Community Outreach and Engagement

We are students, faculty, and staff in the Division of Biostatistics at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health who are interested in connecting with partners outside of the University to learn from one another and work together on projects that will have a positive impact on the lives of Minnesotans.

To this end, the Biostat Community Outreach and Engagement committee (BCOE) participates in both community outreach and community engagement, depending on the needs and interests of our partners. Our working definitions of community outreach and community engagement appear below.

Community outreach is a collaborative relationship between the Division and local groups and communities in the context of a time-limited project or a series of time-limited projects where knowledge and resources flow from the Division to the local groups and communities.

Community engagement is a collaborative relationship between the Division and local groups and communities for mutually beneficial exchanges of knowledge and resources. This relationship may evolve into a long-term partnership with strong bidirectional communication and trust where the local group or community is involved in project development and execution.

We are always looking for new community partners! Please fill out this interest form if you are interested in partnering with us.

  • We’re most interested in partnering with:
    • Organizations with mission statements, goals, and interest areas that align with the Biostat Community Outreach and Engagement committee (BCOE)
    • Organizations that operate primarily in Minnesota
  • Examples of types of partners we’d like to work with include but are not limited to: public entities, non-profit organizations, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt public entities, schools, tribal nations, local municipalities
  • We typically do not partner with individuals, departments or divisions, or offices within the University, unless another outside partner is also involved, or with organizations that employ statisticians or statistical consultants. If this describes you, you may wish to explore the options listed in the Options for UMN Partners

We expect community partnerships to be mutually beneficial relationships that may grow and change over time according to the needs of both partners.

How do we (the BCOE) benefit from community partnerships?

  • Our work relates to and supports the School of Public Health’s Strategic Plan for Antiracism, including:
    • Area 1 (Leadership) Goal 4: Engage and partner with the community to authentically understand health equity.
    • Area 1 (Leadership) Goal 5: Inform, inspire, and lead through communications.
    • Area 2 (Students) Goal 4: Increase recruitment and enrollment of students from marginalized communities, particularly those who are Black, Indigenous, and people of color.
  • Student committee members have the opportunity to practice important skills while working on meaningful projects:
    • Use statistical and/or leadership skills
    • Gain experience with statistical consulting
    • Practice statistical communication (with non-researchers)
    • Experience working collaboratively on defining, understanding, and solving problems
  • All committee members benefit from:
    • Working on community-based research (research conducted for and with the community)
    • Understanding the interests and research priorities of people outside of the Division of Biostatistics and the University of Minnesota
    • Making connections with local communities and organizations and building a network
    • Potentially finding new statistical problems and solutions

How do partners benefit from working with us? The main resource we have to share is our knowledge of and passion for statistics! We’re not limited in the type of work we do but some things we can help with include:

  • Curriculum development and teacher training
  • App development (as an educational tool)
  • Sharing information on statistics/biostatistics as careers
  • Statistical consulting, including framing questions as statistical questions, study/survey design, data collection, analysis, and interpretation
  • Some examples of partnerships and projects we have worked on in the past can be found under the Past activities tab

If you’re unsure of a specific project, but still want to partner with us, then please fill out the form because if it is a good fit, we would be interested in working with you to determine if/what project(s) are in our scope of practice. And if we’re not a good fit, we may be able to recommend a group that is.

We are always looking for new committee members! If you are a member of the Division of Biostatistics interested in joining the BCOE, please contact one of our co-chairs, Anne Eaton (eato0055@umn.edu) or Marta Shore (shore007@umn.edu).

We typically do not partner with individuals, departments, or divisions within the University, unless another outside partner is also involved, or with organizations that employ statisticians or statistical consultants. If this describes you, you may wish to explore the options listed below.

Justin Clark

Justin Clark
PhD Student

I am a third-year PhD student in the Division of Biostatistics. My current research interests center on leveraging data from both randomized controlled trials and observational settings to make more generalizable and robust conclusions when evaluating treatment effectiveness. I am also engaged in multiple collaborations with biomedical investigators across the University of Minnesota, including in pediatric obesity medicine. I decided to go into biostatistics because of its focus on real-world impact. I decided to join BCOE because I’m excited about sharing the field of biostatistics with others!

Mark Fiecas

Mark Fiecas
Assistant Professor

The field of Biostatistics is a great fit for me because there are so many opportunities where I can work on the intersection between mathematics and statistical modeling with the biomedical sciences. Indeed, a large number of my interdisciplinary projects are related to psychology and psychiatry. I joined this committee because I am passionate about broadening the impact of our work and working with the public schools to inspire them toward a career in public health.

Anne Eaton

Anne Eaton
Assistant Professor

I first heard about biostatistics as a student at Como Park High School (go Cougars!) when I put “math” and “biology” into Google as part of a career exploration assignment. As a part of BCOE, I hope to give K-12 students a friendly introduction to biostatistics and a concrete idea of what biostatisticians do, so they can imagine themselves as biostatisticians. I want Minnesotans to feel that the Division of Biostatistics and the School of Public Health are their Division and School, and I hope that the connections we make in the community inspire that feeling.

Lily Haine

Lily Haine
PhD Student

I’m Lily Haine and my research interests are in incorporating external non-randomized data into the design and analysis of randomized controlled trials, with applications to Influenza and COVID-19 clinical trials. I enjoy biostatistics because it merges my desire to impact the world in a positive way through public health with my interest in quantitative methodologies and mathematics. I joined the BCOE because I want to spread the word about biostatistics as a career option and help encourage people who might not see themselves in a quantitative field in the future realize that this field is not as intimidating as it might seem on the surface.

Sarah Samorodnitsky

Sarah Samorodnitsky
PhD Student

Hi, I’m Sarah Samorodnitsky and I’m a fourth-year PhD student. My research interests are in multi-omic data analysis, with applications in cancer, COPD, and COVID-19. I was drawn to biostatistics because it merges my interests in biomedicine with my skills in statistics and computing. I joined this committee to help encourage young students, especially those of diverse backgrounds, to consider biostatistics as a career. Medical research benefits from a diverse workforce and biostatisticians are no exception.

Marta Shore

Marta Shore
Lecturer

Hi! My name is Marta shore and I teach introductory Biostatistics courses to non-biostatisticians.  I learned about Biostatistics in my late 20s when I was working as a lab technician in an HIV research lab and used statistical techniques to better understand our data.  My primary focus is on teaching people who are not going to be biostatisticians.  In this work, I’ve learned that many people have the skills needed to be a biostatistician, but don’t think it’s possible.  That’s why I joined BCOE: so that I can encourage kids to pursue biostatistics and see themselves as biostatisticians.

Michelle Sonnenberger

Michelle Sonnenberger
PhD Student

Hello, I’m Michelle Sonnenberger and I’m a third-year Biostatistics PhD student. My research interests are in clinical trials specifically bayesian and time-to-event data analysis. I became interested in biostatistics because I had always loved math and originally thought I wanted to pursue some sort of degree in the medical research field. Once I discovered biostatistics, I was drawn to working on the statistical side of medical and public health research. I also love that in biostatistics there are always opportunities to work with new collaborators and work with people in lots of different fields. I chose to join BCOE because I wanted to share my love of statistics with people in the community and hopefully inspire people to look into biostatistics. I especially like working with high school students and introducing them to biostatistics because I wish that I had the opportunity when I was younger.

Jack Wolf

Jack Wolf
PhD Student

I am a second-year biostatistics PhD student. I chose a career in biostatistics after witnessing how it could let me engage with and learn from collaborators from many different disciplines. My current research focuses on developing methods to identify subgroups with differential treatment effects from randomized clinical trials. I am excited to work with BCOE to both engage in collaborative work and help showcase what biostatistical work encompasses.

Rachel Zilinskas

Rachel Zilinskas
PhD Student

I am a fourth-year PhD student in the Division of Biostatistics. My research interests include Statistical Genomics, Causal Inference, and Data Analysis for Clinical Trials. I decided to go into Biostatistics because I knew that I wanted my future profession to impact the world of Public Health, but I gravitated more towards mathematical subjects as opposed to biological subjects in school. Luckily I had a few great mentors who introduced me to the possibilities of different areas of application for statistics and data science which led me to choose Biostatistics. I was inspired by a few great teachers, including my dad who was an incredible high school educator, to get involved with K-12 education. I feel I was very lucky to have people encourage me to check out statistics at a young age I wanted to hopefully do the same for other people in my community. Joining the BCOE gave me that opportunity as well as the chance to develop my own communication and education skills. In my free time, I enjoy cooking and baking, reading, hiking the mountains of Arizona, and I am a professional triathlete.

The Biostat Community Outreach and Engagement committee (BCOE) was created in 2020 after graduate students in the Division of Biostatistics started a conversation about the barriers to entering biostatistics graduate school and biostatistics as a career. They felt that many talented people who could make great contributions in biostatistics and who would find satisfaction and success in this field were choosing other paths instead and that one reason for this was that to satisfy the prerequisites for a graduate degree in biostatistics, students need to start planning early in college. Unless students already know someone who is a biostatistician, they’re unlikely to learn about biostatistics in time to fit the required classes into their regular college coursework. To address this, we decided to form a committee to raise awareness of biostatistics as a career path among K-12 students in the Twin Cities, as a first step toward recruiting a more diverse biostatistics workforce.

Sharon Ling

Sharon Ling

Sharon Ling was a biostatistics PhD student and an integral member of BCOE when she passed away in April 2021. Sharon significantly enhanced the lives of her community through her teaching, public health research, volunteerism, and involvement in a variety of university organizations. More than her tangible contributions, Sharon is remembered for her outstanding character and friendship. We strive to embody these qualities in our BCOE work. Sharon was also a talented artist; some of her work is shown below.

Melissa Wong

Melissa Wong
Biostat MS, 2021

My favorite experience as a member of the biostatistics outreach committee was working with everyone on the team and the community I was part of! It was empowering to know that everyone was passionate about fostering diversity in the biostatistics field.

  • Held a biostatistics career panel for students at Global Arts Plus (Saint Paul Public Schools). João Monteiro (Medtronic), Becky Lien (PDA) and Travis Dockter (Mayo Clinic) spoke to ~20 students about careers in biostatistics (December 8, 2020)
  • Held a School of Public Health student panel at Washington Technology High School (Saint Paul Public Schools). SPH student ambassadors Rachel Zilinskas, Alyse Haven and Yoon-Sung (Teddy) Nam spoke to ~10 students about their paths to public health (January 14, 2021)
  • Served as mock grant reviewers for research projects using the Islands completed by students at Coon Rapids High School (February-March 2021, ongoing)
  • Along with teachers at Harding Senior High and Creative Arts Senior High (Saint Paul Public Schools), developed a Shiny app to empower students to explore Minnesota air pollution data and discover trends (2021)
  • Hosted an externship for Saint Paul Public Schools teachers (February 2021)
  • Hosted a high school summer intern through Girls, Inc. to work on curriculum development and pilot testing learning materials (Summer 2021)
  • Partnered with Saint Paul Public Schools to participate in the Engaged Departments program through the Office of Community Engagement. Created a plan to integrate community outreach and engagement into our Division’s activities (Spring 2021-Spring 2022)
  • Presented “K-12 Community Partnerships: a Method of Biostatistics Promotion” at the Women in Statistics and Data Science conference of the American Statistical Association (October 7, 2021)
  • The Biostat Community Outreach and Engagement committee (BCOE) was featured in the Fall 2021 issue of Advances, the University of Minnesota School of Public Health magazine: Biostatistics Goes to High School
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