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Public Health Graduate Students Increase Awareness of Statistics as a Career


A 2012 National Science Foundation report indicated Hispanic and American Indian students only make up about 10% of those pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Introducing high school students to careers in statistics is the focus of a community outreach project by a group of graduate students at the UA Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health.

Mallorie Fiero, a doctoral candidate in biostatistics at the UA Zuckerman College of Public Health was awarded a small grant from the American Statistical Association, Biometrics Section, to increase awareness of careers in biostatistics among underrepresented high school students in Advanced Placement Statistics classes in Southern Arizona.

Fiero says that biostatistics has less visibility among the general population and many remain unaware of what this exciting and fulfilling career entails. Although minorities are encouraged to pursue STEM careers, they are less likely to be exposed to it as a profession.

Fiero and her team visited 21 classes during the 2015-2016 academic year. Of the 455 students present during classroom visits, 63% were Hispanic or Native American.

“We believe that it is important for students to become aware of such opportunities early on so that they can make informed decisions in their education in the years to come. We hope to educate and inspire students to become the next generation of biostatisticians,” said Fiero.

Fiero says her team will publish a paper describing the presentation, the experience interacting with the students, and the results of in-class surveys.

“This paper will serve as a template for how statistics can be presented in an exciting way to high school students taking a statistics course,” said Fiero.

The graduate students will also present their results at a statistical conference and the Arizona Chapter of the American Statistical Association with the aim of disseminating information about how statistics can be made more accessible to high school students who may not know about the career opportunities in statistics. 

Fiero says their presentation will focus on how well students responded to our talk and possible strategies for encouraging students to consider a career in statistics. “We hope to explore options for expanding the program in the future.”

The outreach project is funded by a grant from the American Statistical Association, Biometrics Section. The title of the project is Incorporating quantitatively-talented and underrepresented high school students in Arizona into the biostatistics community.

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