“Were you all stoned?”

That’s a memorable question from my Statistics class on Saturday. That Stats 1 to you. Introductory Statistics with Prof. Terry Dalton. As a first class it came off, in the words of Prof. Dalton herself, more like an “AA (alcoholics anonymous) Meeting”. In the best sense possible, of course.

Saturday morning Statistics class: We’re in this together

I myself have not had any reason to use maths for 10 years (bar the GRE, which was not a great showcase for me in that regard…), nor have I ever taken a Stats class, so my level of anxiety about this particular skills course that I am taking as an elective precursor to my required skills class – Stats 2 – is pretty high.

And this was exactly what I told Prof. Dalton as she went around the class and asked us to introduce ourselves and give her an idea of what our background in math or statistics might be, and basically how scared we are of her course (she also mentioned that if any of us had taken a Stats class then we really “shouldn’t be here” and could get bumped up to Stats 2). The idea behind this primarily being that she would like to keep it in mind as she seeks to ensure we get the most out of the class as we go on through.

Here’s a sample of some of the responses from my class to her question, which I appreciated:

“My eyes cross when I see numbers. It’s like I just can’t compute.”

“I would say my level of anxiety is a 12 out of 10…”

“I took a Stats Class last year….but please don’t kick me out! I don’t remember much…”

“I almost didn’t graduate high school because I got an F in Statistics. I ended up getting a D-, so I have good reason not to like Statistics…”

“I took a Stats Class in undergrad…but please don’t kick me out! I swear I don’t remember anything!”

“I’m the stereotypical Asian student…I got a good grade in my GRE math but I am still pretty scared of this course.” (My personal favourite).

Anyway, it was after this that Prof. Dalton suggested we sounded more like we were attendees at an AA meeting, spilling our guts on our past failings and fears, than members of a Stats class. She also jokingly asked whether those who claimed to not remember anything from their previous Stats classes were not “all stoned” at the time, apparently slightly dubious of such assertions.

All good humoured stuff. Prof. Dalton certainly put a lot of us at ease that morning as she talked about how the course would progress at a slow and steady pace and presume no prior knowledge of statistics or of a high level of math ability. In this vein, she also claimed that she herself struggled with statistics in undergrad, first as a political science major and then as a business major, and still does not consider herself to be a “quantitative person”.

However, based on what she also told us I would imagine this could only be true in the sense that she is as much a quantitative person as she is many other things. Prof. Dalton, the vegan single mum with five kids (yep, we really got to know each other), has a JD, an MBA and a PhD in Quantitative Research Methods! AND most impressive of all (for me, an aspiring runner in remission) she used to be able to run a sub-5 minute mile until 2 years ago. An interesting lady.

If you are wondering if Stats might be for you, Prof. Dalton also gave a very convincing summary of some of the reasons why it is a useful skill to have, and in particular why proficiency in the SAS software that her class incorporates provides a real leg up in the job market. For one, for jobs in the US Government in particular (not my bag, for immigration reasons, but maybe yours) it is a bonus because they often use it but training in SAS software is extremely costly (about $2,500 for a half day session “in which you learn to turn it on and off”, in Prof. Dalton’s words) and as such the Government will look to hire people that already have this proficiency and will not require training. The general message is that whether you are a business major or a human rights major, having this hard skill set under your belt will make you stand out in the jobs market.

On that note, I leave you (and hopefully Korbel Administration if they are reading…) with this suggestion I came up with for the Korbel School’s next newest addition to its roster of Skills classes on offer: Global Offensive Hand Gestures 101 (see link below). What could be more important in a global professional environment than understanding when someone is using an obscure hand gesture to tell you to “Shut up” or to insinuate that you have an unfaithful wife? I am sure this happens a whole lot in international diplomacy, for one. Especially at those long UN meetings or Debt Crisis summits and such like. People are going to get tetchy. Insults are going to fly…


What may be a Shadow Puppet to you is in fact a French person telling you to Shut Your Trap

Have you ever used one of these hand gestures? If so, leave me a message! I want to learn your language!

Posted on September 18, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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