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Statistician receives national award for building diversity, exceptional mentoring

Korvis Professor of Statistics Javier Rojo is the recipient of the 2018 Dr. Etta Z. Falconer Award for Mentoring and Commitment to Diversity. Dr. Rojo will receive his award at the Infinite Possibilities Conference (IPC) on April 14 at Howard University in Washington, D.C. The award recognizes individuals who have demonstrated a professional commitment to mentoring and increasing diversity in the mathematical sciences.

Rojo joined OSU’s Department of Statistics as the inaugural Korvis Professor of Statistics in January 2017. The professorship is supported by statistics alumnus Rich Carone, CEO of Korvis Automation, a leading technology and manufacturing company based in Corvallis with offices in Singapore and Shanghai. The position supports OSU science faculty in physics or quantitative sciences to help advance research in the field of statistics and in the world of science more generally.

Rojo leads and directs the nationally recognized Research for Undergraduates Summer Institute of Statistics (RUSIS), which was selected by the American Mathematical Society for

Korvis Professor of Statistics Javier Rojo

its award “Mathematics Programs That Make a Difference.” RUSIS was honored as a model program for encouraging undergraduates to pursue graduate studies in the mathematical sciences and for increasing the numbers of underrepresented minorities and women in mathematics and statistics.

Funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Security Agency for the last 15 years, RUSIS is the country’s first Research Experiences for Undergraduate (REU) Program in the field of statistics. It has a highly successful track record in recruiting, training and guiding underrepresented minority and economically disadvantaged students towards advanced degrees in mathematics and statistics.

The Institute conducts a 10-week intensive summer program for the study of statistics and its applications for a cohort of 12-15 students every year. Under Rojo’s leadership, the program has taken phenomenal strides: After 10 years, the REU program reported that 85% of the undergraduates who attended the Summer Institute were admitted to Ph.D. programs around the country, with roughly 61% of students hailing from underrepresented populations and 53% of the participants have been female.

Rojo has been commended by both students and colleagues for his exceptional dedication to mentoring and teaching in the field of statistics leading to highly positive outcomes.

“As a first-generation college graduate and female in the field of statistics, the RUSIS program has greatly influenced the type of person that I am. Dr. Rojo taught me how to collaborate, be adaptable, well-rounded, and gave me confidence in my research and work. I feel that the RUSIS program laid the foundation for me to be a strong competitor upon entering graduate school. Today, I attribute my success in both undergraduate and graduate school, as well as my career to Dr. Rojo’s RUSIS program,” writes a RUSIS alumna.

In an appreciative tribute, a colleague writes:

“One of the amazing things about RUSIS is that Javier is willing to take risks; he is willing to accept students who don’t have a great GPA or who do not have a substantial background in mathematics. Yet his data are enviable and show that, in spite of this, his RUSIS graduates are pursuing postgraduate studies. I have heard over and over again from the students that I send to RUSIS that it was an amazing experience.”

Falconer was an educator and mathematician and one of the first African-American women to receive a Ph.D. in mathematics. A professor of mathematics at Spelman College and Norfolk State University, Falconer once said, “My entire career has been devoted to increasing the number of African-American women in mathematics and mathematics-related careers.” Over the course of Falconer’s tenure at Spelman College, the number of women majoring in science, mathematics, and engineering tripled to nearly 40 percent of the student body.

The IPC is a national conference that is designed to promote, educate, encourage and support women of color interested in mathematics and statistics. IPC 2018 is organized by the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley, California, with funding from the Mathematical Sciences Institutes Diversity Initiative, a NSF program.

Read more about Javier Rojo and RUSIS

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