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175 and Counting!

1 January 2014 173 views One Comment

ASA President Nathaniel Schenker shows off a poster about the 175th anniversary on display at JSM 2013 in Montréal. (Photograph by Eric Sampson, ASA)

ASA President Nathaniel Schenker shows off a poster about the 175th anniversary on display at JSM 2013 in Montréal. (Photograph by Eric Sampson, ASA)

What should I write about in my first column as ASA president? Lots of things come to mind. For one, I’d like to thank the membership for electing me. I’m honored and happy to be in this position, and I look forward to serving you.

Believe it or not, when I received the phone call back in 2011 inviting me to be a candidate, I had doubts about whether to accept the nomination for various reasons. So why did I do it? Well, first, my wife told me to, and she’s always right. Second, standing for election as president of one of my professional homes and the main “constant” in my nearly 30-year career was an honor I couldn’t easily turn down. Third, I’ve found a huge amount of value in ASA membership and service over the years, so I wanted to give back to the ASA—and I knew I’d find even more value by doing so. Fourth, as president, I’d have the opportunity to formulate strategic initiatives to serve not only the association and its members, but also the profession at large. Finally, I did the math and realized my presidency would coincide with the ASA’s 175th anniversary. What an opportunity!

I’ll focus on the anniversary here, and I’ll reserve future columns for topics such as finding value in the ASA and my strategic initiatives for 2014. The ASA, founded in 1839 in Boston (site of JSM 2014), is the second-oldest learned society in the United States. In case you’re wondering, the oldest is the American Philosophical Society (APS). But because the APS is an honorary society whose members must be elected, I think the ASA can lay claim to being the oldest “open access” learned society in the United States.

Let’s take pride in the ASA’s 175th anniversary, and let’s work to strengthen our profession and association as we look forward to the 200th anniversary and beyond!

In 2011, then president-elect Bob Rodriguez appointed a steering committee for the 175th anniversary, chaired by Christy Chuang-Stein. The committee has developed lots of great ideas and material, much of which is showcased on the 175th anniversary website, which will be updated and enhanced throughout the year. One of my favorite creations of the committee is Column 175, a monthly Amstat News feature that began in January 2012. The articles, authored by a variety of people in our field, discuss topics ranging from plans for the anniversary, to the history of the ASA, to the future of publishing, to personal career stories, to the future of our profession. I’ve found all of the columns informative and entertaining, and I encourage you to take a look at them.

The theme for the anniversary is “Celebrate our past, energize our future.” To help celebrate our past, the steering committee is developing links to material covering the ASA’s history, compiling a list of archives of work by past statistical greats, and presenting interesting historical facts about the association. Do you know who the first Fellows were? Who the first female president was? When the first JASA article was published? Find the answers and much more on the anniversary website.

With regard to energizing our future, the steering committee has identified the following three areas of focus, complete with code names, for forward-looking activities:

  • StatSharp – Strengthening statistical education and raising awareness among young people that statistics is an attractive career choice
  • StatGrowth – Expanding the size of our association and increasing its reach to emerging areas of statistical practice
  • StatImpact – Communicating and broadening the positive impact of statistics on our world

Learn more about initiatives in these important areas.

Speaking of the future, what will be the state of the world, or at least the ASA, in 2039, when the association reaches its 200th anniversary? Wish you could contribute a prediction or send a message to future members? You can, via the ASA Reverse Time Capsule, which will contain our present perspective on the future.

Back to the present! For this historic year, the person who immediately came to my mind for the ASA President’s Invited Speaker at JSM was Stephen M. Stigler of The University of Chicago. Steve is a renowned statistical historian and researcher. He has many honors, which I’ll have the pleasure of enumerating when I introduce him on Monday afternoon at JSM 2014. But one honor I should mention here is that he is an elected member of the APS, making him a member of the two oldest learned societies in the United States! Steve always gives thoughtful, scholarly, and entertaining presentations, and I’m very happy he accepted my invitation to speak.

Because the largest gathering of ASA members this year will be at JSM 2014, it is an obvious venue for celebrating the anniversary. Immediately after my presidential address on Tuesday evening, we’ll enjoy a champagne toast, heavy hors d’oeuvres, dessert, and entertainment by talented statistician-performers. If you’re interested in performing, submit an audition video by January 15.

But let’s not only celebrate at JSM. The anniversary offers chapters, sections, committees, and other ASA groups an opportunity to plan new activities or to showcase and enhance existing ones. Please let the steering committee know your plans so they can be announced on the anniversary website. Individual members interested in participating in the committee’s activities should contact Ron Wasserstein at ron@amstat.org or Christy Chuang-Stein at christy.j.chuang-stein@pfizer.com.

Let’s take pride in the ASA’s 175th anniversary, and let’s work to strengthen our profession and association as we look forward to the 200th anniversary and beyond!

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