UT needs multi-disciplinary undergraduate statistics major

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Photo Credit: Abriella Corker | Daily Texan Staff

There are around 200 schools that offer statistics as a major in the United States, but UT is not one of them. UT’s position, both geographically and academically, is perfect for future statistics majors. With companies such as Apple, Microsoft and Google opening new campuses in Austin, UT offers a perfect landscape for students who are looking for job openings in data science. 

In an age when tech is booming and Austin is heralded as the next Silicon Valley, UT needs to invest in their students’ future by creating a multidisciplinary undergraduate statistics major. 

Since its creation in 2014, UT’s Department of Statistics and Data Sciences has only offered two types of certificates through their undergraduate program. 

UT’s lack of statistics major is causing potential students to find other universities that can accommodate their desired field of education. Kai Hung, a senior from Dulles High School in Sugar Land, Texas, committed to Rice University as a statistics major after discovering that UT only offered a statistics certificate. 

“If UT and Rice education were both the same cost to me, UT having a statistics major would definitely have swayed me more towards UT,” Hung said. “I think that an undergraduate major should be created at UT because, essentially, UT right now has a unique position in terms of how the world trend is going.”

Fortunately, Christine Sinatra, director of communications for the College of Natural Sciences, said there has been recent conversation among CNS faculty about the creation of a statistics major.

“We have been doing a curriculum restructuring across all of the science majors in natural sciences for the past several years, and statistics and data sciences are of a lot of interest,” Sinatra said. “We have a brand new chair who joined us last year leading a lot of exciting change and helping recruit faculty … and one of the things that is in that portfolio of what’s happening and what’s coming is to create an undergraduate (statistics) major.”

Linda Dickens, associate vice provost for Strategic Academic Initiatives, said this portfolio is only the first step in creating a major. At this stage, faculty must build a major curriculum and degree program before it can be officially proposed to the faculty council. 

Currently, our statistics curriculum is very limited. The existing statistics certificates only focus on science and math-based curriculum. Statistics, however, is not just limited to these fields. 

In addition to math and science, students need social statistics courses in economics, psychology, political science, sociology and anthropology. An emphasis on these subjects would expand a student’s worldview of statistics and allow them to apply it to more situations in the workforce.

Creating this kind of statistics degree at UT wouldn’t be hard because, at one point, it used to exist. UT used to offer a B.S. in mathematical sciences with a specialization in statistics, probability and data science. According to the UT website, the degree aimed to prepare students for careers in government, industry and business, as well as professions in public health, public policy, educational testing and measurement, biostatistics, epidemiology and operations research. 

For students such as Hung, a statistics program would have to be multidisciplinary in order to sway his college decision. 

“Having a statistics major can’t be just all UT decides to do,” Hung said. “Statistics needs to be combined with other disciplines in order to really advance someone’s idea of how to advance after college.” 

While faculty is in the process of developing this major, they need to focus on adding outside fields into the curriculum. With the foundation to a course curriculum already set, interested students and a job market looking for young statisticians, there is no reason this major should not be created. Let’s make sure it’s one worth creating. 

Lopez is a rhetoric and writing sophomore from Nederland, Texas.