StatStart: Diversity in Statistics

Concerned by the lack of diversity in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) programs, doctoral students Octavious Talbot and Alex Ocampo recruited Kelly Mosesso and Sam Tracy to teach programming in R and basic statistics to underrepresented and minority high schoolers in the Greater Boston area. Marcello Pagano, Professor of Statistical Computing, agreed to act as project supervisor. Receiving instruction for two hours a day, four days a week for four weeks at the School, these young students have been given a rare start in subject areas that are usually closed off to them, potentially redrawing their learning curve, and exciting them about pursuing higher education. 

The StatStart team approached various sources within the school for funding such items as computers, T-passes, and lunches. Professor Meredith Rosenthal, Associate Dean for Diversity, has supplied support, and the Inaugural Curriculum Innovation Grant and the Department of Biostatistics have contributed, as well. More applicants have applied than we can accept, and the student pool is sharp and eager to learn. They attend classes regularly, and many put in extra time to finish their homework. As the students complete their assignments, the teachers also help strategize their college applications. Apart from the goodwill this generates in the community, another advantage to this program is that our own graduate students, all Ph.D. candidates, have learned their own important lesson: how to broaden the horizons of their teaching skills.