It’s significant: Muhlenberg adds a new statistics major

Muhlenberg previously only offered a minor

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The Mathematics Department, located in Trumbower Hall, is adding Statistics as a major. Photo Editor Kira Bretsky '27.

On Jan. 31, 2024, Muhlenberg announced that they were offering a new statistics major starting in the fall 2024 semester. The new major will be a collaboration between the Math and the Computer Science departments and is aimed at helping to prepare students for the fast-growing field of statistics. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job market for statisticians is supposed to grow by 30 percent in the next decade, or 10,600 jobs, which is much higher than the average for all other professions. 

Department Chair Byungchul Cha, Ph.D., said, “The demands for statisticians in the workforce have never been as strong as they are now.”

Muhlenberg previously only offered a minor in statistics. However, beginning in the fall of 2022, the College started the process of expanding it to a major. The major was officially approved in November and will be added to the catalog by the end of the year. 

Associate Professor of Statistics Allison Davidson spearheaded the expansion. “The statistics major will not only prepare students with the statistical content knowledge,” Davidson said, “but also the mathematical and computational foundations heavily used in the field.” 

According to Associate Professor of Mathematics Michael Karcher, Ph.D., the process for doing so did not involve creating many new classes. There had already been several different statistics courses offered because of the preexisting minor, and the major expanded it to include foundational math classes, as well as a cognate course in computer science. 

They also converted one class, Data Visualization, from a special topics course to a permanent course.  There will be a total of 12 classes in the major, and both computer science and mathematics professors will be involved in teaching them. Only one course remains to be established, and that is the CUE. For now, students who wish to major in statistics will need to complete an independent study to satisfy the CUE. 

The Mathematics Department will now have three majors: statistics, mathematics and computer science. 

Karcher believes that the new statistics major will be beneficial both to the College and its students, saying, “Stats as a field is growing in popularity both in the workforce and as a field of research. Having the major will allow students to more clearly communicate their field of study to potential employers or post-grad pursuits.” 

 “Statistics is an enabling discipline, having the benefit of being applied to a wide variety of different fields,” Davidson said. “Students that major in statistics have a number of avenues to pursue beyond graduation.”

Many students are thrilled about the new major. “I think it will be a great addition to the math department,” Amanda Rosten ‘25 said. “The statistics professors are all excellent teachers and people who will make the major enjoyable and productive for students.”

Computer Science Major Jay Walker ‘25 said, “It is really great that Muhlenberg is adding this major, as so many fields that require a background in stats are growing at good rates.”

While many students are happy to have the stats major going forward, some upperclassmen wish it would have been around sooner. Paige Henderson ‘24 said, “I’m really excited to hear about the new stats major but I definitely wish it was around earlier… Being involved in the stats minor has been really great and if I knew this was an option earlier I would have considered it.”

Walker agreed, saying, “I personally feel like if they added [the major] sooner, maybe I would’ve tried to do the major instead of just a stats minor.”

That being said, the professors are excited for this new curriculum. “I’m so excited for this opportunity,” Cha said. “Our stat majors will have easy access to math and [computer science], which will provide them with a mathematically rigorous foundation.” Cha also added that if any students have questions, they can reach out to him. 

When asked what he would say to students considering the new major, Karcher’s message was simple: “Major in stats, it’s fun!”

Additional reporting by Matthew Klinger ‘24

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