Recent Grad Uses Degree to Teach the Next Generation; Credits JCERT Scholarship for Helping him Graduate
Spring 2016 was one to remember for Andrew Walter, a recent graduate of the master’s in applied statistics and analytics program at the KU Edwards Campus (KUEC). In January, he began his graduate school journey and come spring break, he and his wife found out they were expecting a new addition to the family.
Finishing in May 2018, Walter was one of the first graduates of KU’s applied statistics program, a partnership between the KU Medical Center and the Edwards Campus, supported by the Johnson County Education Research Triangle (JCERT).
“JCERT was a lifesaver,” Walter said. “The support from my JCERT Scholarship was crucial as we embarked on two big life changes.”
He said one memory is etched in his mind forever. “When I look back on the program, one of my favorite memories is holding my newborn son in one arm and typing my take-home final in the other,” Walter said. “He made doing well in my classes even more important.”
Many young minds look to Walter as he teaches Advanced Placement (AP) math and statistics courses at Shawnee Mission East High School in Prairie Village, Kan. An adjunct Johnson County Community College (JCCC) professor, Walter also teaches international baccalaureate and College Now statistics courses, which earn high school students credit at JCCC. He began pursuing the JCERT-supported applied statistics and analytics program to hone his skills, but he gained so much more.
“I became a better teacher and was able to empathize with my students as I completed my coursework,” he said. “As I took my classes, they slowly changed how I teach a number of concepts. For instance, I use the simulation methods we learned in class almost every week, and I changed how I teach linear regression. The program gave me great ways to give my gifted students the challenges they need.”
Walter said, through the program, he also gained a broader view of the possibilities for his career. “I love teaching and am excited for what the future holds for me,” he said. “There are so many avenues to explore because of the applicability of stats.”
Nearly every professional field – from health care to business, public policy, public relations and everything in between – has a need for statisticians and data analysts. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in statistics-related fields, including data analytics, are projected to grow 33 percent by 2026 compared to an overall projected occupational growth of 7.4 percent.
These are familiar points to Walter, a Kansas City area native and now two-time KU alumnus. He takes his students to annual American Statistical Association meetings where he met Shana Palla, assistant director of graduate education in the KU Department of Biostatistics, and her team. This was his official foray into the KUEC program and the beginning of what he calls a supportive academic community.
“I felt supported throughout the entire program,” Walter said. “I often went to office hours at the Edwards Campus, and was there nearly every week meeting with professors. I feel like I could call friends I met in class or a number of professors for career advice at any time.”
Not only does Walter help prepare young minds for the workforce, he is also ready to take on more contracting work and even looks to helping write online courses someday. Palla said it is this drive and dedication to students that make him stick out.
“Andy was a student who really wanted to know how a statistical method worked,” Palla said. “Some students only learn the material required to complete an assignment, but Andy really wanted to understand the assumptions, what to do if the data doesn’t satisfy the assumptions, and how to interpret the results at the next level. As a result of really diving into the material, he’s now prepared to answer those really tough questions from his AP Statistics students, as well as any clients who come his way.”
Want to learn more about data science careers? Read “How to Become a Data Scientist.”