Shirley Mills, Distinguished Service Award 2015

Shirley Mills
Distinguished Service Award

Professor Shirley Mills is the recipient of the 2015 Distinguished Service Award from the Statistical Society of Canada (SSC). This award honors an individual who has played an important and substantial role in fostering the growth and success of the Canadian Statistical Sciences community through leadership in the SSC.

Shirley graduated from the University of Manitoba in 1969 with a Double Honours degree in Mathematics and Statistics with additional studies in Actuarial Science and Computer Science. This was followed by both a Masters degree in Statistics in 1970 and a Certificate in Education in 1971, also from the University of Manitoba. After a brief sojourn at Great West Life as an actuary, she taught at the University of Winnipeg in 1971-80 and at the University of Alberta in 1978-79 and 1981-83. She received her PhD in Statistics and Applied Probability from the University of Alberta in 1983 and moved to join Carleton University in September 1983. In 1987 she founded the Statistical Consulting Centre at Carleton, serving as its first Director for seven years while continuing with her professorial work. Her career has encompassed all areas of statistics, beginning as a mathematical statistician, progressing through all areas of applied statistics and currently involved in the broad field of Data Science.

Shirley is currently in her 44th year as a professor and has influenced the lives of many students, in many cases encouraging them to follow careers in statistics. She has received teaching awards from the University of Manitoba, the University of Winnipeg and from Carleton University. Shirley's love of, and expertise in, teaching is demonstrated by the more than 80 graduate students that she has supervised - with many of them going on to international positions that involve significant statistical content. Her graduate course on Data Mining, started 20 years ago, foreshadowed the need for statisticians to work with massive data and to develop methodologies to handle it. This course has proven to be highly popular with students. Her course notes are widely in use and a co-authored book on this topic is currently in progress. In addition, she has co-authored several books concerned with public health issues of considerable importance. Her publication record includes many papers that reflect her interest in the application of statistics to societal issues of current relevance, for example, alcohol abuse, cannabis use, work-family stress, air pollution, privacy-preserving data mining.

Shirley has been active in the SSC in a wide variety of roles. Shirley's involvement in SSC activities dates to the early 1970s when she helped to found the Statistical Association of Manitoba, a Regional Association of the SSC , and became its first Treasurer. In Ottawa she served on the Executive of another SSC regional association, the Statistical Society of Ottawa, as Secretary and as President. She was Executive Secretary of the SSC from 1990-94 and has also served as Secretary of the BISS Section of the SSC. Since 2011 she has been the Executive Director of the SSC and, in that position, has been instrumental in a number of key developments for the SSC. It is notable that Shirley has served as Executive Director of the SSC during the term of several Presidents, each of whom having asked her to continue in that role. She has been the SSC representative, and served as Chair, of the COPSS Committee for the Elizabeth Scott Award. She also served as the SSC representative to the Canadian Consortium on Research and has been, and continues to be, a member of numerous SSC committees.

Shirley's distinguished service extends well beyond the SSC. She has a distinguished record of service to the statistical and wider academic community. At Carleton University she served as Salary Chair, as a member of the bargaining team, and as President of the Carleton University Academic Staff Association, was elected by the Science Faculty as their representative to Carleton's Senate and was elected by Senate as its representative on the Carleton Board of Governors, where she served on its Executive, Audit, Nominating and University Relations committees. Currently she represents academic staff as a member of the University Pension Committee and serves on a number of other key university committees. During the Ontario Social Contract, she was Co-Chair of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Association's Bargaining Team. During 1996-2002 she served as Treasurer on the Executive of the Canadian Association of University Teachers. She has also chaired the Canadian Section of the Caucus for Women in Statistics. She has headed the Co-op program in the School of Mathematics and Statistics at Carleton for many years and has been instrumental in matching students and employers. She has consulted widely for government and industry and played a number of roles in the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) and sister agencies. Throughout her career she has promoted statistics as a profession, worked for the accreditation of statisticians and served as a role model for women in statistics.

Recently the SSC established an office in Ottawa and hired its first staff person; Shirley was instrumental in facilitating this development. The establishment of the SSC office represents an important milestone as the size and complexity of SSC activities has become such that sole reliance on volunteers is no longer possible. In effect, the office will enable the SSC to better serve its members and help to develop the SSC's voice for the statistical discipline and the profession in Canada.

Another key development for the SSC occurred during Shirley's term as Executive Director. As a result of changes in federal legislation, in order for the SSC to continue as a not-for-profit organization in Canada, the SSC was required to adopt new Articles of Continuance (i.e. "new" Letters Patent) under which the SSC is incorporated and to do a complete re-write of the SSC Bylaws that govern the organization. The complexity involved in establishing compliance with not-for-profit legislation and with rules regarding charities was at times daunting and stressful for all involved, but Shirley handled this with admirable equanimity and a successful outcome was achieved. Her management of this process was well above what one might expect from a volunteer and demonstrates her dedication to the affairs of the SSC.

The citation for the award reads: 


"To Shirley Mills, for important contributions to the SSC and the Canadian statistics community as Executive Director and Executive Secretary of SSC, SSC representative and Chair of the COPSS Committee for the Elizabeth Scott Award, Secretary of BISS, President of the Statistical Society of Ottawa; for service on numerous SSC committees over the span of four decades; for notable accomplishments during her term as Executive Director, and for a career of service and dedication to the development of statistics and statisticians in Canada."