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Michael Ditkoff

Statistics in the Real World
Michael DitkoffI graduated in June ’73 with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from the School of Arts and Sciences. As an undergraduate, I wanted to focus on the liberal arts within my education.  University of Harford offered two avenues for the Economics degree, either a B.A. within Arts and Sciences or the Bachelor of Science within the Barney School of Business. Why I am writing for the Barney School? One reason is that all my Economics and Quantitative Analysis courses were taught by Barney faculty. Barney School of Business faculty paved the way for my first position.  One of my favorite economics courses was ECON 324, Money and Banking. With today’s economic situation, the course material has more importance today than when I was a student. I also took Quantitative Analysis for Business Decisions, then labeled QNT 230 and 231. I learned about the mean, standard deviations, degrees of freedom, regression, seasonal adjustment, benchmarking, weights, samples, and populations. I also took three calculus courses through the School of Arts and Sciences to bolster my math background.

After graduation, I faced the same problems today’s graduates have. Unable to find work in New York, I went to the local post office, opened up the ZIP code book to Washington, DC and wrote to the first 50 federal agencies. I was then hired by the Bureau of the Census. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that taking QNT230 and 231 and earning a degree in economics would lead to a job as survey statistician for 18 years. Not only that, the same concepts I learned in class were used in the real world of statistics. The major difference is a computer calculated seasonal adjustments, unlike in class. I worked on a number of programs but the most recognizable was the Monthly Advance Retail Sales Survey. The results are reported in the news as “The Commerce Department reported today that March retail sales were up .5% on a seasonally adjusted basis.” (The Bureau is part of the Commerce Department so the department gets top billing in the news and press release.)

There are 15 pay grades in government service. The statistician occupation reaches a career ladder of 12 which means I was promoted to 12 without competing against other employees. However, competition begins with promotion to the 13 level. There are very few federal statistical agencies and promotion potential was limited so I changed my occupation to budget analyst. Every federal agency has budget analysts but not every agency has statisticians. Eventually, I was promoted to the level 13 as a budget analyst at the Immigration and Nationalization Service (INS) at the Justice Department. I was transferred to the Department of Homeland Security after it was created and eventually promoted to the level 14 budget analyst at Citizenship and Immigration Services, a successor agency to INS that processes applications for citizenship, work permits for foreigners, etc.

After an18 year career as a Statistician and an 18 year career as a Budget Analyst, I look back at my educational experience at the University of Hartford in courses from both the Barney School of Business and the School of Arts and Sciences, and realize what a strong impact my quality education has had on me and my career.  Now that I am retired from both of my careers, I hope that my story resonates with younger students who upon graduation from the University of Hartford take their experiences and grow as much as I did
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