Q & A with Gloria Hou, Masters Student

Gloria Hou

Degree: MMA Master of Management Analytics

Year: 2021

Career: Incoming Data Science Associate at TD

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Gloria shares her experience as a TA (teaching assistant) during her undergraduate years. For Gloria, being a TA was the perfect combination of rewarding and fun, truly enriching her undergraduate experience in the Department of Statistical Sciences.


Let’s start with your background. Can you tell us where you are from and how you came to U of T?

I grew up in China, and I moved to Canada when I was 15. I lived in Victoria for a year in 12th grade, and then I came to Toronto for university at UofT.


What drew you specifically to the statistical science program at UofT?

When I first joined U of T, I was enrolled in the Social Sciences program. I focused a lot on courses like economics and mathematics, because I was planning to go for an economics degree and the statistics program. In my second year, I was pondering between the Statistics program and the Actuarial Science program. The first- and second-year courses for both programs were very similar, so I enrolled in courses that placed me within the actuarial science program.

During my time in a mentorship program organized by the U of T Statistics Department in my third year, I was able to find my niche in the world of actuarial science and turned towards the statistics program.  


What is something that you really appreciate about the statistics program at U of T?

The Statistics program provided me the opportunity to develop my analytical skills and problem-solving through the diversity of courses available. I really appreciated the flexibility and diversity in the course choices that are offered to you in the last two years of study.

Overall, I appreciated how the program allowed me to use statistics to explain and understand the things you see in everyday life. For example, when you are playing a poker game, such as Bridge, the probability theory allows you to vaguely calculate your chances of winning the game. For me, this was fascinating!


What is the process like to become a TA?
I became a TA in September 2019 and TA-ed for STA130 during the 2019-2020 school year. In the application process, you are given the choice to rank the courses that you would like to TA for, and what specific aspects of the of the role that you’re interested in applying for, such as leading tutorial, grading, holding office hours, or invigilating.

For me, it was a serendipitous that Professor Moon was also my professor for STA490 and the faculty advisor for the SLC that I was mentoring in. Also, the fact that I was the only Statistics Specialist student in STA490, among students in the applied Stats Program, might have caught Professor Moon’s attention. She ended up sending me an email after the first week of class asking me if I would like the potential opportunity to be a TA for STA130, so I took it!


What interested you in becoming a TA?

I believe that being a TA is a great experience to have as an undergrad, both for your personal and technical skills. When I joined the TA team, I got to meet other TAs from different disciplines such as Epidemiology, Mathematics, Computer Engineering, Risk Management. This really allowed me to further appreciate how versatile Statistics can be, and how people from different disciplines each have something valuable to offer in different aspects of the discipline.


Why did you decide that this was a good fit for you?

The first time that I felt that being a TA was a good fit for me was after having my first office hour. After spending time listening to students’ questions and guiding them through their inquiries, they showed a great gratitude for my help and support, which suddenly made me feel important. It felt rewarding.  


What made your experience as a TA unique?

It was the fact that I got to meet and work with other TAs during office hours that made this experience truly unique. My interactions with other TAs gave me the chance to get to know them and learn about different ways to approach specific challenges, such as explaining my thought process to students/audiences.


How did your experience as a TA enhance your experience as a statistics student?  

Being a TA definitely helped me appreciate the effort that the professors and TAs usually put into their work to support their students and respond to their inquiries.  


If you could describe your experience as a TA in three words, what would they be? Explain.  

Rewarding, learning, fun. It was rewarding because I enjoyed helping people and feeling appreciated for my time spent. It is also a good learning opportunity because I got access to engaging and insightful conversations that you wouldn’t normally get access to otherwise.  

If you had any words of wisdom/advice for other students looking to become Tas, what would they be?   

Think outside of the box, and don’t be bound by your imagination. By this I mean, to get from point A to point B, if the standard way doesn’t work, there’s always ways to go around it. You just need to think audaciously and be flexible.     


During your time in undergrad as a statistics student, what is something that you wish you knew that would have enhanced your experience?

I would have definitely liked to have joined the Statistics student union executive team, as they have access to a lot of industry related resources.   


What projects have you worked on? Are you currently working on something?  

Currently, I am working as an intern at a tech company, focusing on an AutoML related project. During the summer of 2020, I was working as a data analyst and performing clinical research for the Interactive Media Lab (IML).

What is one thing that people should know about you?

I constantly find myself interested in learning different things even if they are unrelated to my area of study. For example, I am currently learning Spanish as a third language. I am also video editing as I’m trying to reformat my podcast team. Additionally, I am also learning web development for fun, and for any potential opportunity to showcase something in the future.  


Interested in an undergraduate degree in statistics? Learn more about our diverse programs or connect with us at UofTStatSci@utstat.toronto.edu if you have any questions.
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Interview conducted by Mélina Lévesque
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