National Science Foundation Awards Two Grants to Center for Statistics Education in Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Center to play key role in addressing growing national need for statistics experts

Villanova, PA —The National Science Foundation recently awarded two grants to the Center for Statistics Education in Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The first grant, in the amount of $571,000, is titled “Training a New Generation of Statistics Educators” (nicknamed TANGO Stat Ed). The second, in the amount of $235,000, is a Data Science grant. The grants will help the Center play an important role in addressing a growing national need for statistics experts.

Innovators and analysts in the 21st century workforce require strong analytical skills to succeed in an era where scientific inquiry and complex business questions are often addressed using vast amounts of data.  The McKinsey Global Institute, the business and economics research arm of McKinsey & Co., has predicted that by 2018 the U.S. could face a shortage of between 140,000 to 190,000 people with deep quantitative skills, as well as a shortage of 1.5 million managers and analysts who know how to analyze big data to make effective decisions.

The Center for Statistics Education is under the direction of Michael Posner, PhD, associate professor of Statistics in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.  Dr. Posner is Principal Investigator (PI) on the TANGO Stat Ed grant and is collaborating with Co-PI Monica Dabos, statistics specialist at College of the Canyons, a community college in the Los Angeles region.  He is Co-PI on the Data Science grant, which also includes Lillian Cassel, PhD as PI and Don Goelman, PhD as Co-PI, both from the Department of Computing Sciences in Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; they are joined by two collaborators at Winston-Salem State University.

“These grants help solidify Villanova University’s growing reputation as a national leader in statistics education,” said Adele Lindenmeyr, PhD, interim dean, Villanova University College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

“The TANGO Stat Ed grant will enable the center to pair community college instructors with established statistics educator-mentors in order to help teachers with little training in statistics not only gain content knowledge but also familiarity with current best practices in statistics pedagogy,” Dr. Posner said. “The project has the potential of affecting more than 10,000 students annually by providing support for 72 community college instructors who teach statistics.”

According to Dr. Posner, the Data Science grant will be used to develop materials that will support a “flipped classroom” approach to an introductory course in Data Science. He says the primary purpose of the grant is to educate a statistically literate populace, coupled with the need to address the growing importance of data science in training a competent workforce.  In addition, the grant will include an evaluation of the flipped model which, despite its popularity, has not been rigorously evaluated in its educational effectiveness.

The overall goals of the Center for Statistics Education include promoting quality research among faculty, and working to improve statistics education in the curricula across disciplines at Villanova by creating programs in statistics education for current Villanova students. The Center also provides professional development for statistics teachers in the greater Philadelphia region at the K-16 levels and will be conducting research on effective methods in statistics instruction and pedagogy.

About Villanova University: Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University's six colleges – the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the College of Nursing, the College of Professional Studies and the Villanova University School of Law. As students grow intellectually, Villanova prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them.