzing very large business sets, and Big Data Analytics, which focuses on analyzing medical research (for example, researching algorithms that can decide whether or not a tumor is cancerous without performing invasive surgery).

In these courses, students will be using “R:” a statistical programming language that allows students to create their own codes.

Additional courses will most likely be added in the future. The current requirements for the statistics minor were put into the course catalog last week.

“From the college’s point of view, I honestly feel that we have a more attractive offering for prospective students,” Hoerl comments. When asked about a possible statistics major in the future, Hoerl responds: “Minor is reality, the major would be a dream- I like to separate dreams from reality.” Hoerl and the math department remain hopeful that the program will continue to advance.

To ensure the program’s success, the math department is relying on several feedback mechanisms. “I read every single comment,” Hoerl says in reference to student evaluations. To address the statistics minor in its entirety, Hoerl will be reaching out to future grad students to ask how Union’s programs helped them as individuals.



Leave a Reply