St. Lawrence University students will have a new major to select from this fall semester.
The New York State Education Department this week approved a new bachelor of science degree in statistics at St. Lawrence, giving students the opportunity to major in a discipline that has only recently become distinguished as a distinct field.
“There is difference between mathematics and statistics,” said Michael Schuckers, associate professor of statistics and author of the statistics major proposal. “Mathematics uses deductive reasoning to go from the general down to the specific, while statistics uses inductive reasoning that looks at a subset of data and applies it to a larger population.”
While playing an important role in the liberal arts, statistics has also become an increasingly important discipline in the information-era and can be applied to a variety of fields. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of statisticians is expected to grow 27 percent from 2012 to 2022, which is much faster than the average for all occupations.
Last year, more than 185,000 high school students took the College Board’s Advanced Placement exam in statistics, which is double the number from just five years ago. However, it remains extremely rare for a liberal arts college to offer a bachelor’s degree in statistics.
“We’ve had a strong minor in statistics for several years, and we do have alumni who have careers in statistics,” Schuckers said. “We believe adding statistics as a major will be attractive to students. We already have about 40 students minoring in stats, and we think several will decide to make it their major. Plus, we were able to offer the major without having to add any additional teaching or support resources.”
Schuckers, who has gained national and Canadian recognition for the use of statistics in sports, used the example of a Gallup Poll during a presidential election cycle. Gallup may take a sample of 1,000 people. They will then take the responses of those 1,000 people and make inferences that are then applied to the entire American voting population.
“Statistics,” he said, “is the study of how do we go out and collect data, how we summarize that data, and how we make decisions, or how we make inferences, based on the data while recognizing uncertainties.”
There are a number of core course requirements in statistics and mathematics, including two electives that students will need to fulfill in order to meet the degree’s graduation requirements. Students can also declare a statistics and mathematics double major as long as they meet the minimum requirements for both majors.