Wednesday, 07 August 2019 15:29

Large Attendance at African Conference, Women’s Workshop

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More than 200 scholars and students attended the Sixth African International Conference on Statistics in Adama, Ethiopia, in late May. The large attendance once again demonstrates the need and desire for advanced statistical research on this underserved continent.

The concept of the conference series started with Bimal Sinha and a small group of his colleague statisticians from the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC). They envisioned teaming up with a cosponsoring university in Africa for local arrangements. Despite many hassles in arranging international conferences, the UMBC team took the attitude (or perhaps borrowed it from Nike) to “just do it.” The resulting conferences have provided anopportunity for an African audience to listen to, mingle with, and learn from a distinguished group of international statisticians.



From a small initial conference in Senegal, the conference has grown annually as it has made its way through Ethiopia, Cameroon, South Africa, Botswana, and back to Ethiopia. Each year, the UMBC statisticians work with a university in Africa to coordinate all the logistics of the meeting. This year, Arsi University was the co-host. As a measure of their interest, Arsi’s president, Duguma Debele, took a personal interest in the conference. He not only oversaw the arrangements, but personally attended sessions and had the distinguished invitees plant trees on the construction site of the expanded Arsi campus.

 Duguma Debele, president of Arsi University, and Bimal Sinha, professor at the University of Maryland Baltimore County



Parallel to the conference, Arsi University hosted “A Workshop for Women Academics in Ethiopia: Empowering Women for Academic Leadership Through Achievers’ Network.” The idea for the workshop came from Debele in response to a request for volunteering opportunities during the conference by the spouses of many delegates. The workshop was coordinated and facilitated by Chetana Neerchal, senior accounting officer at the International Finance Corporation and a spouse and regular attendee of the AIC series.

The three-hour workshop was inaugurated by Engedaye Eshete, president of the Ethiopian Women Entrepreneurs Association. It was attended by more than 100 women academics (undergraduates, graduates, PhD students, professors, and a few administrative staff). The women speakers included four professors (one from Sri Lanka, one from the US, and two from Ethiopia), 1 PhD student (from Sudan/USA), and a psychologist (from a Kolkata NGO that combats women trafficking). Each presentation was followed by enthusiastic Q&As and a 20-minute session on speaking/presentation skills.


In addition to providing technical talks, the conference set the stage for several African students to pursue graduate studies in the US, for faculty to arrange visiting stints at American universities, and for many to become involved in collaborative research projects. In fact, this year’s UMBC coordinator, Yehenew Kifle, was originally a professor in Africa and is now on a tenure track at UMBC.

Of course, no conference would ignore local pleasures such as hand-roasted coffee freshly brewed in front of you at each meal.

In 2019, the ASA provided financial assistance for the conference, which enabled more students and educators to attend. Stay tuned for next year in Ghana!

The women’s program attracted a full house






A Tree Grows in Ethiopia
Arsi University in Asela, Ethiopia, was the cosponsoring university for the May 2019 Sixth African International Conference on Statistics. The conference garnered the personal interest of Duguma Debele, the university president. In fact, he proudly showed the invited international guests the new (under construction) university campus. Amidst the dirt, mud, and construction equipment, Debele had a big surprise: trees to be permanently planted on campus in honor of the guests. As the ASA was a sponsor of the conference, there was indeed an ASA tree. In the photo are Debele and former ASA President Barry Nussbaum moments after the ASA tree was planted. The sign is cemented in place, so it is the ASA tree for the next 200 years or so.

 To see the news on The Membership Magnize of American Statical Assocaition use the following link 

Read 1021 times Last modified on Wednesday, 07 August 2019 16:12

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