Arthur Kirsch

Dr. Arthur Kirsch

Faculty: Emeriti

Professor Emeritus, Department of Statistics and Department of Psychology

Professor Arthur Kirsch was born in Washington, DC in 1932.  Though a self-described “stateless person,” Kirsch’s rich history with George Washington University began as a teenager, attending university basketball and football games since the age of 13.  He entered GW as a pre-med major, recalling fondly a time when credit hours cost a mere 13 dollars per hour. Initially he pursued the study of chemistry and physics, yet his course of study shifted when he approached a new field.  Professor Kirsch recalls, “I took some psychology courses, and I said, ‘That’s more fun.’”

Kirsch immediately enrolled in graduate school and moved quickly through a doctoral program in psychology at Purdue University, passing his comprehensive exams, publishing five articles, and completing his PhD all within two years.  Balancing his interests in psychology and statistics, Kirsch did not have initial designs on teaching and instead pursued a career in consulting.  He began his career as the Director of Technical Research at Gallup and Robinson, Inc., directing all custom research projects and internal quality control.  Indeed, before coming to George Washington as a member of the faculty, Kirsch also worked for the National Security Agency, American Research Bureau, and Datatrol Corporation.

During this time, Professor Kirsch did not limit his efforts to social research.  “Once I got back to DC,” he explains “I was always teaching one course at night or on Saturday for GW.  And I suddenly realized that I really liked this.”  In 1965, he made the decision to transition to teaching full-time, approaching Dr. Solomon Kullback, the chairman of the Department of Statistics at George Washington and one of the original code breakers during World War II, and attaining a position in the department and receiving tenure in 1971.

According to Professor Kirsch, his research has primarily grown out of directing doctoral dissertations.  “I was on a great number of dissertation committees, [including] engineering administration, education, psychology, sociology, political science.  Because anyone who’s doing anything quantitative wanted somebody whom they felt would tell them the truth.  And when they made me happy, they knew their committee was going to be happy.”

Professor Kirsch has taken advantage of his District location and pursued a career in survey analysis that combined research, teaching, and consulting for more than 40 organizations. In terms of his contributions via consulting, he notes, for example, how his involvement in a particular National Institute of Health project on orphan drugs helped to change laws.  Kirsch notes with a smile, “I was classified as an expert by the government.  I was in several law cases, certified as an expert [witness].  So I’m an expert consultant.  Nice title.”

However, Professor Kirsch continually brought this “live data and live examples” from his consulting work into the classroom.  He explains, “I think it made my classes much more interesting than they would have been had I just been teaching from a textbook.”  Indeed, this approach – shaped by his training in psychology – defined his teaching style and approach to research throughout his tenure at George Washington. 

Yet, it is Professor Kirsch’s long running relationship with and pride in the George Washington University community that has truly shaped his contributions as a professor and a university colleague. For example, reflecting on the legacy of George Washington’s professors and his tenure as chairman of the Department of Statistics, Kirsch says, “We had a feeling that grew each year that GW wasn’t just okay, but it was a really good school.  The pride of the professors in being here, not as a second choice, but as a first choice, really increased every year.”  He also enjoyed serving on the Faculty Senate as well as “growing up the next generation of students.”  Indeed, he cites George Washington as one of his favorite places in the District and never misses a GW basketball game. From his involvement in teaching and administration as a department chairman, he has truly come to know the university as a vibrant and intelligent community of scholars, administrators, and students. 

Education

B.A., Psychology, The George Washington University, 1955
M.S., Purdue University, Psychology, 1956
Ph.D., Purdue University, Applied Social Psychology, 1957