NEISM6 Meeting

Newsletter for the Section on Statistical Education
Volume 8, Number 1 (Winter 2002)

The sixth New England Isolated Statisticians Meeting (NEISM6) was held at Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts on Saturday, September 22, 2001. This meeting like the five previous meetings allow academic statisticians (loosely defined!) who are isolated (also, loosely defined), usually in departments of mathematics to come together to talk about issues of common interest.

Due to a confluence of problems, NEISM6 was organized at short notice and only eight people were able to attend. Nevertheless, all the participants found the program extremely valuable. The following subjects formed the core of the day's discussions:

  1. Preparing for Classes -- What I Wish I Had Done,
  2. Final Exams,
  3. Using the Internet and Course Management Software in Statistics Courses, and
  4. How Are Our Schools Using Popular Ranking of Colleges?

As with previous NEISMs, there was considerable discussion and networking outside of the meeting room. A valuable aspect of NEISM6 (and past NEISMs) is the chance to share resources and materials -- in this case, chiefly final exams and URLs. At NEISMs it is always interesting to inspect the classrooms at the host institution. Babson's classrooms are particularly well-endowed with near state-of-the-art fixtures and equipment.

The initial NEISM sprang directly from the pioneering efforts of the SLAW (Statistics in Liberal Arts Workshop) group. The five previous NEISMs have been held at Williams College (twice), Amherst College (twice) and Babson College. All have been held in early June and lasted two-and-a-half days. In the past a wide variety of topics have been debated. Most have been about statistical pedagogy but we have also discussed more general topics such as the special difficulties that statisticians face when coming up for tenure or promotion. In the past we have also invited industrial and government statisticians to talk to us about educating statisticians. In the past, between 20 and 25 statisticians attended the meetings. All have been from schools without a statistics department.

Without question one of the most valuable aspects of all six NEISMs has been, quite simply, the renewed awareness and appreciation on the part of participants that the problems and stresses that seemed unique to them were, in fact, shared to a great extent by all statistics teachers. Few of the participants have not carried home a good number of ideas to improve their teaching.

NEISM6 was generously supported by a grant from the ExxonMobil Foundation.

At NEISM6 an organizing committee was set up to begin thinking about NEISM7. It has tentatively been decided to hold the meeting in June, 2002, perhaps at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.

While clearly biased, the authors of this report (and the organizers for NEISM6) feel that the NEISMs have been a valuable resource for academic statisticians at small colleges in New England. We are aware that other regions have held their own isolated statisticians meetings and urge that they be continued. Where they have not been tried we urge two or three statisticians to get together and organize one. We are happy to answer any questions about funding and organizing such an event. Robert Carver, Stonehill College, and Phyllis Schumacher, Bryant College, provided invaluable help in running NEISM6.

Robert Goldman, Simmons College, Boston MA 02115,
John McKenzie, Babson College, Babson Park, MA 02457,

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