Today’s global economy demands that whatever field a person chooses to pursue, he or she must have the capacity to assess data, wrestle with complexity and fairly evaluate multiple sources of information. The ability to engage in deep and reflective thinking is critical. Each of these tasks requires a facility with numbers. Yet a recent study by the American Institutes for Research found that a significant percentage of American adults lack basic math skills, with the United States ranking 20th out of 23 nations. Le Moyne is answering the urgent call to nurture men and women who possess these skills through the creation of the Quantitative Reasoning Center (QRC).
Launched in the spring of 2016, the QRC is a first-of-its kind resource for students and faculty – and the broader community. It is that outward-looking focus that makes the Center distinct. In addition to hosting clinics and tutoring sessions for classes in which numeracy is paramount, such as chemistry, physics and calculus, staff members at the Center have also led training sessions for area teachers and activities for high school students enrolled in Upward Bound and the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program. In short, the Center promotes mathematical and analytical aptitude, as well as the higher-level critical-thinking skills that are imperative to professional and civic life – locally, regionally, nationally and even internationally.
“Math permeates every facet of life, and it is a key part of core competencies such as decision making and choosing the best option,” said Director Emily Hantsch. “At our core we want people to be comfortable using math throughout their lives. We also recognize that the best way for people to learn is to be challenged and supported. The brain is like any muscle – it needs to be exercised.”
When the College’s Core curriculum was redesigned three years ago, its goal was to make it not only more interdisciplinary and global, but also more quantitative in nature. The new Core better integrates instruction in the liberal arts fields, such as history and philosophy, with concrete skills like writing and math. The QRC helps achieve that objective. It is also a significant element of the College’s strategic plan, Sempre Avanti, which was designed to prepare graduates to take their place in an increasingly competitive, ever evolving world by providing them with a values-based education centered on experiential learning.
Numeracy permeates modern life. Quantitative literacy makes it possible for individuals to manage their own finances, assess crime statistics in their neighborhood or city, and understand a news story about climate change. It is a skill that Le Moyne graduates will undoubtedly use to improve communities around the world, regardless of their profession. To that end, Le Moyne President Linda LeMura calls it “a foundation for solving problems” and “the great equalizer.” She believes it is as important for the poet, attorney and historian as it is for the statistician, actuary or data scientist.
“Our aim is for our students to have a facility with data and analytics and the ability to decipher between what is real and what is not,” said LeMura. “That is integrally linked to critical thinking, which is the hallmark of the education that we provide our students.”
It is well established that analytical and quantitative reasoning skills are crucial to preparing individuals for employment. A recent survey by the Society of Human Resource Management found that many of the most difficult jobs to fill in 2016 –including data scientist, electrical engineer and information security analyst –
require strong analytical skills. To that end, the QRC will play a critical role in economic growth of the region by helping to bolster the math skills among a wide cross-section of individuals, including students, elementary and secondary teachers, supervisors and administrative personnel in both the private and public sector, manufacturing workers, veteran populations and others. To date, the CEOs of 55 companies signed a letter in support of the QRC, including Oneida Air, whose employees will receive training at the Center.
In addition, officials plan to continue to support faculty members teaching courses in quantitative-based subjects by sharing active-learning teaching strategies, hosting brown bag sessions to discuss the challenges and successes in the classroom, and bringing in guest speakers to discuss professional development. Beyond that, the Center is planning to launch a lecture series featuring women in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math that will promoted throughout the wider community in order to expose middle and high school students to role models in these fields. Hantsch also plans to reach out to the leaders of a mosque in North Syracuse to see how they could work with members of the refugee population locally.
The QRC also serves as a tremendous resource for students studying science, technology, engineering and math on the Heights. David Craig, Ph.D., professor of physics, said that it plays a crucial role in helping students in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math succeed in their coursework and advance to the next level. However, he acknowledged that it goes well beyond that. It promotes a deeper engagement with numbers and how they impact their lives. Perhaps even help them to uncover dreams they did not know they had.
“This is a resource that reaches across disciplines to help every Le Moyne student,” Craig said. “It helps to promote well-rounded people with a depth of insight.”
To date the Center has been operating on what Hantsch calls “a pop-up model,” with clinics and one-on-one tutoring in subjects such as calculus, physics and chemistry held in various locations across campus. However, the College recently received a $1.2 million grant from the New York State Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) to help with the $7.5 million cost to develop a new space for the QRC in the Noreen Reale Falcone Library. Once completed this summer, the space will feature computer stations, spaces for presentation and workshops, and collaborative spaces in which students can work with one another.
Established in 2011, the REDC has 10 designated regions across the state. The College has used previous REDC grants to support basic science, health professions, engineering and business disciplines – areas critical to growing the Central New York economy.
information, understand it, critique it, reflect upon it, and apply it in making decisions.
More than anything else, the QRC is designed to help students and the broader community take in information, critique and reflect upon it, and use it to make sound decisions that will benefit the entire community, said Joe Marina, S.J., provost and vice president for academic affairs.
“Ensuring that our students have a facility with data, and sharing that with our neighbors, is a practical and pedagogical imperative,” he said. “It goes to the very heart of our mission.”
The creation of the Quantitative Reasoning Center is part of the College's $100 million Always Forward campaign, which was publicly announced in June of 2018.
QRC at Le Moyne College