Rob Erhardt, Chair and Associate Professor of Statistical Sciences, has been awarded the 2022 College Board of Visitors Faculty Leadership Award.
Rob was selected as this year’s recipient for his visionary work in the growth of the statistics curriculum that has led to the launch of the Department of Statistical Sciences at Wake Forest. Since he joined the faculty in 2012, Rob has examined ways to support the needs of students and colleagues through an innovative, curriculum-first approach. He overhauled courses and introduced new courses that invigorated students in the growing interest in statistics. These new courses led to the addition of a Mathematical Statistics major to accompany the already existing Statistics minor. Demand for these major and minor courses has been robust, as evidenced in last year’s graduating class of 34 Mathematical Statistics majors and 40 Statistics minors. In recognition of his work, Rob received the CAT Teaching Award in 2016, and the Reid-Doyle Prize for Excellence in Teaching in 2019.
“Rob’s dedication to and vision for the discipline of statistics was the catalyst for the unprecedented growth that has led to the creation of the new Department of Statistical Sciences,” said Sarah Raynor, Chair and Professor of Mathematics. “This new department is entirely a gift to Wake Forest from Rob’s vision and labor, so this is the perfect time to recognize him with the CBOV Faculty Leadership Award.”
Rob worked closely with Raynor and the Mathematics and Statistics faculty during the creation of the Department of Statistical Sciences. “Rob worked hard to invite ideas from everyone, encouraging creativity as faculty members worked to create something new. He then had to balance our aspirations with the realities of resources and faculty time, all while encouraging faculty members to grow as a unit in order to start off with a strong, cohesive department,” Raynor said. “Rob’s leadership on this effort helped this gargantuan task proceed smoothly and with the utmost collegiality between all stakeholders.”
As the inaugural chair of the new Department of Statistical Sciences, Rob is leading and mentoring 12 full-time faculty members in addition to three staff members and 15 graduate students. He spends time with faculty, getting to know their personal goals and finding ways to plug them into service or research opportunities that align with their interests.
“Rob’s desire to increase and improve statistics education at Wake Forest University was a strong motivating factor for me to join the department. His vision, leadership, and extraordinary efforts in teaching and research have served as an example of what a truly great teacher-scholar can accomplish. Rob’s unwavering support and dedication to his faculty have helped me develop professionally and enabled me to reach and exceed my teaching and research goals,” said Staci Hepler, Associate Professor of Statistical Sciences.
In addition to his chairship, Rob exemplifies the teacher-scholar modal through research areas that include environmental statistics, computational statistics, and actuarial science, with a particular interest in forecasting risk from droughts and floods. Rob has collaborated with university colleagues in Biology, Chemistry, and the Environmental program, and is serving as the principal investigator on a recently funded NSF grant alongside collaborators in Statistical Sciences and Engineering and provides funding opportunities for students, too.
“Rob’s leadership in shepherding the new Department of Statistical Sciences into becoming our 30th College department has been remarkable. In addition to the complexity of this endeavor, Rob has been able to maintain his commitment to his teaching and research, and also support his faculty colleagues. He is truly a model of what it means to be an exceptional Wake Forest teacher-scholar,” said Tony Marsh, Interim Dean of the College.