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Florence Nightingale Day 2023 Introduced Statistics to a New Generation

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Statistics is already more diverse than many other STEM fields. One goal of Florence Nightingale Day is to build on that strength.

The first-ever Florence Nightingale Day at Simon Fraser University on February 3, 2023, gave high school students a chance to explore statistical sciences as an educational and career path. Check out the photos and story below to find out how the day went.

On February 3, 2023, close to 30 high school students stepped out of a rented bus and onto the campus of Simon Fraser University (SFU) in Burnaby, B.C.

They were participants in the first-ever Florence Nightingale Day (FN Day) at SFU, organized by CANSSI and the SFU Department of Statistics & Actuarial Science to give a new generation—especially students from non-traditional and under-represented groups—the opportunity to explore educational and career opportunities in statistical sciences.

“An Open and Welcoming Community”

“Florence Nightingale was a pioneer in data visualization and the founder of modern nursing,” explained Becky Lin, a lecturer in the statistics department and a co-organizer of the day. “An event like Florence Nightingale Day [can] highlight the contribution of women to statistics and data science, raise awareness about the importance of these fields, promote career opportunities, and inspire a diverse group of young people to become leaders in data-related disciplines. By doing so, we also help to address the diversity gap and create a more inclusive future for statistics and data science.”

Becky’s comments were echoed by Department Chair Derek Bingham, who moderated a panel of industry experts: “Florence Nightingale Day is an opportunity to highlight the tremendous amount and variety of opportunities in the profession. Importantly, it is a chance for us to show that our community is open and welcoming to everyone.”

Food, Fun, and Stories

Becky and Derek were joined by CANSSI Director Don Estep, CANSSI scientific coordinator Nathan Ngongo, and a contingent of blue-shirted SFU volunteers who worked to ensure that everything ran smoothly during the event.

Following introductions, the morning began with a panel of SFU students—including PhD student Nirodha Epasinghege Dona (statistics) and undergraduates Yuxin Liu (statistics), Ryan Smith (psychology), Tom Xie (molecular biology and biochemistry and computer science), and Sarah Zwiep (computer science with a minor in statistics)—who shared their experiences studying and using statistics.

Then the visitors were invited to explore statistical concepts and methods through group challenges like Marshmallow in Space, Guess the Correlation, Trash Can Game, and the Monty Hall Problem. Their enthusiasm for the activities was obvious.

A shared lunch followed, and then five young data scientists—Hayley Boyce (who represented Slalom and brought along a supply of swag), Kristen Bystrom (Yelp), Shannon Lo (Statistics Canada), Owen Ward (Simon Fraser University), and Lucas Wu (Zelus Analytics)—described the career paths that statistics had opened up to them.

For the visitors, it was an inspiring session.

“One high school student I spoke with mentioned that she was inspired by the stories of one female data scientist who spoke,” recalled Becky. “She felt that the scientist’s experiences helped her to see that there are many different paths to a career in data science and that girls can be successful leaders in these fields.”

Derek was just as impressed with the student side of the conversation: “I thought the questions from the high school students to the panellists were fantastic.”

A Lasting Impact

Becky heard from a number of students who expressed interest in applying to data-related disciplines by the end of the day.

And participants were generous with their praise.

“Everything that happened on this event was awesome!” said one student. “Everyone was so nice, and the food made it better.”

Another echoed that sentiment: “I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience and was very impressed at the level of organization and attention to detail. Thank you for having us, and I really hope to see more events/opportunities like this happen again!”

About Florence Nightingale Day

Florence Nightingale is widely known as the founder of modern nursing, but she was also a ground-breaking statistician who is credited with inventing the pie chart.

Florence Nightingale Day is an international celebration that invites high school students, especially those from traditionally under-represented groups, to follow in her footsteps by exploring studies and careers in statistics and data sciences.

Florence Nightingale Day was launched in the U.S. in 2018. Since then, it has become an international one-day event with in-person activities for local high school students organized at colleges and universities and virtual activities for students from all over the world. In the U.S., it has been celebrated at a number of universities, including Ohio State University, Harvard University, and the University of Texas at Dallas. In Canada, it has been celebrated in 2023 at Simon Fraser University and the University of Toronto.

CANSSI is a major co-sponsor and co-organizer of Florence Nightingale Day together with the Caucus for Women in Statistics and the American Statistical Association. It’s part of our developing effort to attract under-represented and disadvantaged high school students to study statistical and data sciences. Our vision is to expand Florence Nightingale Day to become a national event involving high school students across Canada.

Our goal is to expand the number of sites each year.

Read More

Read about Florence Nightingale Day celebrations at other locations: