Nate Silver, an award-winning statistician, journalist and author, will visit William & Mary next month as the university’s Hunter B. Andrews Distinguished Fellow in American Politics.
He is the founder of FiveThirtyEight.com, an award-winning website that analyzes data, statistical studies, polls, election results, demographics and voting patterns to publish a running forecast on elections, current events, key policy issues and more. Now in partnership with ABC News, FiveThirtyEight.com allows Silver to contribute not only to election coverage but also a wide range of areas including politics, sports and science.
Silver will be on campus April 4-5 to meet with faculty, staff and students and to offer remarks and respond to questions. He is scheduled to speak to government classes, and he will do a public question and answer session Monday, April 4 at 7 p.m. at Tucker Hall Theater.
“William & Mary is delighted to host Nate Silver as the 2022 Hunter Andrews Fellow,” President Katherine A. Rowe said. “When we talk about the evolution of the liberal arts in the 21st century, his innovative career illustrates what’s possible: a Renaissance man, writing to a broad audience about questions that animate our society today – using the tools of statistics, mathematical modeling and great storytelling in pursuit of deeper wisdom. A journalist driven by restless curiosity to explore arenas as diverse as election history and prediction, sports, finance and climate change. A pioneer whose work has defined data journalism as we know it today.”
The fellowship was created in 1998 in honor of Hunter B. Andrews, a William & Mary alumnus and Board of Visitors member who died in 2005. During Andrews’ 32 years as a Virginia state senator, he served as its majority leader and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
Silver’s election forecasting system has been an accurate predictor in some of the recent U.S. presidential elections, including the 2012 election in which it correctly predicted the winner in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
“Mr. Silver’s work has reshaped the way we look at polling and statistical analysis leading up to elections,” said William & Mary Provost Peggy Agouris. “Data fluency is a core competency in the political, business and service worlds into which our students graduate; and Mr. Silver presents a fabulous example of how deeply understanding data can effectively decode our modern ecosystem. We are delighted to welcome him to the William & Mary campus, and I know our students will learn much from his visit.”
Silver originally gained a reputation for his predictive abilities as a baseball statistical analyst. In 2009, Time Magazine named him one of The World’s 100 Most Influential People.
FiveThirtyEight.com, named for the 538 electors in the U.S. Electoral College, won Webby Awards as the best political blog from the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences in 2012 and ’13.
“Nate Silver’s visit couldn’t be better timed,” said Wakefield Term Distinguished Associate Professor of Government Jaime Settle, who teaches a course that uses the programming language R to analyze data and communicate findings from that data. “Our students have worked so hard to improve their coding skills this semester and his visit will serve as a reminder and inspiration about the big picture importance of our endeavor.”
Silver is the author of a series of books on baseball statistics, which include “Mind Game”, “Baseball Between the Numbers”, and “It Ain’t Over ’til It’s Over”. His 2012 book, “The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail – But Some Don’t” reached The New York Times best seller list for nonfiction and was named the top nonfiction book that year by Amazon.com.
“It’s really exciting to have Nate Silver coming to campus,” W&M Government Professor John McGlennon said. “As someone who uses statistics so creatively in understanding politics and sports, he makes research come alive. We are hoping to get the benefit of his analysis to better understand the dynamics of the midterm elections, the art and science of redistricting and gerrymanders and legislative politics. Hopefully, he can show us how to predict the unpredictable world of pandemics, war and peace and the trajectory of our polarized politics. As a bonus, maybe we’ll get his insight on the NCAA finals, the fate of Major League Baseball in 2022 and how to pick your fantasy league lineup.”
Previous Andrews Fellows have included journalist and author David Brooks, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Tom Foley, journalist, author and Supreme Court scholar Linda Greenhouse; the late Virginia Sen. John Warner; former Virginia Gov. Gerald Baliles; Soledad O’Brien, award-winning journalist and documentarian; and political analyst Bill Kristol.
Nathan Warters, Communications Specialist