STORies Newsletter - 2023September 15, 2023
Welcome to the 2023 annual issue of STORies. My message in the previous issues of STORies focused on department’s past academic year and immediate future. I will deviate slightly from that format in the current issue. As I am starting my 5th and last year as the chair, it is difficult not to look back at my whole 4+ year term from both department and personal perspectives.
The department has grown considerably. With 3 new positions about to open in this academic year, if they are filled, this would bring the total number of faculty hired to 13 during my term. I doubt strongly this was due to my “special” administrative skills. The department has experienced growth very much in response to the spike of interest in statistics, analytics, data science and related fields.
With increasing interest in our disciplines, the department worked to be outward looking and be part of the movement.
This included participating in data science initiatives (e.g., undergraduate major and minor) and activities (e.g., career fairs) on campus, often with its other units. This included raising our visibility, as with this newsletter or revamped STOR website, connecting with alumni and industry, as with the STOR Fest about to take place, and so on.
The department has been constantly thinking about improving its curricula across undergraduate and graduate programs. The PhD program was largely unified between statistics and operations research. There is more focus on the MS program, as it was given permission to charge differential tuition. Our undergraduate program has probably experienced and will experience a lot of changes, as we adapt to the changing landscape of our disciplines.
Every chair has not only their opportunities but also their challenges. The COVID peak period was challenging for everyone, to put it mildly. Zoom classes, uncertainty in planning, last minute adjustments, lack of in-person contacts and other emergencies made department’s operations difficult for several years. We all hope that this period is largely behind us. Navigating the university politics and personnel issues is part of any chair’s job that I discovered, for better or worse, to rely on the on-the-job training.
On a personal level, being the chair has been an invaluable experience and growth opportunity. It has been an honor to serve the department. Anything accomplished would have been impossible without the help and involvement of many graduate students, wonderful staff, dedicated faculty, and the college administration. The fact that the faculty, and by extension their graduate students, are world-class researchers make this department a special place, and any chair’s job much easier.
Do continue supporting the department in any way you can! Same holds for the new incoming chair yet to be elected who will be the one writing this message next year.