DEFLAB: Data Education and Feminism at Lafayette and Beyond

Guest post by Trent Gaugler, Lafayette College

This Success Story is a report on the results of the Northeast Big Data Innovation Hub’s 2020 Seed Fund program.

The goals of this Seed Fund project were to introduce students to the fundamentals of data science through socially relevant projects, to enhance Lafayette College students’ ability to design data science projects and communicate data science methods to other students, and to incorporate principles of “data feminism” into the entire project. The aim of this last goal was to facilitate students’ learning of data science with awareness of gender and other social inequities and strategies for promoting gender equity through the use of data — in other words, to show students that they can use data science to effect social change.

Overall, the project was a great success.  We were able to purchase several copies of Klein and D’Ignazio’s book “Data Feminism” to facilitate a community reading at Lafayette College.  We held two virtual community discussions (splitting the book in half) that were quite well-attended.  We were also able to bring Prof. Klein to campus (via Zoom) for a wonderful lecture on the book.  In addition to this public lecture, Prof. Klein also agreed to a smaller meeting with the Seed Fund grant PI and several students who wanted to design their own data feminism-informed projects to share with peer students.  She listened to their ideas and provided valuable feedback to sharpen their approaches.

These student projects were initially proposed to be delivered to community college students, but COVID forced us to alter those plans.  In lieu of that venue for presenting the projects, the students instead visited an introductory statistics course at Lafayette and delivered the projects as lab assignments.  They ran the course session entirely and developed their own assignment documents and guidelines.  The statistics students eagerly engaged with these projects.

Trent Gaugler is an Associate Professor in the Department of Mathematics at Lafayette College.  After completing his BS in Mathematics at Bucknell University in 2003, Trent received his Ph.D. in Statistics from Penn State University in 2008 under the supervision of Michael Akritas, and stayed on there for three years as a fixed-term assistant professor working primarily in the Statistical Consulting Center.  Trent then moved on to a visiting assistant professorship in the Department of Statistics at Carnegie Mellon University.

In addition to teaching consulting at Penn State, he taught a capstone consulting course for the Master in Statistical Practice program at CMU.  Over the course of these six years of teaching and doing consulting, Trent has seen a vast array of interesting problems in a whole host of disciplines.  He remains very interested and active in consulting, and find these interactions with other scientists and researchers to be one of the most rewarding aspects of being a statistician.


Chris Phillips is Professor of English at Lafayette College, specializing in American and transatlantic literatures of the 18th and 19th centuries, history of the book, religion and literature, historical poetics, and the digital humanities.  He is the author of numerous articles on the above subjects, as well as the books Epic in American Culture, Settlement to Reconstruction, (Johns Hopkins, 2012) and The Hymnal: A Reading History (Johns Hopkins, 2018), and editor of The Cambridge Companion to the Literature of the American Renaissance (2018).

Jason Sims is the Manager, Research and High-Performance Computing at Lafayette College.