In this month’s OIT Spotlight, we meet Machiko Hollifield, the SMU Statistical Software Support Specialist for Academic Technology Services. As Machiko says, “I’m here to build partnerships to help them do more than ever before.”
Who are you? What do you do? Where are you from?
My name is Machiko Hollifield, I’ve worked at Southern Methodist University for many years and have provided a wide array of services from basic technology support to advanced statistical software programming for faculty researchers utilizing statistical software solutions like SAS. While I’ve enjoyed helping Cox faculty and students with general technology support, joining the Academic Technology Services team has offered me the opportunity to return to what I enjoy most, supporting researchers who depend upon statistical software consultation and programming. I came to SMU in 1996 and have primarily served the Cox School of Business before moving into my statistical software support role for campus OIT in 2015.
How did you become interested in statistical programming?
I’ve always loved both statistics and working with faculty. I started working as a SAS programmer at Duke University Medical Center in 1978. Then I worked at Brandeis University in 1990 as a statistical programmer leveraging both SAS and SPSS. After a brief stay in 1992 at the Institute National D’Etudes Demographiques in Paris, France, I joined Auburn University’s SAS support team until I moved to Dallas in 1996.
What is your job at SMU?
My job is to advance the capabilities of faculty and students with technology. As the Academic Technology Services team’s Statistical Software Support Specialist, I provide statistical technology consultation and programming that helps researchers, faculty, and students achieve desired research goals whatever they might be. I am expert in database management programming utilizing SAS and SPSS–but I have recently expanded my portfolio to include R, as more and more faculty and students require R support.
How can your experience help faculty?
From years of working as a statistical programmer, I’ve been able to develop an ability to take complex research objectives and help develop SAS and SPSS solutions which help faculty and student researchers alike. I enjoy solving problems. Typically I’ve found that faculty simply need someone who can help keep them informed of software changes and upgrades and someone who they can talk to about research problems who can help them identify the most effective path to reaching desired objectives. More often than not, SMU’s researchers know exactly what they want but sometimes run into problems with coding and programming which requires a second set of eyes. I assist faculty to design and implement various data analysis solutions which can be specific to any type of course. I believe that researchers–both faculty and graduate students need not just technical help–benefit from relationships. My door is always open to researchers, and I’m always looking for open doors.
What are some recent examples of the type of specializations you offer faculty and graduate students?
- Building SAS macros to help aggregate and analyze diverse data sets
- Writing specific programming to implement various regression models
- Conducting stratified regression analyses
- Developing statistical models to help researchers design and write grant proposals
What are some of the challenges you are facing in research technology at SMU?
Perhaps the greatest challenges I face is are communication and change. Since I’m located in a basement office in the Cox School of Business, my greatest challenge is simply letting SMU research faculty know that I’m here! I’m working with my Academic Technology Services team colleagues to help promote my services throughout campus. Faculty will not be able to benefit from my services if they do not know I am here to help. Change is the other major challenge faced by researchers. As research and computational technologies change so rapidly, the research community struggles to keep current with the various upgrades, software versions and programming changes which impact day-to-day activities. Even technology people can struggle to keep pace with change! Ultimately, I want everyone to know I’m here and that I’m here to help both faculty and students with statistical software such as SAS, SPSS, and R.
What’s next for SMU statistical software support for you? What goals do you have to improve services in the year ahead?
In the year ahead, I need to work on communicating and evangelizing how I can help advance statistical software and technology services to faculty and students. There’s so much more that faculty and students could be doing with SAS and R and as I work to build relationships with SMU’s research community, I hope to advance research capabilities. Above all, I want SMU’s researchers to know that I’m here to build partnerships to help them do more than ever before. I’ll be focusing my outreach services to build new software affinity groups and user communities – such as “R users” and “SAS users” and “SPSS users” so that I can develop an idea of the specific support, training, and coaching I can refine and provide. I’d also love to help faculty researchers “get started” in taking their computational research to the next level by taking advantage of HPC and M2.
How should faculty contact you?
As always, faculty can schedule a specific appointment with me through the IT Help Desk, as this provides a good way for faculty to keep track of the status of my response! I also don’t mind if faculty contact me directly at 214.768.3850 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.