And How Do You Q? MBU Sets Sights on Boosting Quantitative Literacy Among All Undergrads

February 9, 2017

Some nationwide studies suggest too many college students are lacking the critical skills to interpret data, draw conclusions based on numerical evidence, and to communicate that kind of information to others effectively.

A committee of Mary Baldwin University faculty and staff tasked with updating the institutional Quality Enhancement Plan — required every 10 years by accreditors to improve the quality of education — has turned its sights to improving quantitative reasoning skills among all undergraduates, regardless of their areas of study.

For the next few weeks, the committee is launching an informational campaign to jump-start the initiative, dubbed “MBQ.” In the weeks, months, and years ahead, the plan will become reality, with a goal to create a climate and culture that promotes quantitative reasoning, in addition to helping students improve their own “Q” quotient.


“One of the earliest goals is to spread awareness about quantitative literacy among our undergraduate students and how it not only applies to all of their studies, but also their everyday lives,” said longtime faculty member and implementation committee chair Janet Ewing, an associate professor of business administration. “Students in all disciplines — art, philosophy, political science, and math — are all students of quantitative reasoning. These are skills they’ll use in graduate school or on the job.”

In fact, a recent National Survey of Student Engagement found that employers seek applicants with strong quantitative reasoning skills regardless of what position they are trying to fill.

Associate Professor of Psychology Chandra Mason is among several faculty members who are helping illustrate how quantitative reasoning is useful in fields across the liberal arts.

“Q gives me the tools I need to figure out social psychological puzzles such as how we affect other people and how other people influence our own attitudes and behavior,” Mason said. “Working with data moves us from just everyday observations onto the path toward answers.”

According to the committee’s plan, from the start of their MBU experience in freshman-level classes such as BOLD 101 to their senior-year Capstone projects and everything in between, all undergraduate students will be exposed to the concept of quantitative literacy and receive help developing those skills. Online and in-person tutorials and resources are part of the short- and long-term execution of the MBQ plan.

“Look for more information, more tutorials, and more enthusiasm in the weeks and months ahead thanks to this initiative. Students can expect campus-wide Q activities and discussions, perhaps Q-themed movies, speakers, and competitions,” Ewing said. “Students will begin to see that ‘Q’ isn’t just for the math majors. It’s a skill they’ll sharpen, but also one they already use to budget their smart phone data, monitor their Fitbits, and manage their study and television binge-watching time.”

The QEP committee has set an ambitious benchmark. A decade ago, QEP work resulted in the creation of the Samuel R. and Ava Spencer Center for Civic and Global Engagement, which is Mary Baldwin’s center-of-campus hub for service, study, and volunteer at home and opportunities abroad, as well as service-learning and international education resources for faculty.

Accreditors will come to campus in mid-March to learn more about Mary Baldwin’s MBQ initiative.