Could you introduce yourself and tell me a bit about your background?

My name is Jean Remy Habimana, and I’m an Assistant Professor of Statistics. I’m in the Math and Computer Science Department. Before I came here, I was doing my Ph.D. at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, which is also where I did my master’s degree. My master’s is in statistics. My Ph.D. is in mathematics with a concentration in statistics. Before that, I attended college in Rwanda, where I am originally from, and my degree was in applied mathematics.

Why did you want to be a statistics professor?

When I was still young, I always wanted to be a teacher because my parents were teachers. Back in Rwanda, educators have a very high social impact. A teacher in our community was someone to look to when you were seeking advice, when you had questions, or you needed help because I grew up in a village where most people didn’t have a high school diploma. The power of being a teacher is to help the community by being involved in people’s lives. So I always had the desire to be a teacher, and I chose statistics because I loved it, I loved math, and I love to see mathematics applied in real life. Becoming a professor appealed to me more when I became a graduate student because my graduate assignment was to teach. So when I was completing my Ph.D., I had already experienced the joy of being a professor and teaching statistics.

How did you hear about Southwestern, and why did you want to work here?

I heard about Southwestern for the first time from a friend in Arkansas when I was applying for jobs. I told them that I was looking for a small school with a good community and that I wanted to move to Texas because I have family here, and they told me about Southwestern University. I loved Southwestern before I realized they had an opening. When I was researching, I noticed Southwestern values diversity, and they already have policies in place to make the community more inclusive. In addition to that, I was also attracted by small class sizes. In bigger classes, you don’t get to know your students as well; when a student misses a class, you don’t notice. When I saw the professor-to-student ratio (11:1) here, I thought, wow, I want that because I’d love to get to know my students more, how they feel and think about things, and it will help me interact with them. Then when I looked for a job opening here, they had one! It was destiny.

What classes do you teach?

Right now, I’m teaching introduction to statistics, and I’m teaching Probability and Mathematical Statistics. Next semester I’m going to develop a new course called Data Analytics.

How have you enjoyed your time at Southwestern thus far?

It’s been a really good time. One thing I’ve enjoyed, which was one of the main reasons I was convinced to come, is the community of other faculty members. It’s a caring community where people care about one another. I’ve loved the students here and enjoyed interacting with them as well. The students are open to talking to you about what’s going on in their lives, so you get to interact with them and know how they are doing. They come to my office with a challenge and ask questions, and when I speak to them, they respond with an eagerness to learn. That makes me feel like I’m doing what I came here to do. It makes me enjoy my job.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

When I get off work, you will notice my wife and two kids will be there to pick me up. And before that, they will call me saying, Daddy, where are you? Where are you? So, when I get home, the first thing I do is just play with my kids. I walk around with my family, play, go outside, and spend time together. To have more fun, we include our friends. So spending time with my family and friends, walk around, go to a playground for kids, or walk the trails, and just enjoying the weather when it’s nice.

What is something students would be surprised to learn about you?

I used to be a great soccer player. When I was in high school, I was selected to play on a national level among students from high schools all over the country. My dad loves soccer a lot, and he was so proud of me. But he sat me down and said, you will make a hard choice. You are going to have to choose soccer, or you choose school. My parents wanted me to study mathematics and physics, and I tried to persuade my dad that I could do both. But he told me that I couldn’t do math, physics, and play soccer. So, he told me to choose. He said you are going to quit playing soccer professionally and study math and physics. But, if you choose soccer, you choose something else that is not science. Because sciences are very competitive in Rwandan high schools, students do not have enough time for professional sports. I was devastated. Ending my soccer career was a hard choice. Because my dad was an educator, he knew how to deal with students, so he gave me a choice to make me feel good, like I was the one making the decision. But, back home, you don’t argue with your parents, and you do what they say.

Is there anything I haven’t asked that you would like people to know about you?

I decided to teach here and convinced my wife that this was the right place to go because of how I was treated in my interviews, especially the on-site interview. They treated me with care and respect. I remember the feeling I had sitting in this office during the interview, and I could tell the people were so nice and wanted me to be there. I saw that this is a very nice community. When I returned to Arkansas after the interview, my wife looked at me and said you’re so happy. When I recently went back to Rwanda for a funeral, my peers covered all my classes for three weeks, and that’s the kind of community you want to be in and the people you want to surround yourself with.

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