Following a Student Leader: Getting to Know Lydia Gibson

Lydia Gibson is a second-year, master’s-level graduate student at California State University, East Bay, where she is president and cofounder of their American Statistical Association student chapter. Gibson served as the 2022 co-chair of the ASA JEDI Outreach Group Student and Young Professionals Committee, alongside Robert Tumasian III. In her free time, she enjoys reading, learning about data visualization, attending workshops and other events to deepen her knowledge of the R programming language, and hanging out with her classmates. Here, she answers several questions for us so our readers can get to know her better.

Why statistics?

Although I earned my bachelor’s degree in economics, I’ve always had a love of numbers—calculus being my favorite class by the time I graduated high school. I was introduced to statistics through the science research course I took from 9th to 11th grade and would later take several statistics-related courses throughout my undergraduate studies. Seeing all the interdisciplinary applications for statistics, not only in STEM but even in economics and business, it had always piqued my interest. I entered my current degree program as a career changer, hoping to break into tech, and I figured pursuing an MS statistics degree would be a great first step to get my foot in the door.

What prompted you to co-found the Cal State East Bay ASA Student Chapter?

A couple weeks before my degree program started, I attended the 2021 Joint Statistical Meetings. There, I was able to get a glimpse into the professional world of statistics as I connected with statisticians, biostatisticians, and data scientists from around the world. Seeing how beneficial that experience was for me, I wanted to give those same opportunities to my classmates. In November 2021, with hopes of building a stronger community in our department, six of my colleagues and I began making plans to establish the first ASA student chapter at our school. Our club would become a fully recognized student organization with our school’s Student Life and Leadership Program in January 2022.

What Cal State East Bay ASA Student Chapter event or achievement are you most proud of?

It’s really hard for me to think of just one achievement, as I’ve been astonished at how much we were able to accomplish in even our first year alone. At the time of this writing, our student chapter has amassed 100+ members on our club’s Discord server, where we share statistics and data science–related events, job and internship opportunities, project and portfolio ideas, and—of course—statistics memes.

In 2022, we hosted four speaker series events, featuring folks from both academia and industry, who spoke to us about their research, ways to become more involved with the larger statistics community, and how to expand our knowledge beyond the classroom. They also provided useful career advice.

Another series of events we’ve hosted are our Stats Chats, during which we’d have discussions based on episodes of podcasts like the Harvard Data Science Review, Stats + Stories, DataFramed, and Build a Career in Data Science.

If I had to choose just one achievement though, perhaps it’d be helping to bring the first ASA DataFest to our campus.

What skills have you developed by being involved in the ASA?

Prior to co-founding my university’s ASA student chapter, I had never been in a leadership role in a school organization, and especially not within a national professional organization. As vice president and now president of my ASA student chapter, I modeled a lot of the organizational structure and processes of my club based on what I’d seen in the ASA JEDI Outreach Group and the Statistical Programmers and Analysts Section. The ASA has also taught me how to better communicate with others, especially in professional environments.

Give us three reasons to be part of the ASA’s Student and Young Professionals Committee.

    1. Be an agent of change. In collaboration with other JEDI committees, the SYPC is leading the charge in highlighting the inequities in access to conferences for students with marginalized backgrounds. As a member of the SYPC, and JEDI as a whole, you’ll receive support to shine light on matters of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion that affect you and others like you. As they say, “Be the change you want to see.”
    2. Meet like-minded students of similar backgrounds. Joining the SYPC gives folks a chance to meet other early-career folks in statistics who share their same marginalized identities and who they may not have otherwise connected with through their network.
    3. Share and receive resources and advice. SYPC members use our Slack workspace to share information about job and internship opportunities, relevant events and webinars, and funding sources. It’s also a great place to get advice or feedback with regards to your experiences at work or school.

    What are a few takeaways from your experience with the JEDI Outreach Group?

    There are lots of folks within the ASA and larger statistics community who are not interested in maintaining the status quo and are willing to work to ensure marginalized groups within the statistics community are seen and heard. It’s been very empowering to be a member of the JEDI Outreach Group, and I’m proud to have helped be an agent of change within the ASA. I’ve learned a lot about myself and my ability to be a leader and advocate for others.

    What one or two blogs or books would you recommend?

    During the fall, I served as a book club facilitator for the ASA Committee on Women in Statistics and led a group of six as we read The Data Detective by Tim Harford. It’s a great read for students and established professionals, alike, as the author—a trained economist—discusses his “10 easy rules to make sense of statistics.” Although it was the second time I’d read the book, I felt like I learned even more by having the opportunity to discuss it with ASA members who are further along in their careers. They had great insights into the topics the book touched upon.