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Spotlight on Alison Ritz

Alison Ritz, Statistics junior, 2018-2019
Alison Ritz of Spotsylvania, Virginia, a junior statistics major and member of the Marching Virginian's Color Guard at Virginia Tech

If you don’t mind, start by telling us a little about yourself.

My name is Alison and I am from Spotsylvania, Virginia. I never thought I would want to come to a big school but when I came to Tech on Undecided Students Day, it also happened to be the day of the Big Event for that year. With snow and rain coming down, I saw hundreds of students on the Drillfield, ready to serve their community in the storm. I knew I had to be a part of that and couldn’t imagine myself anywhere else.

As a rising Junior, I will be partaking in my third season of marching in the Color Guard with The Marching Virginians. I am also continuing to be the Treasurer for Tau Beta Sigma, National Honorary Band Service Sorority, as well as becoming the Treasurer for the Statistics Club this year. In the spring semester, I will continue to be a captain for ValianT Indoor Guard, a stem of The Marching Virginians. 

Do you have a major other than statistics?

I do not have any other majors though I was a double in statistics and mathematics at one time. I now have a mathematics minor and plan to continue for my master’s degree at Virginia Tech. 

What was it that brought to you to the statistics department?

I began my time at Tech as a mathematics major, but as my classes continued I lost my desire to stay with math, so I decided to try some statistics classes. At this time statistics was my minor, and I completely fell in love with the material, the department, and all of my professors. The statistics department seems very small, and it really has a homey feeling.  I am so glad I was able to make it my major. 

What has surprised you about the statistics program?

I was really surprised at how small the department was compared to the size of Virginia Tech, but the professors here really care about their students and they work hard to both connect with us and get to know us. It makes the department less of just part of a college and more of a family. 

"Being a statistics major means a career in just about any field that interests you. No matter where you want to go, statistics will be there with a number, a theory, and a solution to every problem." 

Could you describe an experience you had in the program that stands out?

It has been remarkable how much my previous and current advisor are willing to help me plan my future and reach my full potential. When Dr. Robertson Evia was my advisor she helped me plan out not one but three possible tracks for my future to accommodate my changing minors and schedule with band. She was so helpful and always had such a welcoming and warm smile on her face.

Now that I work with Brandy Hayden I have someone I know I can talk to about troubles in my classes and schedule, and she will always have a solution for me. She is compassionate and understanding but also challenges and guides me to reach my goal of graduate school. Both experiences with my advisors will always stand out to me as I pursue my education at Virginia Tech. 

Is there an experience you have had in Statistics that has shaped the way you approach problem-solving?

My many lectures with Professor Tavera stand out to me as great experiences. She would always talk to our class about the real-life applications of our material. With more of these talks I began to realize that the challenges we face can be met and overcome in so many ways. There is never one correct method for solving a problem. Statistics offers many different tools in the form of formulas, ideas, and concepts that you can use.

Overall, studying statistics has taught me that if I can’t solve a problem one way, there is another way for me to approach it. 

Have you had the chance to intern anywhere?

I have unfortunately not held an internship position yet, but I hope to have one next summer.

Has studying mathematics and statistics at the same time deepened your understanding of the disciplines?

Yes, statistics has really helped my understanding of mathematics just as mathematics has helped with statistics. While both fields have a lot in common, they’re also really different. Each has helped me develop my problem-solving and critical-thinking skills as well as an overall understanding of my studies. I must use both styles of learning in the future if I am to succeed in any field I wish to pursue. 

What career path do you hope to follow?

I plan to work in data and operational analysis in the fields of environmental and natural data. I want to make a difference in the world. My goal is to look at the data, analyze it, come to real conclusions, and find solutions for the planet. There is so much data out there that it is hard to tell what is real, so I hope to work to collect the real data (data the comes from many repeated trials with no significant differences that provides the truth about the problem) for the public. 

Barring any and all obstacles, what impact do you ultimately hope to have on the world?

With all obstacles aside, I hope to publish the real numbers and findings so the world can see what needs to be done and so that we can find solutions to the many environmental problems we are currently facing. 

What has been the highlight of your Hokie career so far?

The highlight of my Hokie career has most definitely been marching with The Marching Virginians. I love the excitement of the football games, the rush of performing at halftime, the dedication that we put into every rehearsal. Performing with this band has been and will continue to be the highlight of my time at Virginia Tech. 

Alison Ritz
Alison Ritz performing with the Color Guard at a Hokie football game.

Lastly, what advice would you have for students considering a degree in statistics?

My advice is to go for it. A major in statistics isn’t just a statistics degree, it is the opportunity to run data on the crowds of people coming to the Natural History Museum; it is the analyzation of the number of books a writer sells each week; it is the number behind each company’s future business goals. Being a statistics major means a career in just about any field that interests you. No matter where you want to go, statistics will be there with a number, a theory, and a solution to every problem.