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StatFest 2019: Meant to Be

1 November 2019 No Comment
StatFest 2019 Planning Committee

    Tropical Storm Imelda dropped more than 30 inches of rain in southeast Texas September 17–19. Conference organizers strongly considered canceling StatFest 2019 due to widespread flooding and Federal Aviation Administration–mandated flight stoppages. But on September 20, the grey clouds began to roll away and the high water began to recede. Planning committee chair, Adrian Coles, said, “The water receded much faster than expected! It’s almost as if StatFest 2019 was meant to be.”

    On September 21, the ASA Committee on Minorities in Statistics (CMS) held the 19th annual StatFest conference. StatFest is a one-day event aimed at encouraging undergraduate students from historically under-represented groups to consider graduate studies and careers in statistics and data science.

    This year’s event was hosted by the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTH). Participants from the Austin campus joined remotely via the institution’s interactive television connection.

    Despite Imelda and poor weather conditions, more than 120 participants attended: approximately 44 percent undergraduate students; 19 percent graduate students; and 37 percent professionals in academia, government, or industry.

    The program started with a welcome and opening remarks from Eric Boerwinkle, dean of the UTH School of Public Health, and Rob Santos, 2021 president of the American Statistical Association.

    Renee Moore of Emory University Rollins School of Public Health was this year’s keynote speaker, and Hadley Wickham of RStudio was a featured speaker.

    Two panel discussions introduced participants to diverse statistics and data science careers in academia, government, industry, and consulting. Folefac Atem of UTH Dallas shared best practices on preparing for graduate school, and Jemar Bather of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health provided practical guidance on networking and intrapersonal skills.

    There was a student-only session, titled “The Graduate Student Experience,” that consisted of panelists who are enrolled in master’s and doctoral programs in statistics and data science. During the session, faculty and professionals attended a parallel session that explored ways to help the represented organizations and institutions become more diverse and inclusive.

    Other highlights included a poster session, an ice cream social, and an exhibition area.

    Throughout the day, participants were able to connect with representatives from more than 10 graduate programs and professional organizations.

    Although attendance was approximately 20 percent less than expected due to Imelda, organizers received positive feedback from attendees during and after the event—suggesting #19 was another impactful event in the history of StatFest.

    StatFest 2020 is scheduled to be held at Eli Lilly and Company in Indianapolis, Indiana, and StatFest 2021 is scheduled to be held at Columbia University in New York.

    Read more about StatFest 2019 on the ASA’s Committee on Minorities in Statistics webpage.

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