Greetings friends and colleagues, and welcome to this year’s Departmental Newsletter. This past year the department hosted its 29th consecutive Conference on Applied Statistics in Agriculture under the capable direction of John Boyer. As John and Lora Boyer transition to spending more time on family land in Nebraska, leading the conference was becoming more challenging for John. Fortunately, Dallas Johnson stepped in and will lead next year’s conference, seeing it through its 30th year. Thank you Dallas, and thank you John for your leadership.
Some breaking news from Dickens Hall is that a major section of the basement is now, basically, gutted. This is part of a $140,000 renovation to offices used by Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs). Any of you who might have strolled through that basement wing could attest to the need for an update. Walls are being moved to reclaim unused space (this comes with asbestos abatement), new ceiling tiles, lights, flooring, paint, doors, and air conditioners are most of the components of the renovation. In addition, GTAs will be equipped with practically new modular office furniture that our office manager, Bonnie Messmer, found in campus surplus – free! The department has benefited considerably in recent years by taking advantage of other departments that are moving locations and not wishing to take along their furniture.
The renovation plan was facilitated by significant donations from alumni and friends and, for that, we are grateful. I am certain that the GTAs are as well. The remaining funds for the project will come from departmental cash reserves, stemming from courses taught for Global Campus by current and past faculty. These funds have helped the department continue to move forward in teaching and research under significant budget pressures. Budget cuts due to lower state appropriations and enrollment at K-State have resulted in cutting several GTA lines in recent years. However, no GTA positions were eliminated. The department simply absorbed their stipend and tuition using Global Campus revenues. We will also have more graduate research assistants (GRAs) this fall. Collaborative work through our consulting lab resulted in two new GRA positions funded through Kansas State Research and Extension (KSRE), and collaboration with Vet Med resulted in two statistics GRAs funded by grants in Vet Med. All four of these will be statistics PhD students working on substantial interdisciplinary projects. Other faculty members in statistics have had recent success with grants and will be hiring at least one other GRA. When all is said and done, I expect this fall to have more students on payroll than any other semester that I have been department head. One more remark about GTAs and GRAs on payroll: this past year a new college fee resulted in us being able to significantly raise their stipends to levels more competitive with our peers. Right after I made this announcement via email, I could hear much cheering throughout Dickens Hall. Finally our students benefit from the awarding of scholarships, thanks to the generosity of our donors. This spring we awarded nearly $45,000 in scholarships to deserving students.
We have been contemplating a name change to our Statistical Consulting Laboratory. There are various reasons for this. A primary one is the evolving mission of consulting labs. Though we anticipate continuing what would be called ‘statistical consulting services’ using student research assistants, there seems to be a trend where the focus of labs is shifting to partnerships and collaborations with researchers rather than as service organizations (note my above remarks about additional GRAs and PhD topics stemming from such collaborative work). It is felt by some faculty that a name change to our lab might help facilitate this refocusing to collaborative research. Understanding the data emerging from new technologies requires special effort and time on the part of faculty. It is felt that a renaming of the lab may help stress the longer term collaborative partnership between statistician and researcher that is needed to adequately address research questions. The two names being considered are Center for Interdisciplinary Statistical Research (CISR) and Statistical Center for Interdisciplinary Research (SCIR). We recognize the long history of our laboratory (opened in 1946 under the direction of Holly Fryer) and are sensitive to how individuals may feel about this change. I welcome your feedback or comments.
I’ll make a few remarks regarding personnel changes. As mentioned in last year’s newsletter, Trevor Hefley joined us as an Assistant Professor last fall, and Haiyan Wang became full professor. Welcome Trevor and congratulations Haiyan! Coming up, Juan Du will be spending a half year sabbatical at Purdue and Nora Bello will have a full year sabbatical at University of Wisconsin – Madison. Best wishes to both of them for a productive yet restorative respite from the typical academic year. K-State now has promotable professional teaching titles for non-tenure track faculty. As a result, Abigail Jager is now Teaching Associate Professor and effective this fall, Karen Keating will be Teaching Assistant Professor. Nick Bloedow left us last June 16th. Nick served as a statistical consultant in our lab. When he first accepted the appointment, he cited an intention to return to Wisconsin in a couple years to be closer to family. We appreciate Nick’s contributions and anticipate searching for his replacement later this summer or fall. As I write this newsletter, I find myself in the unique position of announcing a change associated with my position. Effective August 12, 2017 I will retire from K-State. This decision has been brewing for some time and was not sudden. My wife, Carol, and I simply plan to do some things together, particularly in the area of regenerative and restorative agriculture on an urban scale. Carol and I plan to remain in Manhattan and I’ll continue my support for the department and university. As I mentioned in my announcement to faculty, I have no desire to work for any other institution or department. I have been where I want to be, working among students, faculty and staff whom I consider some of the finest people in the world. In that sense, leading a department of such individuals is a great honor and one I will not forget. The Dean will kick off a search for a new head this fall. Meanwhile, I am relieved that Dr. Jim Neill will serve as head, returning to a position he excelled at for a five year term before I took over. Thank you Jim.
Finally, John Boyer is organizing the annual alumni dinner at the 2017 JSMs in Baltimore. See an entry later in this newsletter for details.
I offer my gratitude to all of you for your support of our program. Best wishes for 2017 and beyond.