STORies Newsletter - 2021

September 14, 2021
Newsletter

Dear Friends,
Welcome to the 2021 annual issue of STORies, which looks back at the department’s past academic year 2020/2021 and considers its outlook.

Starting with the elephant in the room, the COVID-19 pandemic presented many challenges over the academic year 2020/2021, from maintaining the department’s educational and other missions mostly remotely to dealing with financial shortfalls at the university level and most sadly to personal losses in the extended families of our faculty, staff and students. There is some consolation in the fact that we all have been confronting this together.

There is also optimism in that vaccines will allow a return to some form of normal soon. In fact, the university is starting the new academic year 2021/2022 with in-person classes even during another surge in COVID-19 cases. It is still to be seen whether the very high vaccination rates in the university community will allow to continue with this in-person experience that is foremost important to our students, but also their parents, faculty, staff and others.

The pandemic aside, there have been several exciting developments in the department over the past year. We have moved towards improving engagement with donors and alumni and revamping the department’s projected image. This is exemplified by our new website stor.unc.edu. Its launch required huge efforts from several dedicated faculty and contributions from the rest of the department’s community. We expect the webpage to continue improving and certainly reflect the latest departmental activities.

We have continued pushing into the data science/analytics domain. Efforts have been ongoing to expand data science activities at the university level, with the department aiming to play a central role. We are organizing the first Data Science & Analytics Career Fair to be held this fall.

The department and other partners launched a data science minor in the college.

Related to our programs, our undergraduate major and minor continue expanding, with the combined number of 1000+ students in each of the last two years. The major was even among Carolina’s top 10 majors from the Class of 2021. The department once again attracted an excellent and diverse incoming class of graduate students introduced in the STORies below. The class will continue to follow a revamped graduate curriculum, which we constantly work on improving.

Vladas Pipiras

Looking ahead at the new academic year 2021/2022, the department’s priorities include the continued push into data science (with data science major, data science lab and other initiatives), revamping our MS program, and planning for the celebration of department’s anniversary. Indeed, it has been 75 years since the foundation of the Department of Statistics, and around 50 years since Operations Research started as a curriculum program. The ongoing pandemic has hampered our planning for the anniversaries, but we hope for some celebration in 2022.

Do continue supporting the department in any way you can!

Vladas Pipiras
Department Chair

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