The University Record, July 19, 1993

U offers joint degree in survey methodology with Maryland

By Diane Swanbrow
News and Information Services

The country’s first master of science degree in survey methodology will be offered this fall through a joint program of the U-M, the University of Maryland at College Park, and Westat, Inc., a Rockville, Md., survey firm. The University of Maryland will award the degree.

The program is funded by a five-year, $4.1 million grant from the National Science Foundation designed to improve the technical skills of the federal statistical work force.

“Federal agencies spend billions of dollars on surveys that are vital to setting and administering government policy,” says Robert M. Groves, associate director of the new joint program and research scientist at the Institute for Social Research, which is renowned for its expertise in large-scale surveys. “Yet many of the professionals conducting government surveys have had no formal training in survey methodology.”

“Now, through this program, we can offer these professionals an interdisciplinary approach to state-of-the-art practices in both the statistical and methodological aspects of surveys,” says Stanley Presser, a College Park sociologist and director of the new joint program. The Westat team will be led by Graham Kalton.

“This extraordinary joint effort of these institutions will produce a program of superb quality and a model for a new type of educational collaboration,” says LS&A Dean Edie N. Goldenberg. “It is the most recent example of the many innovative approaches to higher education that characterize the University of Michigan today. We are enthusiastic about the approach and excited about future possibilities.”

The program will be headquartered in College Park, close to the federal employees who are expected to enroll in the program. Two areas of concentration will be available:

n Statistical science, focusing on sample design, estimation in complex samples, variance estimation, statistical measurement error models and statistical adjustments for missing data; and

n Social science, focusing on questionnaire design, models of data collection, survey management, non-sampling error reduction, and cognitive psychological approaches to survey measurement.

In addition to Groves, two other U-M staff will relocate to College Park. But the use of a two-way audio-video connection between Ann Arbor and College Park will allow other ISR staff to teach in the joint program, and students in Ann Arbor also will be able to enroll in courses originating in Maryland and beamed to Ann Arbor.

“This compressed video equipment uses high-speed telephone lines to offer full conversational functions between the two sites,” Groves says. “The instructor will teach students in Ann Arbor and College Park simultaneously, allowing us to share resources and to offer more advanced courses on both campuses as a result. The instructor can see and hear students at the remote site throughout the class, field questions from the remote site, and have class discussions between the two sites.” The Information Technology Division collaborated on the compressed video technology used in Ann Arbor.