Discover the Benefits of Joining an ASA Student Chapter

Asian man smiling with blond hair and dark-framed glassesKen Vu is a recent graduate from California State University–East Bay, where he earned his master’s degree in statistics. As the co-founder and former communications chair for his university’s ASA student chapter, he was responsible for creating and managing the chapter’s social media graphics and posts for their Instagram, LinkedIn, and Discord accounts.

When I started my graduate statistics program at California State University–East Bay (CSUEB) during the spring 2021 semester, I was a recent applied mathematics graduate from San Jose State University looking to expand my statistics knowledge and make new friends. A semester later, I came across a group of statistics and biostatistics students who helped me do just that. I enjoyed working and connecting with them, and we were all responsible for founding CSUEB’s first ASA student chapter.

In the spring of 2022, I signed on to be the student chapter’s communications chair. I designed and distributed digital fliers and brochures containing information and updates about various chapter activities and events. The activities included hosting speaker events at which students and faculty could speak with and learn from working professionals in the statistics and biostatistics fields and collaborate with the ASA’s San Francisco Bay Area Chapter members.

For example, we collaborated with the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter to organize a holiday celebration at San Jose State University on December 11, 2022. We prepared the venue with Christmas decorations and set up tables for job recruiters and representatives from Bay Area biotech employers such as Clindata Insight and RealtimeCRO. The goal was to provide opportunities for attendees to network with employers and prominent contributors to the statistics field and present a panel on key ethical and technical issues, particularly in the health care industry.

I never thought I would gain so much knowledge and experience through my involvement with the ASA student chapter. As an aspiring statistician and data enthusiast, that knowledge developed me personally and professionally, and I highly encourage other students to consider it.

Why Get Involved in ASA Student Chapters?

You will build and expand your network with like-minded connections. By starting and participating in a student chapter, you get the chance to not only make new friends and connections but those connections are with students, faculty, and professionals who share your interest in statistics. If you’re nervous about the idea of networking (especially if you’re a shy and/or neurodivergent person like me), don’t worry! Networking is much simpler than it looks. In fact, networking can start with asking fellow students what their favorite hobbies are, what their career goals are, what classes they’re taking, or even what projects they’re working on.

Networking can also include attending workshops and conferences with prominent researchers, professors, and statisticians who you can ask about topics you’re trying to learn about, even if you’re still learning and growing. The people you meet along the way might end up being the ones who help you build your career or even land your first job or internship. This was the case for me during my second year in graduate school.

You will gain experience communicating with and/or leading diverse groups of people. Effective communication skills and emotional intelligence are necessary in our increasingly diverse, interconnected, and evolving world. These skills allow you to successfully engage, connect, and work with people from a variety of academic, socioeconomic, and cultural backgrounds—people who may very well be your co-workers, classmates, employers, or friends. Thus, such skills are just as integral to the success of a company, organization, or community as the technical skills and domain knowledge you possess.

Fortunately, these skills can be developed and practiced by getting involved in a student chapter and being exposed to a diverse group of students. For example, my student chapter included students with bachelor’s degrees in STEM and non-STEM majors, international students, out-of-state students, and students from different races and age groups. Considering our differences, we may not have always agreed about how to run the chapter, but we learned how to communicate with those who had differing opinions.

You will participate in major ASA events. The ASA hosts conferences, workshops, and other events that you will have the opportunity to participate in. For example, a few of our chapter members were able to attend the Conference on Statistical Practice in San Francisco because they received travel awards from the ASA Student and Early Career Travel Fund. They went to sessions covering topics ranging from writing effective research papers to biological data management and interacted with student researchers and professionals showcasing their latest statistics-driven research.

In addition, during the spring 2022 semester, we helped bring CSUEB its first DataFest competition. DataFest is an annual ASA event held simultaneously across numerous American colleges and universities. Teams of students compete to produce the best data analysis presentation possible with a large, complex data set. When I participated in DataFest 2022, I worked with other students day and night for three consecutive days to analyze a data set using R and produce a high-quality presentation on our findings. Our hard work and creativity as a team resulted in us winning an award for “Best in Show.”

Getting involved with an ASA student chapter allows students to cultivate connections with like-minded students, faculty, and professionals in the statistics and biostatistics community. Students who get involved have the chance to practice transferrable skills, meet a variety of people, and attend numerous events hosted by the ASA.

I am grateful for the experiences I had as the co-founder and communications chair of the California State University–East Bay Student Chapter of the ASA, which helped me learn leadership skills, grow, and engage with the broader statistics community. I hope to see this student chapter continue for the next generation of students and beyond so they can enjoy the same benefits and experiences.