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For Immediate Release Contact:
Barbara K. Laskin/ Doug Stone
April 4, 2005 (651) 696-6203

Macalester College Receives $350,000 Keck Grant

St. Paul, Minn. - Macalester College has received a $350,000 grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation to develop a cross-disciplinary curriculum in data fluency. The award will prepare students and faculty to work with the explosion of data now available in science, technology, business and public life.

The three-year project will be used to: refine the introductory mathematics and statistics curriculum to provide all students, regardless of their educational background, with tools needed to model, analyze and interpret complex data sets; retool the current intermediate statistics course to emphasize manipulation, modeling and mastery of large, real-world data sets; and integrate modeling and statistical skills with disciplinary content in the social sciences.

"Because data resources have increased exponentially, it is crucial that our coursework evolves to reflect those changes and emphasize those skills," Macalester Provost Dan Hornbach said. "This project will help us evaluate and change current course structures so that students understand the importance of data fluency in all areas of study."

The new curriculum will enable professors in economics, geography, sociology and psychology to implement data fluency into their teaching to give students a foundation for practical application and graduate work. Math faculty will team-teach with social science faculty and a new data lab, equipped with wireless tablet computers, will facilitate instruction.

Project director Danny Kaplan, who is a mathematics and computer science professor at Macalester, said the grant will benefit undergraduates in the social sciences by providing greatly increased data analysis skills.

"Social science students typically take at most one semester of college math, but the most useful topics are traditionally taught in the fourth and fifth semesters," Kaplan said. "We have found a way to bring these topics into a first course. These advanced topics let us present powerful statistical modeling methods in a geometrical way that is almost intuitive for students. The Keck grant allows us to develop a cross-disciplinary curriculum so that the social sciences can take advantage of the students' stronger statistical skills."

The W.M. Keck Foundation was established in 1954 in Los Angeles by William Myron Keck, founder of The Superior Oil Company. The Foundation is one of the nation's largest philanthropic organizations, with assets of more than $1 billion, and promotes instruction and research at colleges across the nation with its two undergraduate programs in liberal arts and science and engineering.

Macalester College, founded in 1874, is a national liberal arts college with a full-
time enrollment of 1,845 students. Macalester is nationally recognized for its long-standing commitment to academic excellence, internationalism, diversity, and service to society.

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