Isolated Statisticians Meeting Minutes

7:00 pm, Sunday, August 6; Seattle, WA


  1. Welcome and Introductions

Moderator Ann Cannon welcomed the group and had everyone introduce themselves. There were 35 people in attendance.


  1. Isostat Website –

Joy Jordan, the author of the isostat website, described what information is currently on the website, and she asked for suggestions of additional information to be posted.


It would be helpful to have summaries from the isostat listserv discussions (based on a posed question) posted to the website. In general, people should send summaries of suggestions after the listserv


It would be nice to have more pictures on the site, so it seems more welcoming.


It would be helpful to have a list of REUs and internships on the website. Joy can post her current list, and then ask people on the listserv for additions.


Would it be helpful to send the chairs of graduate program an email about the isostat group? Or could something be posted along with the job postings each year (getting new Ph.D.s to think about a liberal arts college)? There is a meeting of department chairs at the JSM, and perhaps an announcement could be made at this meeting.


Should information about mentoring program be on the website?


Also, the JSM session on “Nuts and Bolts of Assessment” link should be added.


  1. Format for the Annual Meeting (Dex Whittinghill)

Should we continue with big group discussion, or might it be good to have small group discussions? Are there some topics that some people are more interested in or not interested in? Perhaps the big discussions can happen first, and then breakouts sessions can occur at dinner or drinks.


  1. The Intro Stat Course: various aspects including textbook, topics, technology, and should math majors take this course in addition to the math-stat courses? (Jean Guo)

Jean wondered what topics should be covered (e.g., binomial distribution or not?), and what textbooks do people use.


Minitab – two-thirds

JMP, SAS, DataDesk – very small number

R – a few more

Excel – no one


Why? Minitab isn’t out on the Mac platform. Students can’t get data into the calculators. Choose the tool that is most appropriate. People have had success with showing students computer skills in class and expect them to do things outside the classroom. (Jean doesn’t have the capability to use computers.) What about on exams? Cut back on calculations. Does this mean assignments are different from tests? Could ask conceptual questions on homework; could do take-home tests. Decrease the amount of time students spend on calculations – more time about the concepts. Carolyn Cuff can send Jean tests. Jerry, Jean’s new mentor, will show him his tests.


How many people give take-home exams? Is there cheating? You can give everyone a slightly different data set. Would it be helpful to create a survey for our group to see the practices of each other in the introductory statistics class?


Marj will do a survey next year of her client departments at Monmouth. She will share results of the survey.


  1. Should there be an organized exchange of syllabi and exams among isolated statisticians? (John McKenzie)

Would it be helpful for people in isostat to share syllabi and questions on the website? Will this really be useful – questions perhaps not an instructor’s style or to overwhelming. Perhaps it’s the discussions that would be more helpful. When, say putting together a new course, it would be helpful to have a sense of topics, textbooks, etc. Joy will post to the isostat listserv to put a call out for intro stats syllabi (algebra-based). Then these can be posted to the website.


  1. What statistics courses are being offered besides intro? (Jean Guo)

This might be a good question for the survey. Tom Moore and Julie Legler did a survey of liberal arts colleges. (This should be posted to website, as well as the article by Garfield, et al. in JSE about intro stats.)


  1. Experience with Online Assessment Tools (Nick Horton)

ARTIST, Moodle, etc. – how have people used these and to what success? Moore’s new BPS has a portal of online things – this is something to check out. Test banks can have mechanical questions with no possibility of partial credit. Some of these are “check your basic knowledge,” not deep understanding. Some of these don’t work with Macs. Students must have very exact answers, which isn’t necessarily a good thing (frustrates students and misses the point). Shonda had a good experience with Blackboard out-of-class quizzes (students liked them).


  1. How to manage statistical consulting at a liberal arts college, given faculty and students in the social and natural sciences use increasingly sophisticated methods that often outstrip the intermediate statistics curricula at those colleges

Delicacy of sending students back to their client disciplines when they’ve been assigned a statistics problem. Research areas in other disciplines are getting more sophisticated. If students do senior projects where they must understand this work, then students must have some support (the world of statistics doesn’t end with introductory students). After the first course, students should know it’s okay and expected that they’ll need to consult a statistician when needed. It’s sometimes a challenge to find the time to work with these students. One possibility is to meet with both the student and the faculty member (and the student must be prepared to run the meeting). St. Olaf has a program where students serve as collaborators with faculty in the math department and an outside department with a research question.


  1. Are any isolated statisticians interested in cooperating in joint research experiments? (John McKenzie)

At a small school, there may not be enough students to study – it may be helpful to merge with other schools. Ann suggested that this question should be posed to the listserv.


  1. How to negotiate with deans/provosts/department chairs over “turf” issues (e.g., how many departments teach intro stat or intermediate stat) and how to make course offerings coherent for students

Only a small percentage of people at the meeting have complete control over stats offerings. There was a suggestion to tread lightly and form alliances (have a friendly conversation with others teaching stats). Common course at Grinnell, which statisticians make suggestions about (taught by many departments). Long-term solution is to gradually take back the courses (since some people are teaching these that don’t want to) – this depends on the size of the institution.


  1. Encouraging ASA membership as a way to encourage careers or future study in statistics (Nick Horton)

Chapters of the ASA can now process Mu Sigma Rho student nominees (Nick gave a handout) – most of the schools don’t have their own MSR chapters. There is information on the website.


  1. Announcements

·         John announced that the New England isostat has met every year and will meet again this year in early fall. He thinks there should be a more proactive effort on our part to reach other isolated statisticians at JSM (e.g., colorful poster boards, email people from small schools).

·         Paul  Roback asks for help: 10:30 session tomorrow needs a chairperson (chair couldn’t make it for family reasons) – Kate said she’d do it.

·         Section on Statistical Education business meeting is at 5:30 on Wednesday – everyone is welcome, even if you’re not yet a member of the section.



Respectfully submitted,

Joy Jordan