MS in Statistics: FAQ

As some of you know, I attempted to complete my PhD in Statistics from the University of Chicago this year. Monday and Tuesday, I presented on my first 2 chapters and asked for a few months to finish the rest. This was unsuccessful, as the faculty thought I could not complete things in the remaining time. I received a MS, Master of Science, and was separated from the program.

Sadly, television footage of the event was nonexistent, as the Discovery channel did not choose to attend. Like all big events, we can imagine a sideline reporter, who peppered me with questions after the decision. This fantasy reporter will ask thoughful things, though. This will serve as a FAQ – Failure Asked Questions.

What did you think of your performance Monday afternoon?
Well, Hedy, I carried through, but it wasn’t my best day. There were two typos in the slide deck, which is very embarrassing by my standards. The audience was challenging, too, with six professors in the audience all free to ask questions.

We heard rumors that you had trouble with some of the questions because of an ear injury?
Yes, my right ear was clogged, and I couldn’t hear from that side. It’s no excuse, though, in the playoffs. After all, hockey players take out their own teeth. This was nothing.

Before this, you thought you could get through. [Flashback to interview with Rosalind]
I always knew it would be tough out here, but I had put in a lot of effort this year and thought I had a chance.

What changed?
A few things. Maybe most importantly, none of the members of my original committee were available, so nobody there was very familiar with my work.

There are very few good stories when the entire committee has been lost.
Sure. Losing everyone is no Fairytale, though I might be cursed. They set a different standard than what I had been working towards. It might not be enough to finish code, simulations, and some basic applications. Maybe I should also need to show superiority over a variety of models, or one big model. I should have asked for clarification 6 months ago, or even 3 years ago.

What about your motivation? There seems to have been dissention at times.
It’s not a secret that I haven’t always been enthusiastic about my thesis. I’m not, and have never been, a theoretical statistician. I like model building and teaching. It’s been a struggle. This year, though, I set aside other things and really attacked the problem. Most of you have seen and heard a lot less from me this year. It wasn’t enough. While I disagree with the opinion that I would need a year more, I needed full time support and effort. I just didn’t have it.

What comes next?
Well, I have a one-year contract with my current employer. Then I’ve got options. As much as I’d like to just take a community college job with an MS, those jobs are disappearing, thanks to accreditation and rankings. I can go to industry and become wealthy, or I can find a place to complete a terminal degree. For instance, Quantitative Research Methods at the Michigan school of education would fit me well, as would Minnesota’s statistics education program. The problem is that both of them are in cold, dark climates. That got me into trouble at Chicago. I’ve got time to make that decision.

And how do you feel?
Yes, I’m tired, disappointed, and hurt, but not Johnny Cash hurt. While I wish we would have ended things 3 years ago, if this was going to be the standard, I gained a lot of experience in this time. I now have ideas for a career, not just a PhD and promise. Most importantly, I am so much healthier, overall, that I’d jump again. But if I’m going to come back for another season, it’ll have to be the right fit, both in work and location.

Thanks for your time.
You’re welcome.

About Adam

My quest is a world where calling someone "virtuous like a fairy tale hero" is routine, not fantastic or ironic. My vocation is the teaching and learning of statistics. My dream is a long happy life with a wonderful wife and kids. Who knows if any will become true? More information is at my homepage on the twelvefruits network: http://adam.twelvefruits.com
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