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Accent, Winter 2024, Volume 52, No. 2 - View past issues

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Ryan Savitz, Marvelous Mentor

In a typical year at Neumann, about three or four undergraduates major in mathematics.

Despite these low numbers, multiple students have presented their statistical research at MathFest, the Joint Meeting of the American Statistical Association, the Annual Meeting of the International Academy of Business and Economics, the National Association of Environmental Professionals, and the Midwest Sports Analytics Meeting. Others have received Clare Boothe Luce research grants for women in STEM and been invited to attend the CBL National Conference. One has had her research published in the Journal of Medical Virology.

How can so few achieve so much? The answer is Ryan Savitz.

A veteran of 22 years at Neumann, Savitz has climbed the academic ladder, stepping on every rung from instructor to full professor. His resume reflects his intense interest in two fields: statistics/mathematics (BS from Ursinus, MS from Temple) and economics/business (MBA from Drexel, PhD from Touro).

Even with his credentials, he has never been tempted by the world of business. Both of his parents are educators (his father, Fred, taught at Neumann for more than 20 years), and he considers his love of teaching “a calling from God.”

He describes himself as an applied statistician and offers his help to any student, regardless of major, who wants to do research.

Ryan Savitz

“The talent is in all of them,” Savitz says. “If they have an interest, I want to help bring it out. The most important thing that I’ve learned over the years is to find a topic they’re interested in. I don’t pick the topic. It’s got to have some quantitative slant to it, but it can be in communications, biology, math, education, whatever.”

Once a student selects a topic, the mentoring process begins. “It starts out very hands-on and over time it becomes hands-off,” explains Savitz. “At the beginning, I tell them exactly what they need to do (look up these three topics, perform a specific analysis on the data you collected). Over time, you get more hands-off as you see them becoming more independent researchers.”

His mentoring is student-centered and mirrors his teaching philosophy. “Even when I have a class of 25 students, I don’t think of myself as teaching a class. I’m teaching 25 human beings with different skills and needs and challenges. I try to present material in a logical, nicely paced manner. You have to meet students where they are.”

Savitz regularly makes a startling offer to his students. If a student has the prerequisites, puts in a certain number of hours, reads the text, and fails, he will write a letter of apology to their parents. “I’ve never had to write such a letter,” he grins

Current and former students appreciate the style and substance of Savitz’s mentoring.

According to Elizabeth Shire, a math major who will graduate with secondary education certification, “Working with Professor Savitz is easy and simple. He’s a constant guiding hand that I can turn to. We can bounce ideas off each other, and he provides good leadership for me.”

Shire earned a Clare Boothe Luce research grant and presented a paper, “Promoting student motivation with inquiry-based learning,” at MathFest in Tampa, Florida, in August of 2023.

Maria Ramunno, a 2023 graduate whose research on COVID-19 in Pennsylvania was published by the Journal of Medical Virology is effusive in her praise: “Ryan Savitz has been my main entire source of support my whole entire college career. He pushed me to do better, always continue growing, and be curious. He helped me get my research published, and we’ve been to conferences together. Even though I’ve graduated, he’s still a big support in my life. I’m thankful for all his help.”

Ramunno is now a software engineer at JP Morgan.

Regarding his success at mentoring, Savitz deflects credit to his students. “If I have a student who’s interested and willing to do the work,” he says, “it always works 100% of the time.”

That’s the expert analysis of an applied statistician.

*Main photo caption: Ryan Savitz with three of the students he has mentored: Elizabeth Shire, Christopher Greve, and Maria Ramunno

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