With wild gesticulations and often jogging in place while extolling
the virtues of data analysis or probability, it’s easy to see why Mark
Daniel Ward, associate professor and undergraduate chair of the
Department of Statistics, is a popular and busy faculty member.
He exudes enthusiasm that his students absorb, even during
7: 30 a.m. classes.
Ward is a pioneer of living-learning communities within the
College of Science. He received a $1.5 million, five-year grant from
the National Science Foundation to form a learning community for
sophomores studying statistics. Students are roommates,
classmates and colleagues. Classes are full of group interaction
and one-on-one discussions with Ward.
While his research focuses on probability theory and
asymptotic analysis, working with an eclectic mix of undergraduates
has become a passion for Ward.
;7: 30 a.m. – Wednesdays are heavy teaching days for Ward.
His earliest class is his largest, and up to 90 students cram into
a small Stanley Coulter Hall room for an introduction to data
;8: 30 a.m. – Ward checks in on his learning community in a
Stanley Coulter Hall computer lab. It’s Week 2, and they’re
working together comfortably.
;9: 30 a.m. – The learning community marches over to University
Hall to join 20 other students for probability class. Group work
is key to this class as well, and fittingly, the 10 small groups
are chosen at random.
;10: 30 a.m. – Ward sits in on a promotions meeting for his
department. The meeting helps decide who gets bumped up on
the tenure track.
;11: 30 a.m. – Ward gathers with fellow professors, friends and
students for lunch every day. Ward says he used to eat in his
office, but dining with his colleagues brings bonding, research
news and ideas.
;1 p.m. – Ward connects by Skype with Milan Merkle, the
editor-in-chief of “Applicable Analysis and Discrete Mathematics”
journal published by the University of Belgrade in Serbia. Ward
has been the managing editor since 2013 for this selective
semiannual publication, which publishes only about 10 papers
;2: 15 p.m. – Fulya Gokalp Yavuz, a postdoc in applied statistics,
swings by Ward’s office for an informal meeting. The two look
at some data she is using for a research project and discuss
methods for analyzing the data.
;3:05 p.m. – After a long day of research discussions, teaching
and meetings, Ward sits down to write the annual report for his
learning community. The report is sent to the National Science
Foundation, and it is full of positive updates.
“The students give me feedback,” Ward says. “I report all of the
different aspects of the grant to the program directors at NSF.
They in turn talk to the division directors, and sometimes
Congress looks at what the NSF is doing. It really puts what we
are doing in a broader perspective.”