The statistics division will become its own department in August, allowing the University to recruit tenure-track professors and more doctoral students.
Currently, statistics professors’ appointments are split between the statistics division and another UT department. Once statistics is its own department, professors can have a complete appointment in statistics, allowing them to devote more time to the field.
The University established the division in 2007 as part of the College of Natural Sciences, responding to a need for more statistics courses and research. Both the field of statistics and the division have developed and expanded to the point at which administrators and faculty thought it was necessary to convert the division into a department.
“With the breadth of its course and programmatic offerings, and its rising stature as a world-class research unit, [the division] has now matured to the point that it should transition into a full-fledged department,” department administrative manager Vicki Keller said. “Creating a department of statistics and data sciences is the natural next step.”
The change will allow the University to be ranked in national comparisons of statistics departments and recruit tenure-track faculty, according to Keller.
Statistics and math professor Peter Mueller said one of the most significant changes is in the students and professors the department will be able to bring in.
“Our abilities have changed in important practical ways,” Mueller said. “As a division, we could not serve as tenure home to faculty. That was a handicap for recruiting the best tenure-track candidates. We now can and already did this year.”
Mueller said a dedicated department would also be more attractive to doctoral students, who often look for academic environments and programs where they will research as part of an academic community.
Statistics graduate student Daniel Mitchell said apart from moving offices, the change from a division to a department has not affected him because of the work the staff did to make the transition into a department as seamless as possible. Mitchell said he prefers the change.
“Based on the assumption that a department has more resources available for students than a division, if considering a Ph.D. program, I would favor a university with a department,” Mitchell said.