Statistically Speaking, This Baruch College Professor is One in a Million

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BrandweinAnn Cohen Brandwein revels in an election year, especially a presidential one. With the constant stream of polls showing who’s up, who’s down, and who might be on his or her way out, Brandwein takes it all in and parlays it into course material for the students in her statistics classes.

As a professor who’s logged more than 30 years of teaching in Baruch College’s Department of Statistics and Computer Information Systems, Brandwein’s affinity for sets of data is part of her overall “affection” for math. “I just always loved math. I like to do puzzles. It’s problem-solving, seeing things,” she says.

She describes her teaching style as “lively, energetic. I’m very enthusiastic about what I do, and my students pick up on that.” She’s quick to add that she gives students 150 percent effort, so she expects the same from them. “I’m here to give you an education and give you your money’s worth.” She says that her reputation among students is that she is “very demanding, not easy. I set the bar high and they reach for it.”One of her overriding philosophies is respect for her students. “I treat my students the way I’d want my own children treated,” she says.

In her office on the 11th floor of the Newman Vertical Campus, framed, autographed photos of iconic athletes, such as Mickey Mantle, Muhammad Ali, and Joe DiMaggio, line her desk, bookshelves, and walls. The items were part of her husband’s sports memorabilia business, to which Brandwein contributed her statistical handiwork by predicting the profit margin (or loss) of a show he’d be doing. Such prophecies could obviously be viewed as a blessing, a curse, or a warning to quit while you’re ahead.

A resident of Westchester County and a Bronx native, Brandwein has been married for 33 years and has two grown sons. She met her husband in Amsterdam, while both were there on vacation. Ironically, they were from the same section of the Bronx and had attended the same high school, but didn’t know each other. What are the chances of that happening?

As a subject, statistics has a reputation for being a great substitute for a sleep aid. But Brandwein says her feelings about it are quite the opposite. “It is not dull and boring to me, and I work very hard to make it interesting and exciting for the students.” Her efforts have paid off many times over the years. She has won the College’s Presidential Award for Distinguished Teaching (and been nominated many times for it), the Presidential Excellence Award for Distinguished Service, and the School of Business Teaching Excellence Award, in addition to other awards and honors.

Brandwein takes great pride in her teaching and finds it particularly important to get feedback from her students, even mid-semester. This, she says, allows her to make immediate revisions, rather than relying strictly on end-of-semester evaluations. “My values as a professor are driven from within,” she says.

And with the 2010 Census still underway, Brandwein has a suggestion for the bureau: “If the government just let statisticians do the sampling, we’d get better results. There’d be less error.” Maybe next time. Then again, what are the chances of that happening?

Barbara Lippman