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Professor Lane-Getaz speaks at annual Mellby Lecture

Lucy Woods - Attendees

Professor of Statistics and Education Sharon Lane-Getaz spoke on Mar. 1 for the 40th annual Mellby Lecture. Lane-Getaz will retire at the end of the semester after teaching statistics and education for over a decade. Her lecture, “The Long, Winding Road of a Career”, examined Getaz’s 40-year-long career as an IBM engineer turned field of statistics education’s pioneer. 

The Mellby Lecture Series began as a memorial to the longtime faculty member and administrator Carl Mellby, who worked at the College from 1901 to 1949. His devotion to an interdisciplinary education motivates the preservation of the lecture series as well as his legacy. The Faculty Life Committee honors his successors among junior and senior St. Olaf faculty by inviting them to reflect on their own scholarly work and developments in their academic fields in this lecture series. 

In Fall 2022, Lane-Getaz became the first Black woman in St. Olaf history to receive the title of professor. During her speech, she shouted out Professor Emeritus of Music Anton Armstrong, who is currently on sabbatical, for recommending her for the position of professor. She then told her life story, starting with her family life as the “first of the last three” in one of the first free historically Black communities in the United States. 

Lane-Getaz went on to discuss her education and early career working at IBM. She took extra time to describe her life in Georgia, working for IBM while involved in Feminist and Lesbian activist music ensembles. One of the most special moments in her life, according to Lane-Getaz, was when she looked out at the crowd while singing a duet at the 1993 March on Washington for Gay Rights. Her career as an educator also began during this time period as she taught classes to new IBM employees. 

After realizing her passion for teaching, Lane-Getaz shifted to teaching middle and high school statistics and mathematics in Minneapolis. As her reputation grew, she was invited to work on a new statistics education program at the University of Minnesota. When she completed this program, Lane-Getaz began teaching at St. Olaf College and continuing her research on student comprehension of the p-value through the use of the revolutionary RPASS evaluations. She has also found satisfaction in group mentoring students in the POSSE 4 group and data STEM scholars, who she continues to learn from to this day. 

Lane-Getaz’s work has brought her to present research worldwide, although she still hopes to travel more, mentioning a potential trip to France with other faculty members. She lives on a small farm in Northfield with her “Best Friend Forever from High School,” Betsy. Their daughter graduated from St. Olaf in May 2022 with Lane-Getaz leading the faculty procession.

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