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Participation High for StatFest 2022

1 December 2022 No Comment
Therri Usher and Brittney Bailey, StatFest Planning Committee Members

    While many conferences across the country have returned to in-person meetings, the ASA’s Committee on Minorities in Statistics held its 22nd annual—and third virtual—StatFest conference on September 17.

    StatFest is traditionally a one-day annual event aimed at encouraging undergraduate students from BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, People of Color] communities to consider graduate studies and careers in statistics and data science. It usually takes place at different locations around the United States; however, this year’s virtual StatFest was held over one afternoon using Gather Town, a virtual space designed to mimic human interactions that typically occur at in-person conferences.

    Despite the virtual setting, approximately 75 people attended. StatFest welcomed not only undergraduate and graduate students, but also high-school and community college students. As with the past two virtual offerings, StatFest 2022 was able to welcome international participants, with attendees joining from India, Pakistan, Rwanda, and Ethiopia.

    The program began with informal pre-conference networking and officially kicked off with a welcome and opening remarks from Donna LaLonde, ASA director of strategic initiatives and outreach. The afternoon continued with two panels focused on statistics and data science careers in industry, academia, government, and nonprofit sectors, during which panelists described their roles before answering questions about day-to-day life in their respective fields. Between the two panels, Emma Benn of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai gave the keynote and shared her journey through her career and life while encouraging attendees to always live their truth.

    In the second half of the program, attendees listened to a presentation about preparing for graduate school by Justine Herrera of Columbia University and Kelley Kidwell of the University of Michigan. Immediately after, student attendees participated in “The Graduate Student Experience,” a student-only session where they engaged in candid conversations with panelists enrolled in master’s and doctoral programs in statistics and data science. At the same time, professional attendees participated in a session titled, “Adapting to Our New World: Acquiring and Retaining Talent in the Great Resignation,” facilitated by Adrian Coles of Bristol Myers Squibb.

    The day ended with closing remarks followed by post-conference networking. During breaks and networking sessions, attendees were able to connect with more than 10 academic departments and institutions in the StatFest EXPO by visiting virtual booths in the Gather Town environment.

    StatFest organizers received positive feedback regarding the utility of the conference. Based on post-event survey results, attendees appreciated the “engaging, informative, and accessible” experience StatFest provides and the opportunity to connect with others.

    A continued bright spot of the virtual setting is that attendees did not have to procure travel funds to attend. In fact, student attendees received a free one-year membership to the ASA.

    StatFest 2023 is scheduled to be held at the SAS Institute in Cary, North Carolina, and StatFest 2024 is scheduled to be held at Columbia University in New York City.

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