George Mason University
George Mason University Mason
George Mason University

Two Navy veterans plot similar career paths in statistics

October 15, 2018   /   by Nanci Hellmich

“The stats professors are extremely approachable. They help anyone who needs help with the material. It feels like a family within the Volgenau School of Engineering.”

— John Lavelle, statistics major

Jason McAllister (left) and John Lavelle are Navy veterans pursuing statistics degrees.

Jason McAllister (left) and John Lavelle are both Navy veterans pursuing bachelor of science degrees in statistics.

Navy veterans John Lavelle and Jason McAllister have charted the same new career paths for themselves—both want to be statisticians.

Lavelle is in his second year of the undergraduate statistics program offered by Mason Engineering’s Department of Statistics. McAllister is in his first semester.

Although they’re headed in the same direction, they decided to pursue a BS in statistics for different reasons.

Lavelle, who worked in the intelligence field for four years in the Navy, says when he was searching for potential careers in math, he came across statistician, data scientist, and actuary.

“They all had the same thing in common—they need a lot of statistics,” he says. “I love math. I love solving problems mathematically. It’s like doing a big puzzle.”

McAllister, who was in the Navy for 14 years, noticed that statisticians play a key role in the health care company he works for now. “I met a couple of guys in my company who are stats guys, and it seems like everybody is always going to them to figure things out.”

He served as fire controlman in the Navy, maintaining and operating the radar and fire control system of the large guns on the front of the ship. He has an associate degree in electronics.

What impresses him most about the statistics department is the dedication of faculty such as assistant professor Elizabeth Johnson. “She presents the information in an understandable way. It is evident that she is passionate about the field.”

McAllister says he’s already using some of his new skills when hears sports statistics on TV. He finds himself saying, “That’s a great stat, but is the best one they could have used?”

When he has a question about a homework assignment, he consults with Lavelle, who is part of the engineering school’s peer mentor program. “John’s really helpful. I’ve emailed him on the weekends when I got stuck on problems, and he has been responsive to everything.”

Lavelle says he shares insights on things “I wish I had done.”

What he really likes about the statistics undergraduate program is that “the stats professors are extremely approachable,” Lavelle says. “They help anyone who needs help with the material. It feels like a family within the Volgenau School of Engineering.”

“I met a couple of guys in my company who are stats guys, and it seems like everybody is always going to them to figure things out.”

— Jason McAllister, statistics major

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