Kenneth O. Bjork Distinguished Professor

Established in 2006 by the Board of Regents, this chair recognizes Kenneth O. Bjork who taught history at St. Olaf from 1937 until 1974 and who served as editor for the Norwegian American Historical Society (NAHA) from 1960 to 1980. Dr. Bjork is the author of Saga in Steel and Concrete; Norwegian Engineers in America and West of the Great Divide: Norwegian Migration to the Pacific Coast, 1847-1893. Dr. Bjork is one of several long-time servants of the College whom the Board has chosen to recognize for distinguished teaching, professional work, and service to the college and community. The first holder of the Kenneth O. Bjork Distinguished Professor Chair was Martha Wallace, Department of Mathematics, followed by Gary Stansell, Department of Religion, Charles Wilson, Department of Religion, James May, Department of Classics, and Corliss Swain, Department of Philosophy, and Paul Roback, Professor of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science.

Current Chair:  Paul Roback, Professor of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science

Paul Roback ’89 is a professor of statistics and data science in St. Olaf College’s Department of Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science. After graduating from St. Olaf and earning his master’s of science degree at Iowa State University, Roback first worked as a clinical statistician in the pharmaceutical industry and then completed his Ph.D. in statistics at Colorado State University. He joined the Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science faculty in 2003. While at St. Olaf, Roback has served as the program director for Statistics and Data Science and as the director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Research.

Roback co-authored the textbook, Beyond Multiple Linear Regression: Applied Generalized Linear Models and Multilevel Models in R, and has published 24 papers. Reflecting on the opportunity statisticians have to “play in everyone’s backyard,” these papers have appeared in journals as diverse as The American Statistician, Journal of Hospital Administration, Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports, Journal of Social Service Research, Conservation Biology, and Archives of General Psychiatry. Roback has also supervised more than 100 students in undergraduate research projects, many resulting in presentations at local and national venues.

Roback is a Fellow of the American Statistical Association (ASA) and past chair of the ASA Section on Statistics and Data Science Education. He has helped St. Olaf acquire National Science Foundation (NSF) grants to fund data-driven interdisciplinary research that pairs statistics students with faculty and staff and a National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to fund student research into the tuberculosis genome, as well as local grants to support the development of new courses in data science.