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Analyzing graduate quantitative training

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Quantitative training is integral to many of the graduate programs in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. Such training is a current and critical need across the natural, behavioral, and social sciences, and may become increasingly important for training in the humanities as well in the future.

There is considerable expertise in quantitative methods among College faculty scattered across different departments. With respect to graduate quantitative training, programs fall into two broad categories: those that provide graduate quantitative training from faculty within their own departments, and those that rely on other departments to offer graduate courses in quantitative methods. For the former programs, faculty resources must be committed to teaching these introductory courses on a regular basis; for the latter programs, student progress is necessarily dependent on the offerings from other departments.

The current configuration for graduate quantitative training may actually represent an inefficient use of faculty expertise on campus. First, among the departments that offer training to their own departments, there is likely redundancy in the content of offerings in (for example) introductory graduate statistics courses. In turn, having different faculty cover the same material in introductory graduate quantitative courses may be keeping faculty from offering courses or seminars on more sophisticated quantitative methods or techniques.

If quantitative training were better coordinated across graduate programs, graduate students might be able to count on having introductory course sequences offered on a more regular or dependable schedule, and quantitatively-oriented faculty may be freed up to teach more advanced methods. Associate Dean Holly Storkel and I have considered this issue at length, and we have assembled a small task force to examine this situation. From those discussions, a proposal has emerged to have the College central office coordinate a graduate quantitative curriculum for those programs where there is sufficient common ground for doing so. This proposal would not seek to create a new unit, or to have departments teach additional courses, but rather it would seek to have students take better advantage of existing College quantitative expertise by making offerings more efficiently organized and have better cross-talk across programs.

We have scheduled two Open Forums for discussion of this possibility, one this Friday (November 15, 11 a.m. to 12 p.m.) and one on the Monday before Thanksgiving (November 25, 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.). Both forums will take place in the College Dean’s Office conference room, 210 Strong Hall. We encourage any and all interested parties to attend and give us some feedback on the proposal, and we look forward to the discussion. For those who can’t attend, you may also submit feedback to us using an online form.