Brown School StatLab offers statistics support

Faculty; Students

Tracie Ross, a first-year MPH student from Nashville, loves studying public health, but she doesn’t particularly love statistics. She’s hardly alone.

The Brown School has launched a new program to help social work and public health students master the numeric skills that are vital to the development of evidence-based research and practice. It’s called the StatLab, and for Ross and dozens of other students, it’s just the support they need.

“I’ve used it all semester,” Ross said. “I don’t know how I would have gotten through biostats without it. It’s a great resource for students.”

Conceived by faculty members Kimberly Johnson and Jenine Harris, who teach epidemiology and biostatistics courses at the Brown School, the StatLab pairs students with second-year peers who have an expertise in statistics. They meet in the StatLab on the third floor of Brown Hall, which is open Monday-Thursday from 3-7 p.m., for help with homework and guidance on using computer software.

The one-year pilot program began on Sept. 1 and is already showing success, with 58 students making 165 appointments with tutors.

Johnson says early feedback from students has been encouraging.

“They think it’s a really great thing to have,” she said. “It’s providing them with extra support so we can increase the rigor of our classes.” Additional, walk-in hours are planned for the StatLab.

Johnson said the StatLab is good for students who need a boost in stats, but it also can benefit students who are already good with numbers and who’d like tips to get even better. “And it’s really going to benefit the tutors,” she said, because explaining statistical concepts will strengthen their own understanding of them.

Ultimately, she said, the StatLab will give students a better grasp of statistical skills that are critical to the public health and social work professions. “We use statistics to evaluate the strength of our evidence,” she noted.