Independent Summer Statistics Community: Beyond coursework!


Knowing that COVID-19 would possibly bring disappointing disruptions to our students’ summer plans, professors Liza Bolton, Nathalie Moon, and Nathan Taback, along with Megan Whitehead-Douglas—mentorship and internship coordinator in the Department of Statistical Sciences, came together to introduce an exciting initiative to support undergraduate students: The Independent Summer Statistics Community (ISSC). 

At the core of the ISSC are curated resources about portfolio building, career preparation, and personal developmentplus a platform on which to share, discuss, and support each other. 

Some of the benefits to students of joining the ISSC:

  • DataFest! An online version of the popular annual ASA DataFest @ UofT will be run in early June, and ISSC members have exclusive access to register. 
  • Professional portfolio. From building a website or blog to learning how to use GitHub or make a Shiny app—ISSC supports members in developing their personal brand!
  • Remote working skills. Practising collaborating remotely with popular tools like Slack; building the online working skills that will matter to interviewers.
  • Networking and community. Forging connections with fellow students, invited speakers and participating faculty. It is these kinds of connections that often lead to future opportunities.
  • Curated resources. The ISSC team has carefully gathered a range of useful resources that are shared on Slack or as one of the six topics in the weekly 6σ Sunday newsletter.

Since it was announced in late April, over 700 statistics students have registered for the ISSC. Over 100 students joined the live online launch event on May 1, while others tuned in later for the recording. For the past several weeks, registrations for the University of Toronto’s first online iteration of the ASA DataFest (website: have been pouring in, with approximately 300 ISSCers eager to put their statistical modelling and communication skills into practice. In preparation for DataFest, ISSC members have been actively participating in a number of virtual events, including weekly TidyTuesday meetups and a workshop on Gathering Data from Messy Sources, with Rohan Alexander, incoming faculty member at the Department of Statistical Sciences. Coming up, the ISSC team is looking forward to offering ISSCers the opportunity to complete the CliftonStrengths assessment and engage with alumni at career panels. 

“It is an extremely rewarding experience to connect with and mentor students ‘beyond coursework,’” said Liza Bolton; “in a setting where the only assessments are the students’ own evaluations of their progress towards their goals.”  Nathalie Moon added, “Students pick their own pace and interests, and this creates space to share the types of tools, skills and ideas that often can’t be the focus of undergraduate classes.”

The Department of Statistical Sciences is looking forward to seeing how the ISSC continues to develop over the course of the summer, and the lasting impact the community will carry forward for students. 

Monday, May 25, 2020

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