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Mentor a Statistician Today

1 February 2010 2,813 views One Comment
Sastry Pantula

Sastry Pantula

I am proud that our association has about 18,000 members from such diverse backgrounds, but I would love to see our membership be much higher. There are many more statisticians throughout the world, and the benefits, activities, and services the ASA provides are far reaching and important to the future of our profession.

Our journals provide an excellent platform to disseminate research. Our meetings provide an opportunity to exchange ideas and network with others. Our continuing education activities and upcoming accreditation program provide professional development opportunities. We have been vigilant about ethical practice and the proper use of statistics. We are proactively advocating for statistical literacy at all levels and the appropriate use of data in formulating science and public policies. We proudly share our success stories in Amstat News and update “Statisticians in the News” daily. Then, there are the many professional benefits our chapters, committees, and sections provide—too many to list here.

As I meet our members and many potential members at various conferences and chapter meetings, it is clear we can enhance mentoring of young statisticians. They are the future of our association and our profession. I continue to benefit from the mentoring I receive from my adviser, deans, colleagues, leaders in our profession, and well-wishers. I feel the same responsibility to help others grow professionally.

Mentoring does not happen by osmosis. Many companies, government organizations, and academic departments have active mentoring programs (see Mentoring: A Skill Professional Statisticians Can Develop. ) If you are serving as a mentor, formally or informally, I thank you for your service to our younger generation. If you have not had an opportunity to mentor, I urge you to look around your organization or within the ASA to find a young statistician to mentor. A member seeking your mentoring is a positive step, and it does not mean he/she is deficient in any way.

Appropriate mentoring can help not only in career development, but also in enhancing confidence and a sense of belonging. With a number of successful statisticians around the world, no statistician needs to feel isolated. Someone you mentor can benefit from learning about your career and personal growth experiences, bumps you may have faced along the way, time management methods you use at work and home, and your networking skills. More importantly, he or she can benefit from your listening skills. Mentoring is mutually beneficial and personally rewarding.

During the holidays, I attended three conferences in India. Some attendees discussed issues related to young statisticians and appropriate mentoring. MentorNet is one organization that was mentioned as a network that matches those looking for mentors with appropriate (volunteer) mentors in all subject areas. It also provides access to a number of articles related to mentoring.

During a conference at the University of Pune, it was clear that students from various parts of the world benefit from reading the articles in Amstat News. Many enjoy reading the personal stories of your career paths. Thank you to those who are contributing these.

It was an honor and a pleasure to be at C. R. Rao’s 90th birthday conference in Hyderabad. He has been making outstanding contributions to the frontiers of statistics and has been a mentor to many young and established statisticians. The mathematical genealogical tree of his descendants is large and continues to grow. He has received many well-deserved honors, honorary doctorates, and awards. During conferences in Hyderabad and Visakhapatnam, he was “felicitated” in a traditional recognition ceremony in which honorees and their spouses are draped in a shawl and presented with flowers, gifts, and mementos.

During the International Indian Statistical Association conference in Visakhapatnam, the ASA organized two sessions. John Boyer organized a session on agricultural statistics, and I organized one on careers in statistics. During the session on careers in statistics, Sreenivas Bhogle of TEOCO spoke about the divide between statistical training and jobs. Bob Rodriguez of SAS spoke about the importance of training for careers in statistical computing, whereas Roger Liddle of GlaxoSmithKline spoke about training and mentoring in the pharmaceutical industry. ASA Executive Director Ron Wasserstein spoke about various professional development opportunities the ASA provides, especially for young statisticians, and discussed the ASA’s accreditation program. The panel generated a good discussion, focusing on mentoring future problemsolvers around the globe.

It is clear that it is important to have regular interaction among all sectors of the ASA. There are many benefits to having a mixture of seminars in academic departments that include speakers from industry and government, in addition to research seminars from other academic departments. During JSM 2009, U.S. Census Bureau Director Bob Groves indicated his willingness to visit academic departments to talk to students and administrations about curriculum and pipeline issues in our profession. Barry Nussbaum of the Environmental Protection Agency reiterated this and has been giving seminars in various academic departments.

It is common to have alumni from various backgrounds mentor students and visit their alma maters to share their experiences. It is also beneficial to invite faculty to give seminars in companies and government organizations. Student visits to companies and government organizations, internships, and graduate industrial traineeships also lead to opportunities for networking and mentoring. The ASA web site; social networking groups; the ASA’s Committee on Minorities; Statistical Partnerships among Academe, Industry, and Government; and ASA sections provide opportunities for such interactions.

Thank you again for mentoring and looking out for our young statisticians. Go hug another statistician today! Let no statistician be isolated this Valentine’s Day or any other day.

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One Comment »

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