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‘How-To’ Succeed Now and in the Post-Pandemic Future

1 August 2021 One Comment
Tom Krenzke, Ruixiao Lu, Maureen Mayer, Melinda Higgins, Jo Wick, Ruth Cassidy, Anamaria Kazanis, and Julia Sharp / ASA Council of Chapters Governing Board

    It has now been more than one year since the COVID-19 pandemic brought in-person engagement to a screeching halt. This global disruption has affected all aspects of life and brought about unprecedented challenges for the American Statistical Association and its chapters. It was clear from the 2020 chapter annual reports that, while chapters have found creative ways to maintain membership activity and engagement, many are seeking guidance on navigating successfully during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Julia Sharp, chair of the ASA Council of Chapters Governing Board (COCGB), sent a spring message of support and thanks to ASA chapter members, acknowledging their efforts to encourage chapter engagement. She also communicated the importance of resources available on the ASA Council of Chapters (COC) website and included a presentation summarizing those resources. In addition, the Council of Chapters district vice chairs outlined the activities reported by chapters that produced meaningful, productive interaction among their members.

    The following are referential, but not exhaustive, lists of successful chapter activities as reported to the COC. Additionally, an event planning checklist from the Boston Chapter is included to help guide planning.

    Arrange a Chapter Social

    Live events may soon be the norm again, but virtual chapter socials can continue to be an effective tool for engagement. Many of the logistics remain the same—plans, invitations, reminders, and designated hosts—but chapters have found creative ways to overcome the restrictions of virtual social activities. In general, the COCGB recommends virtual events be shorter and hosts identify opportunities to keep participants actively engaged (e.g., trivia contests, breakout rooms). Examples include the following:

    • In the Washington Statistical Society’s mentoring program, mentor-mentee pairs are encouraged to meet at social events. This activity boosts the attendance at events and gives the pairs an in-person meeting opportunity and chance to meet and network with others in the statistical community.
    • The North Carolina Chapter hosted a science fair, an online pop-up social, and a virtual career fair, meeting approximately every two months, and their executive board met every two weeks. They curated the presentations and lectures on a YouTube channel.
    • The San Francisco Bay Area Chapter held a holiday celebration with a focus on a positive outlook during the COVID era and how statistics can contribute to a better 2021. Academic and industry speakers, with ASA Executive Director Ron Wasserstein as a special guest, were included.

    Invite an Outside Speaker

    The ASA Chapter Visitation Program is just one opportunity for chapters to invite a prominent outside speaker at minimum cost to the chapter. A quick survey of local universities for faculty with expertise in areas of interest could produce several speaker options. If the event is virtual, chapters may consider partnering to host and promote the event. Whether the event is held in person or virtually, chapters might consider recording and distributing the event through a devoted YouTube site. Examples include the following:

    • The Kansas-Western Missouri Chapter co-hosted the 14th annual Frontiers in Biostatistics and Data Science regional symposium with Cerner Corporation and the University of Kansas Medical Center Department of Biostatistics and Data Science. The symposium was canceled in 2020 but held virtually in 2021. The event included a keynote address by Jeffrey S. Morris of the University of Pennsylvania, titled “A Seat at the Table: The Key Role of Biostatistics and Data Science in the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Other speakers included David Morganstein, former president of the ASA, and Wasserstein. The event also included a virtual poster session.
    • The Florida Chapter held its annual chapter meeting at the University of West Florida in early March 2020 and included a workshop, titled “The Statistical Assessment of Bioequivalence and Biosimilarity,” by Thomas Mathew, UMBC presidential research professor. Also included were two full days of external and internal speakers.
    • The Nevada Chapter held two virtual symposiums with topics on COVID-19 modeling and new/existing statistics, data science educational programs at state institutions, and a virtual K–12 poster competition.
    • The Georgia Chapter began a virtual lecture series it intends to continue post-pandemic. The speaker for their inaugural event on December 8, 2020, was Bin Yu of the University of California Berkeley, who focused on veridical data science. The chapter also had a speaker from industry on December 15, 2020. William Myers from Procter & Gamble gave a talk, titled “Robust Experimental Designs for Model Calibration.” The chapter has begun to compile these lectures on their YouTube channel.
    • The North Texas Chapter hosted a virtual meeting with a presentation by Cici Bauer of The University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston about supporting local public health departments in COVID-19 control and mitigation.

    Organize a Short Course

    The ASA Council of Chapters Traveling Course Program provides another opportunity for chapters to host high-quality short courses at low cost. Traveling course offerings change every year, and application submission opens every November. Surveys of chapter membership could help gauge topics of interest and potential speakers. The Washington Statistical Society provides guidance on setting up a short course. The following is a summary:

    • Determine the instructor, dates, course length, and course materials.
    • Develop a budget and cost of the course.
    • Obtain a short description of the course and short bio from the instructor.
    • Find and finalize a location, dates, and set-up details. Set up an online registration sign-up system.
    • Develop a Q&A page discussing the cancellation/refund policy and payment options.
    • Create a course announcement and registration form.
    • Advertise on an electronic mailing list for ASA sections and in chapter newsletters.
    • Arrange flights and lodging for the instructor, if needed.
    • Finalize course materials and arrange for distribution.
    • Decide on a registration cut-off date.
    • Check the membership status of all registrants.
    • Submit credit card numbers to the ASA for processing
    • Create a list of attendees, with affiliation and contact information.
    • Order food and provide a tax exemption sheet (if needed). Get checks from the treasurer.
    • Create name tags and tent cards for all attendees (including chairs and the instructor).
    • Obtain course materials and print copies of the attendee list (for distribution at the course).

    Examples include the following:

    • The Southern California Chapter held an annual applied statistics workshop on deep learning and an ASA traveling course. There was a kick-off meeting with a keynote presentation and student presentations.
    • The Puerto Rico Chapter hosted three chapter meetings and a virtual workshop.
    • The Western Tennessee Chapter held a short course on evidence to improve clinical trials.

    Organize a Career Day

    Tap into some of the local expertise. Identify panelists to discuss their occupation and what skills and experience it takes to break into it. Panelists can include recruiting representatives and a moderator. Examples include the following:

    • The San Diego Chapter hosted a career journey talk by industry leaders to graduate students.
    • The Orange County-Long Beach Chapter held an annual career day with mock interviews in three categories: biostatistics, business analytics, and data science. The interviewers reviewed the students’ résumés and helped them learn how to answer difficult questions, develop interview strategies, improve communication skills, and reduce stress before an actual job interview.
    • The Boston Chapter holds a panel discussion inviting local people to discuss topics including education, clinical trials, epidemiology, genomics, engineering, actuarial sciences, weather, machine learning, prediction, and bioterrorism.

    Promote Your Chapter

    Mention how to join the chapter at events. Create a chapter brochure and send it to local universities and businesses. Also, write an article for Amstat News and Chapter Chatter about recent and future chapter events. Finally, send event advertisements to colleagues of speakers and local companies, organizations, and universities in the statistical community. Examples include the following:

    • The Nevada Chapter developed a chapter newsletter and distributes it electronically to members. The newsletter includes event promotions, reports of virtual symposia and poster competitions, job opportunities in the area, changes to faculty or new degree programs, and opinion-provoking articles.
    • The Orange County-Long Beach Chapter co-founded Mass Initiative in Data Science (MINDS), a student-run data science organization for high-school students.
    • The Oregon Chapter held virtual speed talks by chapter members.

    Expand Chapter Membership

    Expanding chapter membership can feel daunting. However, the key to chapter growth is engagement, so organizing, promoting, and hosting chapter events is critical. The ASA designed the Chapter Stimulus Funding Program to elevate chapter enthusiasm and engagement and stimulate chapter membership growth. Chapters can use these funds for new initiatives or to improve or expand existing chapter activities. The ASA also has a membership campaign that provides funding for membership socials. Examples include the following:

    • The Orange County-Long Beach Chapter meets quarterly for business meetings that include outside speakers, awards, and showcasing graduate students’ research with presentations.
    • The Washington Statistical Society’s diversity committee actively reaches out to regional student chapters.
    • The North Texas and San Antonio chapters support local science fairs.

    Connect with Other Chapters to Coordinate Activities

    A list of chapter officers and their contact information can be found on the ASA website. Use this resource to contact other chapters to coordinate a series of virtual speaker seminars on a specific topic. ASA chapter liaison, Rick Peterson, is available to help form connections. Examples include the following:

    • The Detroit and Ann Arbor chapters jointly judged the Michigan Science and Engineering Fair.
    • Boston, Connecticut, Florida, New Jersey, Princeton/Trenton, and Washington chapters, Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (Biostatistics and Data Sciences Department), and the New England Statistical Society collaborated to sponsor a series of biostatistics webinars.

    Connect with Sections to Coordinate Activities

    As with chapters, the ASA website houses contact information for ASA sections and officers. Use this resource to contact section officers of primary interest to your region and coordinate events. Become members of the sections of interest for your chapter. Members will be notified of upcoming events sponsored by the section, and you can share this information with your chapter. Likewise, you can share your local chapter events with sections.

    Event Planning Checklist

    (from the Boston Chapter)

    The following is a list of activities generally required for planning and conducting an ASA event. The officer/role responsible for conducting (or delegating) the activity is noted in parentheses.

    Arrange in Advance (Program Chair)

    • Speaker – discuss expectations, required arrangements, applications, recording, and access permissions
    • Title of presentation
    • Abstract
    • Date and time
    • Location (virtual or onsite)
    • Virtual: Register for date and duration
    • Onsite: Reserve venue (institution, building, room, food, beverage)
    • Arrange needed equipment (laptop, microphones, video camera, applications, reservation time interval, maximum attendees allowed)
    • Bio information for the speaker
    • Handouts (if speaker requests help)
    • In discussion with other officers in accordance with chapter constitution, determine chapter / attendee cost split for the event

    Announce the Event (Program Chair – preparation, Communications Lead / Newsletter Editor)

    • Speaker’s name
    • Speaker’s job title
    • Speaker’s affiliation
    • Location of event
    • Date and time (start and end)
    • Cost: Consider discounts for students / early career / members, food and beverage costs if applicable, meal or just appetizers, beverages: maybe tickets for alcoholic drinks, cost for handouts, and how money will be collected
    • How to make a reservation: Person to contact
    • Cutoff date and time reservations are accepted
    • Abstract of the talk
    • Directions to the location or HTML links to the event
    • Other event information, arrangements, or contacts as appropriate

    Days Before the Event

    • Check all necessary equipment (program chair or host delegate)
    • Check audio/visual materials and acquire requested handouts (program chair)
    • Check on food/beverage arrangements (program chair)
    • Check on collected money and number of participants (program chair)
    • Send an email reminder (communications)
    • If onsite, prepare signs to direct attendees to the room (host)
    • Identify moderator for speaker intro (program chair)

    Have Available for the Event

    • Signs to place in the building to direct attendees if onsite, otherwise any event-specific links (host)
    • Supply the bio information and abstract to the moderator (program chair)
    • List of registered and paid attendees (communications)
    • List of upcoming events (president)
    • Event materials (president)
    • Name tags and pens (if onsite)
    • Join ASA and chapter information
    • List of upcoming events (president)
    • Reimbursement forms
    • Speaker’s token gift (if appropriate)

    Tasks to Be Performed at the Event

    • Place the directional signs as needed (host)
    • Place name tags and pens in central location and encourage attendees to use them (president and officers)
    • Collect any outstanding money for meals/handouts (treasurer)
    • Call the event to order (president)
    • Invite attendees to introduce themselves, if virtual, allowing cameras/microphones when a moderate number of attendees (president)
    • Make announcements regarding future events and membership information (president)
    • Introduce the speaker (moderator)
    • After the presentation, thank the speaker and address questions (moderator)
    • Close the meeting by thanking the speaker, the person arranging the event, and host of the event (president)
    • Collect extra handouts, name tags, and pens (president)
    • Tidy up the room when appropriate (officers)

    Tasks to Be Performed After the Event

    • Send any collected money and bills to the treasurer (program chair)
    • Send the speaker a formal thank you letter on behalf of the chapter (president)
    • Send post-publicity comments to the ASA for Amstat News (council representative)
    • Summarize the event for local chapter newsletter (program chair/newsletter editor)

    *Original (1999): Kathy Monti; Re-created (2021): Maureen Mayer

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    One Comment »

    • Mark Otto said:

      Nice, extensive article with a lot of ideas. One of the things we are struggling with is to schedule in-person events that don’t get pulled back to virtual ones. That means setting up the catering and canceling it again. We are tending toward virtual until we are sure. For in-person, we are exploring ways to keep members safe with vaccine and mask requirements. Any thoughts or sharing experiences on this would be appreciated.

      Also, another way to connect is through a newsletter. Does the ASA have a HTML or other template that could easily used by chapters to produce a nicely formatted newsletter that it part of the email and not attached? Also, any other ASA support for newsletters would be appreciated.