We Are UNCW Telling our story, one Seahawk at a time.

Yishi Wang

August 28, 2017

UNCW statistics professor Yishi Wang never tires of hearing from former students who are using what they learned from him in their careers. Stats gave him a new perspective on mathematics, which he uses to his advantage when he teaches, including helping students envision career opportunities the field offers.

Wang teaches by “flipping the classroom.” Rather than beginning with methodology and other foundations, he introduces his students to a data-related problem right away.

“I start with real-life applied learning – I like to show them the impact of statistics,” he said. “I want to show them my willingness to help them achieve their career goals.”

In the process, many of his students take a strong interest in the subject and even change or add statistics to their intended majors. Not so long ago, few UNCW students chose statistics as a major.

Today, businesses and industries seek employees with the ability to analyze and act on the data collected by the organization to maximize sales and efficiency and create new products and services. “Statistics help people quantify and understand information,” Wang said. “This is a high-impact and fast-growing area, especially now that we have entered the era of ‘big data.’”

When Wang came to UNCW nine years ago, he said program enrollment was so low that it was in danger of being dropped. “We changed the curriculum to make it easier for students to double major in statistics, while emphasizing fundamental training in mathematics,” he said. In the last seven years, the number of statistics majors enrolled each year has increased from single digits to around 45.

“We are now offering a master’s program in data science, and the master’s program in mathematics is under revision. These initiatives will help UNCW meet industry needs and provide a competitive edge for our students,” he added.

Wang also uses his expertise in statistics and machine learning as a part of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Identity Sciences (I3S), which specializes in research using large databases for identification and intelligence-related projects.

Wang, who grew up in Dalian, China, knows the possibilities for learning are limitless with statistics and he enjoys sharing his passion for the subject with new generations of Seahawks.

-- Tricia Vance