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Teaching Award Spotlight: Amanda Murphy, Department of Statistics

When it comes time to sign up for classes, statistics students at the University of South Carolina often tell each other, “You want to sign up for Murphy’s class!” 

That’s according to David Hitchcock, interim chair of the Department of Statistics, who nominated his colleague Amanda Murphy for the 2024 Professional Track Teaching Award from the College of Arts and Sciences. 

“She’s the type of teacher that introductory statistics students feel lucky to get,” he writes. 

A senior instructor in the department, Murphy earned her reputation – and this year’s award – for her dedication and her teaching, which engages students and ensures their understanding. She also provides valuable mentorship for other instructors and teaching assistants, especially in support of Statistics 201, a course that requires students to conduct their own statistical experiments. 

“Amanda Murphy makes the Statistics department a better place through her teaching excellence in the classroom, her drive to improve the student experience in our introductory courses, her mentoring of other instructors and graduate TAs, and her collegial willingness to serve the department,” Hitchock writes. 

In recognition of her achievement, we asked Murphy to share a few thoughts about her approach to teaching. 

What inspired you to become an educator?  

I think I have always wanted to be an educator. In high school I enjoyed helping other students in math classes try to understand materials they thought were too hard to get. In graduate school, I really enjoyed being a teaching assistant and teaching Elementary Statistics. 

How do you approach teaching, and what should students expect when they enroll in one of your classes? 

I have been fortunate to have some exceptional teachers in the past, and I have used many of their methods to help me be a better educator. Good educators are those that emulate other good educators. Students who enroll in my class should expect to work outside of the classroom to practice the concepts covered in the lectures. Practice will help the materials make more sense to students with no background of the subject. My lectures break down the concepts so they are easier to understand, and my assignments reinforce the materials.  

What are some of the moments or accomplishments that make you most proud of your work at USC? 

As an instructor, I have always enjoyed hearing from students about how much they enjoyed the course, especially those who thought they would struggle in the beginning. However, something that makes me most proud has been my work with graduate students teaching a class for the first time. It is important to help new educators get started strong and have confidence. I really enjoy when a graduate student, who did not plan to go into teaching, tells me they really liked teaching.  

What do you hope your students remember about you and your courses in 10 years? 

I hope students remember that hard work on their part can make anything possible. I want students to look back after 10 years and be impressed that they could do statistical analysis that led to meaningful findings. Additionally, I hope students can see statistics presented in the real world and have an understanding of the information provided.  

Who at USC has been a role model or mentor for you and your teaching? 

I am fortunate to work in a department that has very good communication and collaboration. I have discussed teaching techniques with almost all of my colleagues. While the Department of Statistics has many faculty members that have helped me along the way, Maureen Petkewich and Gail Ward-Besser have been my role models. 

Professor Petkewich was instrumental in helping me get started when I joined the Department of Statistics. Ward-Besser, also an instructor, helped me learn how to work with large class sizes and has been a constant reference when I have needed help or another opinion about how to handle a given situation.  

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.