The past eventful year began with a transition to a new department head as Jim Neill’s term concluded in July 2013. Jim’s dedication and service as head are deeply appreciated and I will add my personal thanks for his valuable advice to me over the past year, despite him being on sabbatical during fall 2013. Dr. Weixing Song also took a fall sabbatical and was making his way up to Michigan State University while Dr. Wei-Wen Hsu was moving from there to Manhattan. Wei-Wen’s background was described in last year’s newsletter but it is worth noting that his is a new position, created to support the Master in Public Health (MPH) program on campus and was jointly funded by the colleges of Agriculture, Arts and Sciences, Veterinary Medicine, and the Provost’s office. We anticipate more positions of this type in the future as high impact interdisciplinary initiatives requiring statistical expertise emerge across campus. Despite being in his first year, Wei-Wen participated in the final stages of an MPH accreditation process with the Council on Education for Public Health (I just learned while writing this statement that the accreditation was approved). Also joining us last fall as an Instructor is Dr. Karen Keating (2012 PhD. K-State) who returned to us after a one year appointment as a Research Associate in the School of Public Health at University of Alabama at Birmingham. This new position resulted from a growing demand for statistics education on campus and through distance offerings. Funding for it was provided through a rearrangement of online course tuition sharing between departments and the K-State Global Campus, a funding source that gives our program ‘entrepreneurial’ flexibility in pursuing new initiatives and opportunities. We are actively recruiting a second PhD instructor and still have hopes of filling the position for a fall 2014 start date. While positive growth in our department is exciting, we regret losing talented faculty as we are with Dr. Weixin Yao who has accepted a position at University of California – Riverside. Best wishes to Weixin, Jian, and son Charlie as they make their transition to the Orange County area. More information about Karen Keating and Weixin Yao appears elsewhere in this newsletter.
A few other highlights are worth noting. One was the awarding of scholarships to talented students. This year over $21,000 were awarded and one cannot overestimate the value of these awards to the students as well as their and our gratitude to the donors. The Conference on Applied Statistics in Agriculture completed its 26th consecutive successful year under the capable leadership of Dr.’s Leigh Murray and Nora Bello. Six PhD students and fourteen MS students completed their degrees during the 2013-2014 academic year. The accomplishments of faculty were many and varied and included a best paper award, many invited talks, appointments to Associate Editor of major statistics journals, and successful grant proposals. At one point during the year I noted that faculty were engaged in nine funded projects representing over two million dollars. Technological enhancements were added to our student computing lab and our undergraduate tutoring lab, and more technological improvements to Dickens Hall classrooms and labs are planned for the coming year.
Going forward our department has participated in initial campus-wide discussions organized by the President’s office on large scale interdisciplinary initiatives, including Global Food Systems and Big Data. One cannot help but notice in these an essential role for statistical science. Moreover, two clusters housed in the College of Veterinary Medicine will be hiring new faculty researchers with one, The Institute of Computational Comparative Medicine, hoping to possibly hire a biostatistician. This individual could have an academic ‘home’ in our department and we have already begun discussions on adapting our departmental evaluation guidelines to accommodate special appointments such as this. I mention these things to highlight the blurring of boundaries between programs that occurs in moves toward genuine interdisciplinary initiatives. Given the department’s long history of consulting and collaborative work, we are perfectly situated to be an integral if not essential participant in key K-State 2025 directions.
It has been a privilege this past year to head a department of effective office staff, talented faculty, and terrific students. I am especially grateful to our alumni for their support and continued interest in the activities and development of our program. You are our ‘eyes and ears’ into the postgraduate world and your success is our success. Please keep in touch and drop by if you are coming through the Flint Hills.