Academics / Community

Dr. B: A statistically impressive addition to Dana Hall

Dr. Alla Nikolaevna (pronounced: NIK-A-LY-VNA) Baranovsky is the newest member of Dana Hall’s math department. Dr. Baranovsky, who goes by Dr. B for short, teaches AP Statistics, Intro to Calculus and Statistics, and Algebra 2 with Applications. She is also an adviser to 10th-graders and the faculty advisor to the Dana Hall Model UN team. 

A passion of Dr. B is her family and it is the one thing that brings her the most joy. She is currently the mother of four children: three biological children, aged three, nine, and 11, and one foster daughter, aged three. She and her husband have had as many as three foster children at a time in addition to their three biological children, making Dr. B the mother to six children at the time. The Baranovsky family has two dogs, three cats, and two guinea pigs. Previously they have also had chickens, which Dr. B enjoyed. While she admits that, at times, her home life can feel like a zoo, she wouldn’t want it any other way. 

Dr. B grew up in Russia in a town called Novgorod, which she describes as a very historic place, as it is where Russia is said to have started. It has lots of ancient churches and a picturesque fortress that goes around the city; however, she also found it to be very provincial, which is why she chose to move to St. Petersburg for college. 

Ironically, Dr. B’s earliest memory of mathematics and statistics is not liking it. She comes from a family that was not quantitively oriented, and so Dr. B credits her original pursuit of mathematics to trying to rebel against her family. 

Dr. B’s father was a journalist and newspaper editor. Her mother did work in the retouching of photography (as it was done by hand at the time). Dr. B claims that her family would “make fun of anyone who was quantitatively oriented and so when [she] wanted to learn economics in high school, they tried to convince [her] she was meant to go into journalism instead.”

While her parents didn’t necessarily support her choice of major, it is clear that education to the highest degree was a value they held as Dr. B received her Bachelor’s degree in State and Municipal Management from St. Petersburg State University for Engineering and Economics in 2003, and a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from Drew University in 2009. Then she went on to earn her Master’s degree in Regional Studies from Harvard University in 2012 and her Doctorate of Philosophy in Government in 2020, also from Harvard University. 

Receiving a doctorate or a terminal degree has always been a life goal of Dr. B’s. She values education and is proud of this accomplishment because it means she is producing original research, something that no one has ever thought of before, and is participating in an academic conversation with a particular audience. She believes having a doctorate is also a testament to one’s perseverance. 

Dr. B’s teaching profession began at Harvard University, serving as a professor for about six years. She has also taught as a visiting lecturer at Brown University. 

While she enjoyed her time at both universities, Dr. B longed for more opportunities to connect with her students. She wanted to work at an institution where she could be more embedded and “get to know students before they became worried about getting Goldman Saks internships and others of its like.” She wanted to make an impact on students early on, which is what led her to Dana Hall.

Dr. B came to Dana Hall intending to build relationships with her students because she believes it is important to recognize that “every student is different… each student has different interests, learning styles, motivations.”

Dr. B appreciates that she can “be at an institution where we can work with data sets about male insecurity and not raise any eyebrows. I like that I can do work on social justice aspects of statistics and also not get any pushback for that.” 

As someone who doesn’t give up easily, Dr. B is happy to have already formed strong relationships with students in her class but still feels she doesn’t know as many students outside of her classroom as she could. She plans to continue to work on this endeavor. 

Dr. B began her journey at Dana Hall as the substitute teacher for the previous math department head, Ms. Alden Derr, who was out on maternity leave. Dr. B feels that Dana Hall spoiled her, so much so that when she decided to make the career switch, she did not look anywhere other than Dana Hall for open positions. She appreciates the independence given to faculty, and also, as someone who loves nature, she enjoys the walks she takes around campus.

In typical statistics teacher fashion, Dr. B loves to do any tinkering with large data sets found within her everyday life. She also loves baking, drawing, learning new languages, and reading. While she doesn’t have a favorite book, her favorite author, who she has continuously read for many years, is Ta-Nehshi Coates.

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