Here at SAS Education, we know just how smart and personable our instructors are in and outside the classroom. But we realized, if you haven’t taken a SAS Training course, you may not know what kind of enthusiasm and dedication they put into their work.
These are the people who can help you get to that next level – whether it’s helping you become more efficient in your job today or helping you advance in your career tomorrow.
Kim Darnofall, Principal Communications Specialist at SAS, sat down with Danny Modlin for this story. We hope you enjoy, and if you haven't already, we hope you someday get to meet Danny in a training class.
Danny Modlin kept the scorebooks for every sport at his high school in Jamesville, North Carolina, along Highway 64 about 90 miles inland from Nags Head.
“I got introduced to statistics through sports,” said Modlin. “I tabulated everything for the coach.”
He continued keeping scorebooks when he went to Elon University where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and was licensed to teach as part of the North Carolina Teaching Fellows program.
And he’s still doing it today. He coordinates a team of people who keep track of points, penalties, and general statistics for Carolina Rollergirls, a women’s flat track roller derby team.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There’s more to Modlin’s story of how he got to where he is today, teaching customers about statistical concepts and how to use SAS. (You may also recognize Modlin from Stat Wars, a series of “battles” over statistical methods with another SAS Instructor, Marc Huber.)
After college, he spent six years teaching middle- and high-school mathematics – from C.W. Stanford Middle School in Hillsborough to the Durham School of the Arts and Riverside High School in Durham, where he taught his first statistics class and was the AP Computer Science Programming teacher.
He then enrolled at UNC-Wilmington to earn a Masters in Mathematics with a concentration in statistics. Since a majority of his courses were in statistics, he decided to pursue his masters and PhD at NC State. He’s currently working on his final project and dissertation on hurricane forecasting and hurricane wind modeling.
“I am doing a hurricane count dating back to 1851, trying to see if there is a change in frequency of storms over the years,” said Modlin, who identifies himself a Spatial Bayesian Environmental Statistician.
“My friends call me up and ask for weather reports,” Modlin quipped, “especially if they are planning a beach wedding.”
It was at NCSU that one of Danny’s friends heard from a professor (Dr. Sujit Ghosh, well-known for his work in Bayesian analysis) about an opening in the Education Division at SAS. Ghosh asked the friend if he knew of anyone who might be interested. “That’s Danny to a T,” the friend told Ghosh and went to find Modlin in the computer lab at SAS Hall.
“Education, statistics and computer science is the perfect mix for me,” said Modlin, who wasted no time heading to Ghosh’s office. Not too long after, Modlin found himself in the Education and Training Division at SAS working as an Analytical Training Consultant.
“I teach public courses via live web, face-to-face at customer sites and face-to-face in training centers at SAS,” said Modlin. “I am teaching statistical concepts through the use of our software.”
Although instructors are trained to teach specific courses, if a need arises for a new course, anyone might pick it up. Modlin has taught Stat 1 (Introduction to Statistics), Enterprise Guide Basic Statistics, Bayesian, Stat 2, Categorical Data Analysis Using Logistic Regression and more.
“Our classes are built in such a way that we can have a very big mix of abilities in a classroom,” Modlin said. “I often go to a business where new hires may have a stats background but don’t know how to use SAS. Sometimes we stay on an extra day so we can mentor and help them apply what we taught to their data.”
Modlin enjoys the exposure to various industries. “I love seeing different areas people use statistics in,” he said. “I also like seeing examples that I can incorporate into a future class.”
When not teaching, SAS instructors follow up with students, revise, edit and create new classes and serve as subject matter experts in other areas of the company.
Instructors often practice with co-workers, he added. “We practice with co-workers and present to them as if we are presenting to students,” he said. “They know the questions the students are likely to ask and this gets us prepared to do a good job.”
Especially with big data, companies need statistics, statisticians and people like Modlin to teach them how to take information and express it in a succinct but accurate way.
“People are getting multitudes and multitudes of data,” Modlin said. “How are they going to go through this without losing their minds? I see Statistics as a structure that enables us to take information and make heads or tails out of it and use it to make justifiable decisions.”
Learn more about Danny Modlin in this Q&A
What should people know about the field of statistics?
- It’s not as bad as you think. Everyone equates statistics to math. Well sorta yes and sorta no. It’s a mathematical science or a “cousin” to math. People clump math and stats together, and if they don’t like math, they say “I’m not going to like stats either.”
- Treat it like a foreign language. The main idea is you are communicating. You have to speak correctly. Often misunderstanding occurs between a researcher and a statistician because they cannot communicate. You have to learn the verbiage.
- Statistics is WAY more than what you saw in your introductory statistics class in high school or college.
Who is your favorite statistician?
- A lot of different ones, but in the area of Bayesian statistics, Alan E. Gelfand, The James B Duke Professor of Statistical Science at Duke University, and Montserrat Fuentes, my advisor at NCSU and head of the Statistics Department.
What is your favorite statistics blog or journal?
What do you like to do outside of work?
- Fly kites, especially at Jockey’s Ridge/Carolina Beach. I’m not a swimmer. Everyone else goes in the water. I fly a kite.
- As the head nonskating official for Carolina Rollergirls, I coordinate a team that keeps track of points, penalties and general statistics.
- I bowl on the SAS league.
What is your advice to students?
- Realize statistics is involved in way more areas than you would ever believe. More and more areas are finding usefulness in statistics.
- Having statistics training is job security – to have things run more efficiently requires an understanding of the data.
- In college, find a way to get involved with a business early. You need hands-on with real data, not simulations. Get into an internship where you work with real data; you will gain an appreciation for what is going on.
Do you have a funny story to share about statistics?
- My roommate, who is also getting a PhD in statistics from NC State, is in a band that does stat covers of current songs. I am a child of the 80s so the band comes to me for suggestions of lyrics of songs they could do parodies of in statistics. They like to do Bayesian lyrics. I tell them I’ve got the perfect words for Jessie’s Girl by Rick Springfield: Why can’t I find a prior like that? To me, that’s funny. And it fits in with the way I teach. I always try to find the funny in learning. My philosophy with education is: If you’re not laughing, you’re not learning.”