Beyond Normal: Preparing Undergraduates for the Work Force in a Statistical Consulting Capstone
In this article we chronicle the development of the undergraduate statistical consulting course at Miami University, from canned to client-based projects, and argue that if the course is well designed with suitable mentoring, students can perform remarkably sophisticated analyses of real-world data problems that require solutions beyond the methods encountered in previous classes. We review the historical context in which the consulting class evolved, describe the logistics of implementing it, and review assessment and student reaction to the course. We also illustrate the types of challenging projects the students are confronted with via two case studies and relate the skills learned and reinforced in this consulting class model to the skills demanded in the modern statistical work force. This course also provides an opportunity to strengthen and nurture key points from the new American Statistical Association guidelines for undergraduate programs: namely, communicating analyses of real and complex data that require the application of diverse statistical models and approaches. Supplementary materials for this article are available online.
[Received December 2014. Revised July 2015.]