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A New Year and New Initiatives

1 January 2012 No Comment
Robert Rodriguez


Our association has entered its 173rd “new year,” a time of unprecedented opportunity for statisticians, and we are moving in new directions to promote the profession of statistics.

In this month’s column, I discuss four presidential initiatives for 2012: planning for the ASA’s 175th anniversary, formulating guidelines for master’s degree programs, training in career success factors, and communicating about major ASA activities.

These initiatives are based on our Strategic Plan, which was adopted in 2008. After discussions with the ASA Board of Directors in April 2011, I appointed a workgroup for each initiative. All four workgroups began meeting at JSM 2011 and reported substantial progress at the November board meeting.

175th Anniversary Planning

A steering committee chaired by Christy Chuang-Stein is providing high-level direction for the ASA’s 175th anniversary in 2014. This committee is generating and implementing activities that will propel us into the next quarter century. It also will be working with chapters, sections, committees, and outreach groups to coordinate their activities and make the celebration an association-wide event.

A new column, titled “175,” debuts in this issue to keep you informed about the planning. This month’s “175” explains the theme, “Celebrate Our Past, Energize Our Future,” for the celebration and announces a website, where you can submit ideas and reach out to members of the steering committee.

I also encourage you to contribute to the ASA’s Reverse Time Capsule with forecasts and essays imagining what our association will be like in 2039. How many members, chapters, and sections will we have by our 200th birthday? The most accurate forecasts—to be determined in 2039—will be rewarded with lifetime ASA memberships!

Guidelines for Master’s Degree Programs

A workgroup chaired by John Bailer is developing guidelines, framed as learning outcomes, for master’s degree programs in statistics and biostatistics. The workgroup is surveying managers in business and government who hire statisticians with master’s degrees in order to identify knowledge and skills that most benefit their employees. In addition, the workgroup is surveying recent graduates to learn about training that has enabled them to succeed in their first job.

With guidelines that anticipate these needs, university departments offering master’s degrees can consider how their curricula address desired outcomes and better prepare students for future success. To learn more about this initiative, contact John at baileraj@muohio.edu.

Training in Career Success Factors

A workgroup chaired by Bob Starbuck is proposing ways in which we can provide career-building courses on topics such as presentation skills and influence skills that will enable statisticians to flourish in the workplace. This training is especially critical for younger statisticians entering emerging areas of practice such as business analytics and “big data” companies, where communication and teamwork are essential.

Last spring, a group of executives who hire statistics graduates for business analytics met at ASA headquarters to discuss the professional development needs of their employees and how we might meet them. The executives expressed interest in different types of continuing education for their employees. Above all, they asked us to provide training in “soft skills”—for example, the ability to explain the relevance of a statistical analysis to others in their organization.

Employers in other sectors and many ASA members have expressed strong interest in success factors training tailored for statisticians. This is a service we should provide. Not only will it help members in every sector become more effective, but it will also ultimately increase the viability of our profession. For more information about this initiative, contact Bob at RRS49@nc.rr.com.

In-Reach Communication About Major ASA Activities

A workgroup chaired by Jeri Mulrow is developing presentation materials for use by members who would like to communicate the most important activities of our association within their local statistical communities. I describe this as “in-reach communication” because the audiences for these messages are our own members, colleagues, and students. All of us should be aware of ASA activities that add value to membership, benefit underserved groups, and improve the visibility of our profession.

This initiative grew from conversations with members who have said, “We’d like to give talks about these exciting developments to our departments and chapters.” With the building blocks that the workgroup is developing, it will be easy to assemble such a presentation that meets the interests of your particular audience.

Potential topics for in-reach presentations are Significance magazine, our professional accreditation program, the STATtr@k website for students and younger members, and the Conference on Statistical Practice that we are inaugurating next month. (The deadline for registering is January 31.)

Of course, the primary channels for informing our membership are Amstat News and the ASA website, but presentations by members have the advantage of personal connection. And, by equipping members to give these presentations, we will create champions for our association. If you are interested in this initiative, contact Jeri at jmulrow@nsf.gov.

I want to close by thanking the members who are serving on these workgroups. While planning these initiatives, I benefited from discussions with ASA Executive Director Ron Wasserstein and wise advice from past presidents Nancy Geller, Sastry Pantula, and Sally Morton. I am also grateful for the enthusiastic feedback I received last year when I presented my initiatives to members in locations ranging from Juneau, Alaska, to Boston, Massachusetts.

I am deeply honored to serve as the 107th president of our association, and I look forward to meeting many more members in 2012.

May you and your family have a healthy and successful New Year.

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