When asked why I serve on the Quantitative Literacy Committee, I can only answer that I believe in the mission.  The goal is to ensure that UAB graduates understand numbers and data and what they mean.  These skills have great value.  Let me explain why.

 Holly Brasher

Good training in quantitative skills pays dividends throughout life.  Students who have developed competence in understanding numbers will approach tasks that involve these skills with confidence.  This is true whether the task involves personal finances, mortgage payments, taxes, financial markets or simply understanding stories in the news.

I developed my quantitative skills rather late in life in graduate school.  I have a Ph.D. in political science and I teach American politics, but as an undergraduate I majored in English.  I had a limited background in math and science.  When I began my graduate program I realized that American politics is highly quantitative and that anyone who comes to play must be able to produce and understand highly sophisticated quantitative analyses.  Initially, I found graduate level statistics mind-bending. However, after I slogged through the material and began to master it, I realized that there was very little I could not do. These skills are transferable.

Within political science, data and numbers are used to answer important questions.  For example, we often think that campaign spending in political campaigns is out of control and somehow detrimental to democracy. If we could only control spending, we think, our political process would be better.  However, when we look carefully at this, we find that more spending produces better informed voters.  Should we cap campaign spending and limit information?  Thoughtful analysis suggests that we should not.

As students begin to use data and numbers for something specific such as political science, they take these skills with them.  They will be well served by what they have learned.

Holly Brasher, Ph.D.
Department of Government, UAB