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Statistical Community Service: What Role Can Students Play?

1 December 2009 1,865 views No Comment

The Word Is …
The following are testimonials given by two former StatCom members:
“To someone contemplating creating a volunteer student-run consulting service like StatCom, I would say two words: ‘Do it!’ The benefits to the university, the department, and the students are great. It is my impression that StatCom was a unifying force in the department. It brought the students together, and I perceived an increase in the faculty’s respect for the students’ contributions. A statistical consulting service that provides free service to local nonprofit groups yields many tangible and intangible benefits.”
Craig Johnson, Professor, Mathematics Department, Brigham Young University-Idaho and Former StatCom Director at Purdue University

    “I was a member of StatCom for four semesters while an MS (applied statistics) student. It had always been my intention to obtain employment after my degree, and it was important for me to have a broad range of experiences in the application of statistics for that purpose. In addition to strengthening my résumé, I saw StatCom as a way to gain practical experience in using statistics for real-life situations.”
    Patricia Yoshida, Statistician, Analytics Group, Affinnova, Inc. and Former StatCom Project Manager at Purdue University

    In 2006, StatCom conducted a follow-up study to assess outcomes of the project by interviewing six of the community leaders involved in the project. These discussions resulted in recommendations, including the addition of street lights with banners, the establishment of a farmers’ market, the improvement of sidewalks and landscaping, and a marketing effort for new sit-down restaurants.

    An additional function of the StatCom program at Purdue is to provide educational outreach to the P–12 educational community. StatCom members design and lead statistics-based activities for local schools and community events to educate younger students about the value of statistics. The P–12 program benefits graduate and undergraduate students who wish to pursue educational careers and gives them experience working with others to explain difficult concepts. In this way, StatCom members are helping to train a more statistically educated generation of students.

    StatCom Across the Nation

    If you are you interested in developing a StatCom program at your college or university, StatCom at Purdue University can help. In 2006, StatCom was awarded an ASA member initiative grant to help other universities and institutions begin student-driven pro bono statistical consulting programs. The goal is to form a StatCom network that will serve as a resource to local governmental and nonprofit community groups across the nation, as well as to connect student statisticians who are devoting time to service-oriented consulting. So far, StatCom programs have been developed at the University of Washington, University of Michigan, Iowa State University, Virginia Tech, University of Arizona, and the University of Hasselt, with continuing interest from other institutions.

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