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Applied Statistics Master’s Student Wins Prestigious Scholarship

Mervin Woodlin Jr.'s Ellis R. Ott Scholarship Award recognizes academic excellence and leadership in applied statistics projects.


Mervin Woodlin

VILLANOVA, Pa. - Current Villanova University Applied Statistics master’s student Mervin Woodlin Jr. won the 2020 Ellis R. Ott Scholarship Award from the American Society for Quality. The scholarship, worth $7,500, is given to only one master’s and one PhD student in the country each year.

“Earning this scholarship is quite an achievement, as it required evidence of both academic excellence and leadership in applied statistics projects,” says Paul Bernhardt, PhD, Villanova Applied Statistics Graduate Director. “Having taught Mervin in class and having advised him on two statistical projects aiming to better understand the effects of uniformed police officers in schools and sleep quality on high school student performance, I knew that he would be an excellent candidate for the award. Along with the rest of the faculty in the Applied Statistics Graduate Program, I wholeheartedly congratulate Mervin for earning this recognition.”

To apply for the scholarship, Woodlin had to submit his transcripts, write an essay about his work in statistics and career aspirations, and provide two letters of recommendation, which were a significant factor his selection, Woodlin notes. “I am extremely grateful to my Villanova professors and to the Lord Jesus Christ for being a recipient of this award.”

In offering congratulations on the award, Emory Woodard, PhD, Dean of Graduate Studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, commented, “Mervin is to be commended not only for his scholastic excellence but also his resiliency as he achieved such a feat despite the challenges we are all facing.”

Woodlin is a math and statistics teacher at Abraham Lincoln High School in Philadelphia. He earned a Master of Arts in Mathematics from Villanova in 2018 and decided to continue with the Master of Science in Applied Statistics after taking Dr. Bernhardt’s statistical methods class while pursuing his MA degree.

“I have a passion for teaching statistics,” says Woodlin, who is petitioning his principal and department chair to start an AP Statistics course. “With my math background, and now with my coursework in statistics, I can better connect mathematical theory with the application in statistics. My students are starting to see these connections, which is very gratifying for a teacher!”

While he loves teaching and has no plans to change careers, Woodlin says that his master’s degrees position him well for an analytics job in almost any field.

He chose Villanova to pursue his master’s degrees, in part, because of its reputation, the flexibility of the program for working professionals and the tuition discount for teachers. Once he began his studies at Villanova, he quickly realized that the biggest benefit was the support of the Villanova faculty.

“They know their stuff; they are helpful and open; and they understand what life is like for graduate students trying to balance their studies, family life and their jobs,” Woodlin says.

A self-described “sports geek,” Woodlin’s first Villanova experience was a high school enrichment program in which he met the late former Villanova professor Tom Short, PhD. Woodlin enjoyed talking about sports statistics with Dr. Short, who invited Woodlin to help him take stats for the now-defunct Philadelphia Charge women’s professional soccer team that played their home games at Villanova Stadium.

Woodlin began his college career at Temple University before transferring to Virginia State where he earned his bachelor’s degree. Woodlin grew up in the Germantown section of Philadelphia and recently moved to Glenside with his wife, Peta-Gaye, and their three children.

About Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences: Since its founding in 1842, Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has cultivated knowledge, understanding and intellectual courage for a purposeful life in a challenged and changing world. With 39 majors across the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences, it is the oldest and largest of Villanova’s colleges, serving more than 4,500 undergraduate and graduate students each year. The College is committed to a teacher-scholar model, offering outstanding undergraduate and graduate research opportunities and a rigorous core curriculum that prepares students to become critical thinkers, strong communicators and ethical leaders with a truly global perspective.