Entrance Torch

More Than a Number

Cassandra McMorrow ’22 didn’t declare her major right away but knew at Valparaiso University, she would be prepared to succeed no matter what (or when) she chose.

“I’ve always liked math, since elementary school. I took AP Statistics in high school and loved it, but I was not convinced it was what I wanted to study,” Cassandra, a statistics major with minors in mathematics and actuarial science, says. “At Valpo, I took any math class I could in various disciplines, from meteorology to calculus, and I found myself comparing everything to statistics; I like this, but not as much as I like my statistics class.”

Part of her major includes attending the statistics colloquium, a weekly symposium where students and faculty discuss and analyze articles about statistics. While analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of statistical interpretations, students like Cassandra can better understand how statistics is integrated into many different fields.

These colloquia can also demonstrate career paths. In the math colloquium, which Cassandra attends as well, students and faculty from other schools or local companies sometimes come and present topics to the group, indicating different applications of the skills students learn in the classroom to a variety of interest areas.

She may enjoy looking at the world through numbers and analysis, but the liberal arts have a special importance to Cassandra as well. As a member of Christ College — The Honors College, she participates in discussion-based seminars with faculty and students from a variety of subject areas.

“I love the ability to be a part of Christ College and be a statistics and math student,” Cassandra says. “One semester I took almost all math classes, and it helped me realize the importance of Valpo’s well-rounded education. Math isn’t necessarily what I want to do all day every day.”

Cassandra knew Valpo was the university for her during her tour of campus. She was able to meet one-on-one with the head of the math department to discuss her interests and passions. “It made me so happy that professors are just as excited to hear about what students are interested in as students are about their professors’ research.”

“Professor Tiffany Kolba is one of my favorite professors. I love taking her classes; all her example problems and exams use real-world data sets. She isn’t making up numbers that are pretty and easy to learn, but using real research that demonstrates other areas these skills can be applied in a career after college,” Cassandra says. “I could sing praises about her forever and ever! She has been an amazing resource, sending me internships she thinks I should apply for and supporting me in every way.”

Relationships between faculty and students are an important part of the Valpo experience. Tiffany Kolba, Ph.D., associate professor of mathematics and statistics, has taught Cassandra in a variety of classes, and serves as her academic advisor. When Cassandra was deciding to declare her statistics major, Professor Kolba was alongside her every step of the way.

“The statistics major has enabled Cassandra to deepen her quantitative skills and apply them to analyze and interpret data from a wide-range of disciplines,” Professor Kolba says. “Cassandra has truly excelled in the major and her strong statistical background has prepared her to succeed no matter where her career takes her.”

While statistics is her academic passion, Cassandra has been able to explore a variety of extracurriculars which she enjoys during her time at Valpo. Cassandra is a member of Kappa Delta sorority, on an intramural volleyball team, and a volunteer with College Mentors for Kids. “It is fun and exciting that Valpo provides these opportunities without it needing to be my career path. I can indulge myself in things I enjoy, like being a part of a team and working with children. These make me a well-rounded person and a better person and contribute to my college experience besides just working toward career goals.”

Through her classes, faculty relationships, and extracurriculars, Cassandra has discovered opportunities at Valpo to pursue everything that drives her passion. Whatever paths she takes in her career, Cassandra is prepared to thrive.