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Make Yourself Count

1 March 2010 1,778 views No Comment
Sastry Pantula

Sastry Pantula

There are a few hours to go before the Super Bowl commercials start. I promised myself I wouldn’t turn on the TV until I finish this column, but my mind keeps wandering. What exciting commercials will be on this time? I can’t wait to see the commercial for the 2010 Census!

I heard Census Director Bob Groves on National Public Radio last month talking about the difficulties with undercounts, overcounts, foreclosures, etc. I wish him the best with a successful census. It is exciting to be a statistician during the decennial census: “United States Census 2010: It’s in Our Hands,” “We Count, Because Everyone Counts,” “How America Knows What America Needs.” The importance of accurate counts is well known to all of us. Please encourage everyone you know to fill out their census forms.

Speaking of being counted, do not forget to vote in the upcoming ASA elections. The percentage of members who vote in ASA elections has increased over the past few years; however, participation is still far below 50%. I hope we have an excellent turnout this year; it is as easy as a few clicks from your email. Of course, deciding who you would like to vote for among such good candidates is another story. On the next few pages, you will see information about outstanding members who are willing to volunteer their time to our association. The ASA thrives on such dedication. I want to thank each of the candidates for their willingness to participate. Please show them your support by casting your vote.

Section officers play an important role in advancing the thematic interests of our association and are a key to the success of our meetings. Council of Chapters and Council of Sections representatives and the publications representative serve as conduits for communication between the ASA Board and members. Vice presidents and presidents (-elect, current, and past) provide leadership in regard to our strategic plan. Membership benefits and growth, meetings, publications, finances, committee appointments and accomplishments, education, visibility, and having an impact on public policy are some of the topics discussed regularly by ASA Board members. Please read the candidates’ biographies and statements; Google them if you need to. Just don’t forget to cast your vote.

To provide you (and myself) with more information, I asked the candidates for president (Jim Landwehr and Bob Rodriguez) and vice president (Linda Gage and Mary Mulry) to respond to some questions. Their answers (unedited) are below. I hope this information, in addition to their personal statements, helps you choose.

What does the ASA stand for? (I don’t mean just “American Statistical Association.” I’m looking for three bullets or an elevator speech you would give if someone asked what the ASA means to you.)

Jim Landwehr (P): It’s the central focus for the statistics profession in this country. It’s the place all segments of our profession can and do gather—through meetings, publications, electronically—to communicate among ourselves and with the broader society, which needs and uses statistics in many and varying ways.

Bob Rodriguez (P): I believe that ASA stands for Activity, Service, and Advocacy! The ASA benefits all statisticians by providing us with:

  • a home in which we engage and enrich each other through a variety of activities—communicated in our publications and meetings, and conducted in our chapters, sections, and committees
  • an organization through which we serve the needs of society and the statistics profession
  • a voice with which we advocate for statistical science in research and in policymaking

Linda Gage (VP): ASA is an international organization that is the professional home to statisticians and to thousands of members who use statistics in varied disciplines and applications in diverse settings in academia, government, industry, and independent enterprises. This organization sets and maintains standards of excellence within the discipline and practice of statistics. ASA offers countless opportunities to access current research, interact with colleagues, and make contributions to our society. This professional home is also a place to make lifelong friends.

Mary Mulry (VP): ASA is where I meet the people I need to meet and I find the resources I need in my career. Whenever I have moved, ASA members from the local chapters advised me and helped me learn where the statistics jobs were. From the very beginning of my career, ASA members I have met through the chapters and sections have mentored me and given me career advice. Over the years, I have found ASA publications and conferences are invaluable sources of recent developments in statistics, as well as great places to present results and receive feedback from outside my organization.

Why is it important for our 18,000 members to participate in this election?

Bob Rodriguez (P): This is a time of unprecedented opportunities for statisticians in all sectors of society, and the leaders that we elect this year will face the challenge of making the association more vital and more visible in response to these opportunities. If more members read the candidates’ views, discuss the issues, and vote thoughtfully, then all of us will win a stronger association for the future. So let’s spread the word about this election and surpass the turnout record set in 2008!

Jim Landwehr (P): Leadership matters, and good leadership emerges from strong, continuing participation of the membership across all the activities of the association. It starts with voting, not just for the national offices, but especially for the section and chapter offices, where much important work gets done.

Mary Mulry (VP): Voting gives members an opportunity to choose the leaders who will influence the future of statistics as a profession. Most individuals and organizations are going through belt-tightening, and ASA is no exception. Efficient direction and use of our financial and volunteer resources is more important now than ever.

Linda Gage (VP): It’s a privilege to be given an equal voice in deciding the leadership and direction of the ASA. That’s what our votes do. Please be assured that the ASA nominating committees seriously deliberate each year to seek candidates who will perform well in each position. The ballot is imminent and everyone has the chance to support the candidate that best represents their views and focus for the future.

What one thing do you enjoy the most in your current job? Why?

Mary Mulry (VP): In my current job, I am able to conduct research directed at improving the quality of statistics that have national importance. I think it is important that decisionmakers in government and business are informed by the best statistics possible.

Linda Gage (VP): Making a difference! Producing and interpreting official demographic statistics and assisting policymakers, government agencies, researchers, the press, and the public in the proper selection and use of available data from multiple sources results in more accurate analysis, decisions, and policies. What a reward!

Bob Rodriguez (P): In my work at SAS, I lead the development of statistical software. I especially enjoy meeting statisticians and biostatisticians at customer sites, user meetings, and professional conferences—both to learn about their work and their software needs and to keep up with new methodology.

Jim Landwehr (P): I’d say it’s the challenge and opportunity to incorporate good statistical ideas into application areas that are new for my company and the industry. In my case, this currently involves collecting, understanding, and analyzing data underlying communications transactions in contact centers so as to improve the contact center operations and enhance the customer experience.

What is the one volunteer project you have done for ASA that you enjoyed the most? Why?

Linda Gage (VP): I’ve been fortunate to serve in many volunteer capacities within ASA and highly recommend it to others. Serving on the two most recent executive director search committees made it possible to interact with a small, but highly experienced and dedicated, cross-section of our membership to review applications, interview candidates, enjoy presentations, deliberate, and recommend a candidate for the Board of Directors’ consideration. It was gratifying to see the tremendous amount of interest in the position and the high caliber of candidates. This was most enjoyable because the activity was critical to our organization and the results were both successful and long lasting.

Mary Mulry (VP): I have enjoyed the time I spent serving on the SRMS Executive Committee. I have found it gratifying to participate in the decisions to sponsor small conferences on special topics and then to see these conferences be very successful. Recently, I found it rewarding to suggest to the executive committee that SRMS launch a webinar program and see the initial one have a large number of subscriptions and produce some revenue for the section.

Jim Landwehr (P): Actually, all my volunteer work has been satisfying, albeit in quite different ways. Editorial and board work provide the satisfaction that you are contributing to important, long-run activities for the profession, but people rarely come up and offer personal appreciation for some decision or publication. The teacher-facing work I have been involved in through the quantitative literacy [QL] efforts are different, however. When you present teachers with material and ideas that they feel they can use effectively in the classroom, they provide immediate, positive feedback—or negative feedback if they don’t like it. Fortunately, there has been a lot more of the former than the latter. It’s nice to have people like what you do and express it, so I especially enjoyed leading QL workshops with other statisticians and mathematics teachers.

Bob Rodriguez (P): During my term as ASA vice president, I chaired the task force that wrote the new ASA strategic plan, adopted in 2008. It was enjoyable and energizing to interview ASA leaders and stakeholders, distill numerous conversations into goals and strategies, and build consensus for the plan.

Here is an optional bonus question: What is the one best point about your opponent?

Linda Gage (VP): Mary Mulry is quite simply the consummate professional in my view. I have long respected her professional work, which is innovative and accurate. Mary is a very generous colleague
who is always willing to discuss her research and assist others.

Jim Landwehr (P): I have known Bob through several publication-related activities and also through our joint involvement in NISS. He’s a thoughtful, conscientious, hard-working person who gets done what needs to get done. If I weren’t running myself, I’d be happy to vote for him.

Mary Mulry (VP): Linda has the personality, knowledge, judgment, and ability to get people to work together toward a common goal.

Bob Rodriguez (P): Jim Landwehr has served the association in many ways, and his contributions to the area of quantitative literacy are particularly notable.

I hope these candidates convinced you to vote for them. I really appreciate the candidates for taking the time to respond to my questions and help me complete this column (so I can turn on my TV).

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