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Charles Cwiek Came to Haslam to Learn Statistics But Stayed to Teach Analytics

May 1, 2018

Charles Cwiek came to the Haslam College of Business in 1978 as an undergraduate student in statistics and stayed to attend graduate school.

After two years as a graduate assistant, Cwiek realized he enjoyed teaching. His area of expertise in statistics was (and remains) quality control and statistical process control, which dovetailed with Practical Strategies for Process Improvement, a three-week seminar hosted at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

“It was a well-known seminar for the subject area, recommended by quality control guru W. Edwards Deming,” Cwiek says. “I wanted to get involved, but everyone teaching in it had a PhD, so I didn’t think there was much hope.”

As Cwiek prepared to graduate, he asked his professors if he could stay for one more year to teach undergraduate courses and help with the seminar. It was 1985, the year after a new computer had been introduced — the Macintosh.

“They asked me to learn how to operate it to create notes for the seminar,” he says. “I understood the subject matter well and could figure out computers, so I did graphics work while continuing to teach undergraduate statistics courses.”

That year was a success, and the department asked Cwiek to stay.

“I’ve been on a year to year appointment ever since then,” he says. “At some points, it was a difficult decision to stay, but I ultimately realized my love for teaching could make a big impact.”

In 2000, the college honored Cwiek with the Allen H. Keally Outstanding Teaching Award.

Over the past few decades, Cwiek taught graduate and executive education courses and remained involved with the undergraduate program, helping to facilitate its integration with business analytics.

“Data had become much cheaper to gather and store, and companies started collecting huge quantities, but they didn’t know what to do with it,” he says. “It made sense for us to update our program to respond to the increased need for analytics in business.”

Today, Cwiek serves as director of the undergraduate program in business analytics, which has grown steadily since its introduction in 2013.

“We’ve increased the rigor of the program because we want to be an elite major in the college,” says Cwiek. “Ultimately, our goal is to teach students to identify the right problems, use analytics to solve them, and be able to clearly communicate findings to business leaders.”