Have you ever come across a situation where data was used to make two opposing arguments? For example, you hear about one study that concludes you should do something (e.g., use margarine instead of butter) and another study concludes the opposite (e.g., use butter instead of margarine). Some people simply dismiss these studies, arguing that we shouldn'€™t make decisions based on data because the conclusions will always be too fuzzy. Others look at the data and conclude that one study is right, the other is wrong, and so what we should or shouldn'€™t do is black and white.
If you are interested in thinking more about how we should be responsibly using data as a tool to understand the world we live in, then studying statistics or actuarial science might be for you.
What is statistics? What is actuarial science?
Statistics and actuarial science both draw conclusions about the world we live in based on our observation of that world (via data). The discipline of statistics provides a systematic framework, related to the scientific method and grounded in the mathematics of calculus and probability, to draw valid conclusions which can be appropriately tempered by a quantifiable confidence in their accuracy. Actuarial Science applies statistical, probabilistic and algebraic reasoning to quantify financial risk. Statistical reasoning is more general and can be applied to almost any field. Statistics is an essential tool in modern society, impacting all of our lives on a regular basis, thus there is an increasing need for individuals who choose to study it deeply and practice it as a profession.
What we teach
In addition to the technical concepts, we emphasize that statistical and actuarial thinking require an abstraction of reality (many call this a '€˜model'€™ of reality). A famous statistical quote says that '€œall models are wrong but some are useful'€ (Box, 1979). This means that our ability to capture the realities of the world we live in with a statistical model will always be incorrect'€”they will always be unable to capture all of the intricate details of the world'€”however, sometimes these models are useful. We teach that statistics and actuarial thinking is increasingly useful in a world with ubiquitous data, but that this thinking is easily misused (e.g., being over confident or over critical). In short, we must understand what statistical and actuarial reasoning can and can'€™t tell us, and how to evaluate conclusions based on data in the context of a much broader view of the world we live in.
How we teach
Our approach to teaching focuses on conceptual understanding (not memorization), getting your hands dirty with meaningful data, a priority on thinking about important research questions and bridging the classroom to the real world. In short, the focus is on doing statistics and actuarial science. Our role as faculty is to come alongside you, giving you room to be creative problem solvers and co-discovers of the wonders of the world we live in.
Why choose us?
If you are excited to develop your understanding of the role of data in our world today and do so alongside a passionate and like-minded group of students and faculty, then you may want to consider studying financial risk management through a degree in Actuarial Science, or adding a Statistics minor to any other major we offer here at Dordt. Our program stands alone in its ability to provide you with a cutting-edge technical education, a wealth of research opportunities, strong connections to business, industry and graduate schools for internships, employment and additional schooling, all grounded in an integral Christian view of the world that permeates all aspects of our life today.
Box, G. E. P. (1979), "Robustness in the strategy of scientific model building", in Launer, R. L.; Wilkinson, G. N., Robustness in Statistics, Academic Press, pp. 201'€“236.