SDS Newsletter


Ben Baumer


July 15, 2019

Program Updates

  • Please follow us on Twitter @SmithCollegeSDS or visit our website for more information on the program! There is also a Facebook group and a Google group. Please help us reach out to other alumnae by having them contact me!

  • Randi Garcia was chosen to win the Sherrerd Prize for Distinguished Teaching! This comes on the heels of last year’s junior faculty teaching award. Randi is on a roll!

  • Smithies cleaned up at the 6th annual ASA Five College DataFest, winning 6 of the 8 prizes, including Best in Show. It was a dominating performance, with 13 of the 30 teams coming from Smith, and a record 75 Smithies expressing interest in competing. We made a big enough splash that President McCartney invited all of the winners to her house for tea and cookies!

  • A record 20 members of the class of 2019 majored in SDS. Next year we are poised to break the record again, with at least 34 declared majors in the class of 2020 already.

  • Julianna Alvord ’19 received highest honors for her thesis “Modeling Racially Disproportionate Language on Twitter During NFL Game Play.” Julianna also won the annual SDS Research Prize for her work. Ben Baumer and Randi Garcia served as her advisers.

  • Yue Kuang ’19, Zixian Li ’19 and Jingyi Liu ’19 won Smith’s share of the Five College Statistics Prize for their outstanding senior capstone project. They worked with the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control (headed by Valerie Lincy ’97) to help limit the international spread of nuclear materials.

  • Albert Y. Kim, Miles Ott ’01, and Katie Kinnaird represented Smith at the Symoposium on Statistics and Data Science.

Assess the ethical implications to society of data-based research, analyses, and technology in an informed manner. Use resources, such as professional guidelines, institutional review boards, and published research, to inform ethical responsibilities.

  • Albert Y. Kim and Miles Ott ’01 were pied in the face on Pi Day.
  • Book contracts were signed! Albert Y. Kim is working on ModernDive, Miles Ott ’01 is working on a Bayesian statistics textbook (with Mine Dogucu ’09), and Ben Baumer is working on a second edition of Modern Data Science with R.
  • Randi Garcia brought a group of students to the 2nd Data 4 Black Lives conference.
  • Ben Baumer published the second edition of Analyzing Baseball Data with R. He was not an author of the first edition, but replaced Max Marchi for the second edition.

  • Katie Kinnaird delivered the closing remarks as WiML Board President.

  • Our student group Smithies in SDS held Data Science Day, welcoming alums working in data science. Jordan Menter ’16, Priscilla Li ’18, and Em Beauchamp ’16 (among others) were in attendance.

Previous Updates

Faculty Updates

The SDS faculty continues to grow.

  • Peter de Villiers of the Psychology department served as SDS Program Chair this past year, and will serve again next year, despite being retired. Thank you Peter for your service to SDS!
  • Our search for a joint position with GOV failed last year. Fortunately, we will be searching again this fall. If you know good candidates, please direct them our way!
  • After four bountiful years, the MassMutual Visiting Assistant Professor positions expired. MassMutual’s support brought us three years of Amelia McNamara, two years of Jordan Crouser and Lu Lu, and one year of David Rockoff, for which we are eternally grateful.
  • We hired Dhanamalee Bandara as a Visiting Assistant Professor for 2019-2020. Dhanamalee comes to us from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She has a Ph.D. in Mathematics with a Statistics concentration from Texas Tech University, and will be teaching 291 in the fall. Welcome Dhanamalee!
  • We hired David Rockoff as a Visiting Assistant Professor for another year after his MassMutual appointment ended.

Ben Baumer

I’m coming up for tenure this fall, and working on my dossier over the summer. I’m also working on a second edition of Modern Data Science with R, which we have converted to R Markdown and will publish simultaneously online and in print, thanks to bookdown. If you come to JSM this year you will have a hard time avoiding me, as I’ll be winning the Waller Education Award from the Section on Statistics Education and the Significant Contributor Award from the Section on Statistics in Sports. Both are great honors and I’m deeply grateful to those of you who supported my nomination!

R. Jordan Crouser

[Jordan is away for much of this summer and (Ben thinks) will be on sabbatical in the fall.]

Randi Garcia

I just finished my third year at Smith and it’s so exciting to see how much the SDS program has grown since I arrived! This year I got to teach 17 Smith students Structural Equation Modeling in SDS 390. I also continued to expand the client-partner relationships in SDS 290, Research Design and Analysis, teaching the course for a second time in Spring 2019. Thirty-five students in SDS 290 conducted 10 extremely cool experimental studies with the Museum of Art, the Executive Education office, and again with the Botanic Garden. This year I gave two talks about the SDS program, the first at JSM in Vancouver on the many pathways through the SDS major, and in May I spoke at NESS about integrating real-world projects into a modern design course. I also published a book chapter on data analysis strategies for relationship research in an edited volume titled New Directions in the Psychology of Close Relationships. I am proud to receive one of the 2019 the Sherrerd Prizes for distinguished teaching–ceremony upcoming in October 2019. Lastly, I am looking forward to a sabbatical in Spring 2020!

Katherine Halvorsen

I’ve spent the past academic year teaching statistics, Design of Experiments and Categorical Data Analysis, at Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont. Middlebury is a small, coeducational, liberal arts college with about 2500 students. Middlebury, Vermont, is a small New England town of about 8500 residents chartered in 1761, and located in the Champlain Valley. The area is very rural and has lots of farms for both beef and dairy cattle. It also has several historical sites including the Hubbardton Battlefield where the only battle held in Vermont during the revolutionary war occurred in July of 1777. We also toured the site of the American encampment at Fort Independence, just across the lake from Fort Ticonderoga, both of which were American fortifications during the war and were abandoned shortly before the British sailed down Lake Champlain. One of my happy accomplishments was hiking the TAM, the Trail Around Middlebury, an 18-mile trail that encircles the village of Middlebury. I’m looking forward to being back at Smith in the fall and teaching Design and Categorical again.

Albert Y. Kim

Hello everyone, I’ve just completed my first year at Smith and I’m thrilled to be calling SDS home. It’s been an eventful year, in particular attending the Women in Statistics & Data Science conference with Prof. Miles Ott and being lead organizer for Five College DataFest. I’m looking forward to year two!

Katie Kinnaird

I can’t believe I’ve completed my first year at Smith; what a whirlwind this year has been! I got to teach four (new to me) courses in two departments, from Communicating with Data to a senior seminar in Music Information Retrieval (MIR). The students in MIR having a paper accepted through peer-review to the anniversary track at this year’s International Society of Music Information Retrieval (ISMIR) Conference in the Netherlands. I am so thrilled by their paper and cannot wait to see them present in November. This year also took me overseas and around the country, attending ISMIR in Paris, the Women In Machine Learning (WiML) Workshop in Montreal, SDSS Conference in Seattle, and giving talks at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and at the College of the Holy Cross. While this year was the beginning of my time at Smith, it also was my last year as President of the WiML Executive Board. Even though my term is over, my commitment to build more inclusive machine learning and MIR communities will continue. I’m so lucky to be part of SDS and am grateful for my amazing colleagues and students!

Miles Ott

So many wonderful things happened this year! I had fun teaching a class on my research area: Statistical Analysis of Social Network Data, as well as Probability, Mathematical Statistics, and Intro Stats 201. I am continuing to work on Respondent Driven Sampling, LGBT Health, and methods for Social Network Interventions in my research. I am getting a bit more involved in efforts to make Stats and Data Science more inclusive for LGBTQ+ folks. I attended both WSDS and SDSS conferences for the first time, and I thought that they both were excellent, welcoming, and fun. I highly recommend them both! Best of all, I started working with wonderful new colleagues Albert Y. Kim, Katie Kinnaird, Dave Rockoff, and Jenny Smetzer.

David Rockoff

I just finished my first year as a Visiting Assistant Professor at Smith, having taught Intro Stats and Communicating With Data. This summer I will give a short course on Survival Analysis for MassMutual. I am very excited to be sticking around for another year, during which I will develop a special topics course in educational measurement.

Jenny Smetzer

I just completed my first year as Laboratory Instructor in SDS and Psychology. I love teaching the intro stats labs, and very much look forward to teaching next year! This year I published peer-reviewed research articles in the “The Auk” – a top ornithology journal – and in “Ecological Modeling”, and presented research at the Acadia National Park Science Symposium. This year I also continued an ongoing research collaboration with the Northeast Climate Adaptation Science Center modeling climate change refugia for species of regional conservation concern. This summer I am traveling to Maine for an intensive science communication training at the Schoodic Institute, and to lead two stakeholder workshops to help conservation managers incorporate climate change refugia data products into management plans. After the whirlwind trip to Maine, I am looking forward to the birth of a new baby boy in early September!

Alumnae Updates

  • Mine Dogucu ’09: I spent the academic year at Denison University as Visiting Assistant Professor of Data Analytics. In July, I will be joining the Department of Statistics at University of California Irvine as Assistant Professor of Teaching. I had many opportunities reconnecting with Smithies. In September, I took my students to Amherst College for StatFest where Portia Exum (Parker) ’10 was a panelist. Emily Dodwell ’11 was also in the Valley to give a talk for the SDS department. In October, I attended Women in Statistics and Data Science Conference in Cincinnati where I met Dr. Miles Ott ’01 (side note: he now is a prof. at Smith, see above for his update in case you missed it). Dr. Alicia Johnson of Macalester College, Dr. Ott, and I now collaborate on a Bayesian Statistics textbook for undergraduate students that is going to be published by CRC. I organized Denison’s first DataFest. In May, I attended my tenth year reunion at Smith. I connected with friends and faculty and met graduating seniors at the SDS reception. I also ran into Dr. Elizabeth Stuart ’97 during Friday Tea in the Cloud. I enjoy (online and offline) connections with Smithies who are in Statistical and Data Sciences and am looking forward to making new ones in the future.

  • Wencong (Priscilla) Li ’18: I went back to watch the 2019 commencement and was happy to see that the SDS department is growing!

  • Jordan Menter ’16: In May I finished the last year of the Data Science Development Program at MassMututal, concluding three years of full-time work as a junior data scientist and part-time graduate study in computer science at UMass Amherst. I’m still waiting for my diploma to come in the mail, but in the meantime I’ve accepted a data scientist role at MM. We recently welcomed the sixth cohort of the DSDP - they’re wicked smart, and it’s so exciting to see so much energy and engagement from them.

    This fall I hope to submit a paper on algorithmic fairness and causality that I worked on as part of my MS degree, supervised by Professor David Jensen at UMass Amherst. I was also lucky enough to take an ethics and computing course last fall, and will be part of a group-level collaboration among myself, Professor Michelle Trim (also at UMass Amherst), and some of my classmates (all of whom were or are also in the DSDP!) to produce a data science and ethics publication of some sorts (a brief textbook, or a reader for a course, or a co-authored paper…). I feel very lucky to have experiences in the research side of things, in addition to the work I do in industry.

    Finally, I’ve greatly enjoyed mentoring current Smith senior and SDS major Starry Zhou ’20. It’s wonderful to have connections back to the department, and I’m excited to see what the future holds for SDS!

  • Sara Stoudt ’15: I made it through another year in the PhD with (hopefully) only one more to go. This year I became a Berkeley Institute for Data Science Fellow and got to help organize a “Fostering diverse and inclusive data science at Berkeley” series for underrepresented undergraduate students. Professor Deb Nolan and I are are finishing up our book on how to write about data and are hoping to have it out in the spring. I’m spending the summer at the Los Angeles Times Data Desk, living the glamorous data journalist life. :D

  • Dana Udwin ’14: I passed the qualifying exam! The plan for the summer is to resume research with Professor Crawford and stress a little less.

What’s next?

Joint Statistical Meetings

Many of us will be at the Joint Statistical Meetings in Denver at the end of the month. We are planning to meet up for drinks/eats at:

  • Stout Street Social
    1400 Stout St
    Denver, CO 80202
    Monday, July 29th, 6 pm

Mark your calendar!


Albert Y. Kim and a group of students have plans to attend StatFest 2019 at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston TX on September 21.

StatFest an annual one-day conference for undergraduates that is meant to encourage historically under-represented students (e.g., African-American, Latino, Native American, Pacific Islander) with quantitative interests to pursue careers or graduate study in the statistical sciences.

Women in Statistics and Data Science Conference

Randi Garcia and four students will be attending the ASA Women in Statistics and Data Science Conference in Bellevue, WA from October 18–20th. Two groups of students will be presenting their work:

Hope to see you there!