New center helps students use quantitative analysis and statistics in research

The Center for Quantitative Understanding, Analysis and Design (QUAD) is now available to both undergraduate students and faculty as a support resource in the areas of quantitative reasoning and statistical analysis.

The center is akin to Willamette's Writing Center in terms of format, and focuses on quantitative presence across fields, from integrating equations in calculus to interpreting graphs in a politics essay to presenting statistics in a psychology thesis.

The center is supported in part by a $200,000 grant from the Teagle Foundation to Willamette and Lewis & Clark College. The grant is intended to help both schools increase the level of student engagement with and understanding of quantitative reasoning. Lewis & Clark will use its share of the grant to develop an introductory quantitative reasoning course, and both schools will share information and results from their approaches during the next two years.

The staff of Willamette's QUAD Center say that quantitative information exists in all aspects of our daily lives, yet it is frequently neglected by those who are not working in fields that focus on quantitative manipulation. Writing persuasive papers, debating public policy, buying a vehicle and playing fantasy football all use critical quantitative skills.

Even those who are innately number-savvy, such as mathematics and physics majors, may not always find interpreting statistical data on a graph to be intuitive — and they can benefit from the QUAD Center as well.

"Just as it is important to learn to read words and paragraphs critically, it is also important to learn to read the meanings of numbers," says Megan Horning '11, one of the center's three student assistants. "At the QUAD Center, we hope to show Willamette students just how effective and important statistical information is in all fields of study and in the everyday aspects of our lives."

Horning, a sociology and American ethnic studies major, says her work in statistics has given her new perspectives on the world — instead of simply seeing percentages in a newspaper article or lines on a graph, she now sees statistics as actual people and events.

Psychology Professor Jim Friedrich, a social psychologist who researches decision-making and statistics, is director of the center and will be available for consulting. He stresses the potential for students from majors across the College of Liberal Arts to use the program.

"The QUAD Center will support student learning in all disciplines, whether students are making sense of information in a New York Times article, evaluating the latest election polls, sorting through the results section of a scholarly article or performing statistical analysis on newly collected data," he says.

He also notes that the center is an excellent resource for faculty, and he encourages professors to coordinate with the center during assignments in order for the center to aid students in quantitative areas.

The QUAD Center is located in Smullin 224, and representatives are available by appointment or drop-in. For hours and more information, visit the QUAD Center website.