Articles

ISDS Associate Professor Terry Sincich Retiring after 30 Years of Teaching and Researching Statistics

By Keith Morelli

Terry Sincich

TAMPA (November 6, 2018) -- For those who think studying statistics is the most difficult, maddening, worthless part of a college education, consider Terry Sincich’s life as a consultant. The associate professor in the Information Systems and Decision Sciences Department has conducted statistical studies that:

* Developed models for Stetson University College of Law to predict the probability of students passing the Florida Bar exam:

* Provided expert litigation support for Tampa Greyhound Race Track, analyzing weekly racing purses to project future purses;

* Used statistics to come up with a probability analysis that determined the odds of winning a basketball 3-point shooting contest; and

* Created statistical models for the Florida Attorney General’s Office that set the probability of collusive bidding on road construction projects.

Sincich has made statistics, well, pretty interesting. Along the way, he has tried to impart his knowledge and passion for the numbers to students. Tens of thousands of students have taken his courses here at the Muma College of Business, where he began teaching in 1988, and before that at the University of Florida.

His relevant and impactful consulting work does enter into the classroom, he said.

“One of my favorites involved a fire at a furniture warehouse that destroyed all the inventory,” he said. “The owners claimed they took a random sample of 250 paper invoices (from a total of over 3,000 invoices) in order to estimate their total damage claim with the insurance company. In actuality, they selected the invoices for furniture pieces with the highest dollar value.

“We used probability to show that such a sample would occur only once in every 100 random samples, a very unlikely event,” he said. “The analysis eventually led to fraud charges.”

After a career of imparting such relevant information, Sincich has called it quits, announcing his retirement last month.

Along the way, he has won numerous teaching awards at USF, including the Kahn Teaching Award and Outstanding Teacher Award, recognizing excellence as an educator. He was named MBA Association Professor of the Year four times while at UF, where he, way back in 1978, took the Graduate Teaching Assistant of the Year award.

Teaching, it turns out, is his greatest passion.

“In today’s world, we are bombarded with data, from the news media, social media and at work,” he said. “The key is making students aware that statistics is something they will use on the job and in their everyday lives since it involves making sense of data. Statistics helps us to think critically about what the data really means.

“In every example I present in class, I try to present real and recent and, hopefully, interesting data to them. Many of these same data sets appear in my textbooks.”

It’s no secret that Sincich's areas of research interest include applied statistical analysis and statistical modeling. He has co-authored statistics textbooks, book chapters and research papers in top-rated journals such as the Journal of the American Statistical Association, the Academy of Management Journal, and Auditing: A Journal of Theory & Practice. He also has published in Research on Accounting Ethics, Demography and the International Journal of Forecasting. He has presented his work numerous times at academic conferences.

“At UF I was on a lecturer appointment while working as a statistical consultant for Info Tech,” he said. “At that time, I decided to make a full-time commitment to academia. USF’s College of Business had just started its PhD program and was looking to put more emphasis on research. So, many professors needed a statistician to collaborate with in order to get their papers published.

“In addition, the newly created ISDS Department was taking over the teaching of statistics from economics and was seeking someone with experience in teaching graduate students as well as undergraduates in a large lecture environment.”

The department was also beginning to offer statistics courses to campuses in Sarasota, St. Petersburg, Lakeland and even Ft. Myers, he said, “and my experience teaching a distance-learning statistics course at UF, coupled with the need for a collaborating statistician made the USF job a perfect fit.”

He found a home here for the next 30 years. But now, retirement calls.

“I’ve been doing this job for 38 years, starting in 1981 in Gainesville,” he said. “I estimate that I’ve taught over 60,000 students during that time. That’s a long run and I have enjoyed every minute.”

It won’t be a clean break, though. He plans to continue to revise the four statistics texts that he had co-authored over the years and likely will teach statistics in the DBA program here.

“My wife and I plan to spend a lot of time with our two grandchildren in the Washington, D.C., area and traveling with friends and family.

“We are both avid tennis players,” he said, “so there will be lots more of that.”