Starting your own chapter

We aim to promote the development of student-driven programs that provide statistical consulting as a community service. If you are a student or a faculty member interested in starting a STATCOM chapter at your university, we are happy to help.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Who does STATCOM serve?

STATCOM serves government and non-profit organizations. The clients we work with generally do not have the funds available to hire a professional consultant, but are interested in using data to make more informed decisions about their operations. We generally do not accept projects that are from for-profit entities.

Do clients pay STATCOM for their services?

No, all work done by STATCOM is free of charge.

Who volunteers for STATCOM projects?

Our volunteers are mainly graduate students in the Department of Biostatistics, Statistics and Program of Survey Methodology (MS and PhD). Faculty are not directly involved in our projects; however, we have several faculty members who provide leadership, assistance with client meetings, and statistical consulting advice if needed.

What are the minimum setup needs for getting a new STATCOM chapter up and running?

The most important aspect of starting a STATCOM chapter is a group of interested and motivated students who would like to contribute to projects. Once the first project is found, the chapter can continue to work on finding clients one project at a time until the student membership is built up enough to accommodate multiple projects operating concurrently. It is important to identify computing facilities for analyzing data, printing reports, etc. within the university or department. Talking to the department head, consulting director, or other faculty/staff members who might serve as a resource for advice is beneficial and important to the long-term success of the program.

What kind of support is needed from the department/university to start?

In general, department and faculty support is extremely helpful. The Biostatistics Department allows STATCOM to use printers, fax machines, phones, and meeting/conference rooms in order to provide our clients with quality services. Students could use their own resources for analyzing data, printing reports, communicating with clients, etc., but this could become costly to students over time. In addition, STATCOM has faculty advisors who volunteer their time to help edit reports and provide guidance with analysis when needed. This will be particularly helpful in the beginning, but over time direct faculty involvement should become less and less important.

How do you find clients?

There are many ways to find clients within the community. One way is to place flyers and brochures in government buildings advertising your services. Many people in the community may not be aware of how statistics may help them. If talking to the mayor, school superintendent, health department director, or other officials personally is an option in your community, then interest could be generated by explaining

How does STATCOM maintain its strength given that graduate students are very busy and eventually leave due to graduation?

STATCOM recruits new students each year. The first open meeting of the year is dedicated to telling potential members about STATCOM and how they can get involved. We advertise this meeting around the Biostatistics, Statistics, and Survey Methodology Departments.

As an organization, we try to ensure opportunities for students to advance in leadership opportunities. Teams are carefully designed to have students with varying levels of experience. A team leader is an experienced consultant who is responsible for maintaining progress on the project. Efforts will be made to ensure there is at least one other person with experience on the team to assist the team leader when needed. This results in a good deal of peer mentoring, as less experienced students learn from more senior ones and receive the training and experience they need to later become leaders themselves. The leadership team is made up of students from different years. Junior leadership is brought on and trained by senior leadership to ensure smooth transitions following graduation. Since the turnover is every two semesters this allows ample leadership opportunities for all students while stabilizing STATCOM's organizational structure for many years to come.

How do you get students interested in joining STATCOM projects?

There are many different reasons why students choose to volunteer their time working for STATCOM. Many students join to receive satisfaction from doing community service, but there are also many personal benefits as well. There is a huge learning component: in statistical methodology, consulting, oral and written communication with the general public, leadership, management of a busy organization and multiple consulting teams, the need for quality control, grant writing, fundraising, etc. Being part of a group such as STATCOM can help members with all of these skills. In addition, STATCOM is an excellent way for students to get involved within their local community. We try to make all this apparent when recruiting new members.