‘You’re a superwoman’ – Mom of seven becomes first Black person to get Ph.D. in Survey Methodology

Ama Nunoo April 23, 2021
Dr. Alena Maze is 35, the first Black person with a Ph.D. in her field. Photo: MAZELEE/Facebook

It is true that not all superheroes wear capes because Alena Maze juggled raising her seven children, married life and vlogging to be the first Black person in the world to earn a Ph.D. in Survey Methodology. She recently shared the news on Facebook after successfully defending her dissertation.

Maze was aware her research will help balance statistics during surveys so that all ethnic minority groups will be accurately represented. What she was not aware of was that she will be making Black history after putting in the work for nearly five to six years to complete her doctorate.

“Never did I think [this]…would lead me to being a ‘first’ in Black history. After 5-6 years of hard research, I spent the last three months shut up in my office space, focused only on two things; finishing my variance derivations and estimations,” Maze shared via Facebook. 

Representation matters. It does not apply to only one aspect of life but all facets. Surveys and statistics are used by researchers to help make the world a better place, be it finding a cure for a virus such as COVID-19, reducing homelessness, or how a disease affects humans.

Maze earned a Master of Science degree in Mathematics from Georgetown University, then went on to pursue her Ph.D. in Survey Methodology and Statistics from the University of Maryland, College Park. The 35-year-old got lots of questions with regards to what her contribution to the field as a Survey Statistician would mean and she broke it down.

She explained that she researches the math behind surveys. “Suppose we want more information on how diabetes affects women ages 30-40, in order to develop better treatment courses. Well in a perfect world, we would like to send out a survey (i.e., a serious of questions) to all women ages 30-40 with diabetes,” Maze wrote. “However this is not practical for many reasons. So instead we chose a smaller group (called a sample), say 2,000 women from that same population to represent the whole population of 30-40 year old women with diabetes.”

She further explained that there are two major ways math is used. “1. To create a good sample that is representative of the whole population. A lot of this math problem is finding enough race/eth and socioeconomic diversity in non White participants (Hispanics, Blacks, Asians, etc) that will participate in the survey. Believe it or not it’s a big math problem,” Maze continued in her post. “2. To make estimates from that smaller group of 2,000 women that gives good estimates to the questions of the survey ( e.g., the proportion of women who exercise 3 times a week ) that are close to the estimate we would get is we had answers to the survey from everyone,” Maze shared on their family page, MAZELEE, which has 2.5 million Facebook followers.

Maze is married to Korean-American Joseph Lee. She had four children from a previous relationship and has three kids with Lee.

The mother of seven manages and produces content for their family socials especially their cinevlogs or cinematic vlogs where they transparently share their successes and struggles as a multicultural blended family while navigating the dynamics of a Black and Korean relationship.

Maze said she is grateful to God for her recent feat. Many have also congratulated her. “Dr. Maze, you’re such an inspiration to me and I am so proud of you,” Cameryn Conner wrote on Maze’s Facebook page. “Being an amazing mother to those babies and still reaching for the stars!! You’re a superwoman and it means so much that I can see someone that looks like me achieving so much.

“Thank you for sharing your journey! Congratulations! You deserve this. An entire Queen!”

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Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: April 23, 2021


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