Applied Statistics and Research Methods Graduate Uses Data Science to Improve Victim Outcomes
When Broomfield, Colorado-based data executive Idilio Moncivais searched for a university where he could study applied statistics combined with research methods, he found the University of Northern Colorado — the only university in the state and one of few nationwide to offer the program he wanted. He began his studies at UNC in 2017, and since then, he’s earned an M.S. and Ph.D. in Applied Statistics and Research Methods.
“Data science is the perfect convergence of statistics and data analysis. In my team, we put science into data, follow the scientific method, go from general to particular, do experiments and test the hypothesis. That’s how you put science in the data,” said Moncivais, who works as director of financial intelligence and data architecture at Lumen Technologies.
Originally from Tijuana, Mexico, where he served 16 years in the army, Moncivais also is a Colorado Ranger. In the eight years he’s volunteered with the law enforcement agency, he’s been interested in improving outcomes. He combined his background in data analytics and law enforcement with a dissertation on domestic violence titled “Law Enforcement Efficacy in Domestic Violence Calls Based on the Responding Officer’s Experience, Training, and Scholarly Level.”
His research examined 400 officers’ education, experience and training in domestic violence. Typically certifications in domestic violence take about a week for officers to complete and cost police departments about $5,000 per training plus expenses and shift coverage for participating officers.
“Undoubtedly, an officer with advanced certifications in domestic violence is a predictor of a better outcome for domestic violence victims. There’s a pilot study with one law enforcement agency, and it’s my goal to extend that to other law enforcement agencies in the state and then nationwide,” Moncivais said.
The dissertation is an opportunity for graduate students to develop expertise in a domain of study, master research methods and contribute new knowledge to the educational community. Applied Statistics and Research Methods Department Chair and Assistant Professor Randy Larkins, who has seen a lot of dissertations, said Moncivais’ stood out.
“This is one of the most practical dissertations I’ve ever seen. Idilio wants to use what he’s discovered to try to help make domestic violence cases better for everybody. It’s a deep desire of his because domestic violence cases are bad for everybody — for the people involved and the officers who respond to them,” Larkins said.
The dissertation process involves a committee working together to help the student move from the concept stage to a final paper and presentation of its defense. Larkins and Associate Professors William Merchant, Chia-Lin Tsai and James Kole formed Moncivais’ committee.
“This committee worked extremely well together to help Idilio craft his final paper. Will and Chia-Lin were instrumental in helping him with the mechanics of analysis. James’ role was to act as the faculty representative who ensures that proper procedures have occurred. I guided the general direction of the paper, helped refine his research questions, taught the methods he could use to form his research and helped him prepare for the presentation of his final defense,” Larkins said.
During the years Moncivais worked on his dissertation, he and Larkins discussed it many times.
“Idilio was a master at utilizing his classes to learn more about his special topic of domestic violence from a police officer’s perspective. He was always very clear about the shape of the research he wanted, and we as a committee just helped him get there,” Larkins said.
Moncivais’ clarity about his direction began early on when he showed Larkins his unique plan of study: a spreadsheet filled with every class he’d take over the next several years. In addition to their work together on the dissertation, Larkins taught Moncivais in several classes, and Moncivais twice served as his teaching assistant.
Larkins said as a student, Moncivais took his assignments seriously and produced high-quality work. As a TA, he helped students set up their software and helped teach and grade.
“When he sees an opportunity, he takes it and makes the most out of it. He has a better understanding of what it’s like to work in higher education because he took advantage of that situation,” Larkins said.
Moncivais plans to continue to teach in an adjunct capacity at UNC next spring. The program’s flexibility helped him complete his studies while tending to his work and volunteer responsibilities.
“If you’re a working adult, which is most of us in grad school, this is a great option,” Moncivais said.
While he’s already well positioned in his career, Moncivais said the additional degrees he earned from UNC provided him with greater prestige and credibility.
— written by Brenda Gillen