Richard & Robert Sherman once penned these lyrics which would later be iconically sung by Mary Poppins:
“In every job that must be done
There is an element of fun
You find the fun and snap!
The job’s a game
And every task you undertake
Becomes a piece of cake
A lark! A spree! It’s very clear to see that
A Spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
The medicine go down-wown
The medicine go down
Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
In a most delightful way”
Last summer, as I was scheduling classes for my MS-GHPM Fall degree courses, I dreaded the thought of having to take the required Applied Regression Analysis course. I so enjoy discussing theory, writing papers, and talking out big ideas; tell me to open a program and run some statistics and you will find me in a full-on cold sweat.
Fast forward to the first week of classes as I stumble into class already in a mindset of ‘just get through this’. I’m greeted by a jolly man (pun intended as he has a slight resemblance to Santa Claus) who shares that he will do his best to make this course more enjoyable. I am still a bit hesitant and am thinking, ‘sure, I’ve heard that before. Good luck holding my interest in statistics!’. This medicine did not seem like it would go down easily – think coughing, bad taste, acid reflux and all.
Right off the bat, he had a warm and non-threatening presence. He made jokes, told stories, and was clearly extremely well versed in statistics. Somehow, over the course of just a few weeks, I was feeling extremely confident in my regression analysis abilities. The pace of the class was manageable, the assignments were not overwhelming, and I grew to look forward to the course. I went from having almost no data analysis skills to confidentially crafting a final paper analyzing univariate, bivariate, and multivariate models, improving the models, and creating a logit model predicting probabilities using real data processed through Stata. I was so proud of myself when I submitted that final paper!
As I now reflect on that entire experience over the semester, that Mary Poppins song came to mind: Professor Steve Fournier was the spoon full of sugar that helped the medicine go down! I knew I needed to brush up on my data analysis skills, but I avoided it at all costs because I thought it would be too challenging. He not only made it understandable and clear, but made me genuinely enjoy the learning process.
So, if you are afraid of challenging yourself in a new skill, or even applying for a program like MS GHPM with a focus on data please know professors here at Brandeis want to see you succeed – not fail. I am a testament to that fact as I took Regression and not only survived, but thrived!
If you’re reading this: thank you, Professor Fournier! You were excellent!