2020 METALab Anti-racism commitments

Anti-racism, Creative

November 6, 2020

Dear MIIS community, 

In response to the chain of events detailed in Jasmine Sturdifen’s presentation to Student Council, the METALab Graduate Assistants stand by the Black student body at MIIS. We also express great disappointment with the MIIS administration’s lack of transparency in their response. As a student-run research center, we know from lessons and first-hand experience that inclusivity and transparency are pillars for accountability and stakeholder engagement. In the virtual space that we call on as our MIIS community, we, as students, need indication that we are heard and that our voices are welcomed. There is still much more to be done to address anti-racism and the only way forward is to move collectively. 

In addition, METALab is committed to establish a series of blog posts and dedicate a section on our website on the topic of anti-racism and ethics. The remainder of Fall 2020 will be dedicated to creating a strategy to curate resources, literature and relevant sources. This will be a permanent tab on the site to address race, power, and social research in an effort to shine a light on data collection methods and the importance of incorporating anti-racist work & principles into social research design, data collection, and analysis. Curated with open input from students, faculty, and alumni, this will become part of routine staff training at the METALab and accessible to the open public.

In solidarity, 

The METALab Graduate Assistants

Spring 2020 Virtual thank you card

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Song credit: Stronger – Kanye West

Check out a silly and fun thing the METALab made to say thank you who made Spring 2020 possible inside the classroom and outside on Zoom.

Thank you to the students, colleagues, teachers, administration, and the IT Department to name a few. You’re all rockstars, you know who you are. We see you and appreciate you. 🙂

Congratulations, Class of Spring 2020! Cheers to you and we’ll see the MIIS community back stronger in the Fall 2020 semester.

With love and gratitude,

the METALab family

Insider Interviews with META lab GAs

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Interview with Ash Hammad IPD & ITED ‘20 

By Salome Pachkoria, Anna Phillips and Jasmine Wang

Ash is pursuing a joint degree in International Policy and Development & International Trade and Economic Diplomacy. He has been working at the META Lab for one year as a graduate assistant. The major projects he has been involved in are with Fair Trade USA and Impact Monterey County where he has worked on survey design, data cleanup, and analysis. He’ll be taking over for Grant as co-manager at the META lab this fall (congratulations!)

During his time working at the META Lab, Ash has gained a lot of hard skills related to quantitative analysis in R, Excel, and Tableau.  

When talking about how those skills would give him an advantage in the job market, he pointed out that “now anything related to data analysis is of high demand across different sectors.” The application of data in the professional world is now more important than ever: people who are able to take the results, analyze them, explain what they mean, and generate policies based on them are in great demand. 

The META Lab provides practice and exposure to real-life projects that Ash wouldn’t have had just by taking classes. The skills gained at the META Lab are always on the top of his resume because they allow the employer to see that he is able to use his skills confidently. He has also included projects he has been working on at the META lab in order to showcase his professional experience.

The aforementioned skills are helpful in the fields of development and trade, especially in the case of the project Ash worked on with United Way Monterey County. In describing the importance of data analysis in policy decisions, he stated the following: “People want to know with the help of data that their interventions are working, and they’re working in a way they want it to”. 

Insider Interviews with META Lab GAs

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Interview with Grant Tuioti IPD ‘20 

By Salome Pachkoria, Anna Phillips and Jasmine Wang

Grant Tuioti is a student in the International Policy and Development program, graduating this semester. This is his third semester working at the META lab, and he is currently working as one of the managers. 

Grant already had certain data analysis skills by the time he completed his undergraduate degree, but the META Lab helped him refine those skills and gear them towards a specific direction. For him, the META Lab was less about learning a new skill and more about building his confidence and trying things out. 

In our interview, he talked about how his META Lab experience helped him with his practicum project: building a data analysis dashboard for the Monterey Police Department. His prior experience using Excel during a META Lab project with Gathering for Women, as well as his experience leading our Excel Geek-Ins helped him tremendously during his practicum. He expressed that, “being able to look at data and understand it was very beneficial”.

According to Grant, one of the unique characteristics of the META lab is that it gives MIIS students the opportunity to engage in long term projects, even though our time at MIIS is quite short. In other words, you can work on ambitious projects that multiple students have contributed to, extending both before and after your time at MIIS.In terms of how the skills he’s developed at the META lab have helped him with job applications, he emphasized: “Everyone wants to know you can do Excel”.

Do you know enough about Survey Design?

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By Salome Pachkoria, Anna Phillips and Jasmine Wang

How many of you have either created a survey or filled one out? Everyone? That’s what we thought. 

This is why today, we will be talking about survey design! (we’ll just pretend you didn’t notice the image at the beginning of this post)

Survey design is the process of creating surveys with the goal of receiving maximum insights from survey research. In this process, it’s important to keep in mind the famous 7 Ps applied to survey design: Prior preparation and planning prevents piss-poor performance.

Here are 10 tips for designing a survey: 

  1. Design the questions according to your plan for using the data. If you’re planning to make graphs, charts, or infographics with the information for the public to see and absorb, then closed questions are best. If you want to learn more about people’s opinions, experiences, and beliefs, then open-ended survey questions will be more appropriate. 

  2. Questions should be as clear and specific as possible so that respondents will interpret their meaning in a consistent manner. For example, if you ask a broad question such as “do you have the means to live comfortably”, each respondent may have a different interpretation of what “living comfortably” means.

  3. Construct questions that people will be willing to answer. If you don’t, you might end up with questions that are too personal for respondents to feel comfortable answering.

  4. Formulate questions that encourage respondents to answer truthfully. Sometimes, respondents feel compelled to answer the way that is considered socially acceptable, such as saying they own a car even if that isn’t the case. You might instead ask how they travel from one place to the other, which would allow them to answer more truthfully – perhaps they take the bus.

  5. Make sure to ask questions about something people are likely to have the knowledge or information to answer. If, for example, you ask how many times they’ve had a headache in the last three months, they may not know.

  6. Avoid asking double-barrelled questions – a.k.a. questions with two different parts. For example, do you believe that businesses must reopen as soon as possible and that the U.S should continue blocking flights with Europe and Asia? This should be converted into two separate questions, as a respondent may have different answers for each part.

  7. Pretest your question. Make sure that it follows the tips we have been talking about before starting surveying actual respondents. Remember the 7 Ps? Consider this a special addition to them from the META Lab! 

  8. Avoid asking loaded, assumptive, or leading questions. For example, if your question is “What is the biggest problem you have with your boss?”, it implies that the respondent has had many problems with their boss, even if the respondent actually has an excellent relationship with their boss. An alternate question might be “Tell me about your relationship with your boss.” 

  9. Keep the language accessible – you don’t want the question to confuse the survey respondents. If you want to know, for example, how your respondents feel about higher education, it’s better to ask “Do you think higher education is important” – not “Do you prescribe to the notion that higher education is essential to the betterment of oneself”.

  10. Now that you have designed the best questions for your survey, think about the order of your questions. Try to start with more general questions, and go into specific ones later. 

For more tips and examples take a look at this amazing short video! and an article.

Luckily for us, we can now conduct survey design easily through some online survey design tools. Most of them are very user-friendly and easy to operate. Here we have listed some of the most popular ones:

How to stay sane in online transition – Slack

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By Salome Pachkoria, Anna Phillips and Jasmine Wang

Everyone agrees that communication has become even more important in this online transition. No longer can you simply run into your classmates on campus to agree on your next meeting for the group project – now, you have to communicate about it online! Did you know that a growing number of companies are using Slack as an alternative to emails to streamline this communication? 

Would you like to become a professional Slack user in 15 minutes or less?

Slack is a great communication tool that can be used by either a small group of coworkers or a big company. We at the META Lab use Slack, as does CTEC, so if you work there now or plan to work at any of the amazing offices at MIIS implementing this program, it would be very beneficial for you to learn more about it. Also, fun fact: more than 100,000 companies around the world use Slack, so understanding it could be advantageous for you after graduation!

Take a look at a great short video introducing Slack

Below are some useful functions in Slack that you might want to know how to use to streamline your work and improve your productivity: 

  • Do you have important messages that you would like to be able to reference easily? Worry not, Slack has got you covered with the “Pin Messages” option. 
  • How to set up shared channels (a function for companies) 
  • Searching for a certain message has never been easier. Do you want to filter your search results? That’s easy as well! 
  • Quick navigation is one of the nicest features of Slack. You can customize shortcuts to your liking! 
  • There are a lot of ways to customize the sidebar to fit your needs! 
  • Want to make sure you have everything under control? Set up reminders!  
  • Set up new feeds of your favorite blogs to make sure you won’t miss anything! 
  • Slack is not only an alternative for email but for video conferencing tools as well! Need to have a virtual meeting? It is easily done with Slack! 

Customizing your Slack video goes over some other ways you can customize your Slack space, including other tools you can integrate into Slack. Some examples are given, but there are many more – including many of the ones we discussed in previous blog posts!

How to stay sane in online transition – Project/Time Management Tools

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By Salome Pachkoria, Anna Phillips and Jasmine Wang

Have your project and time management skills been undermined by the online transition? 

Welcome to the club!

We decided to introduce three great resources that might help boost your productivity and confidence and help you stay focused, at least until the end of this semester! (Seriously though, these tools might become your lifelong friends).   

  1. Process street: PM

Process street is an excellent checklist-based project management tool. . According to your own workflow, you can customize your own checklist items! Sounds good for automating your work process, right? It can be really efficient and improve your productivity. 

To get to know it, check out this short demo

To dig more into it and see how it can help to fulfill your own goal in the best way, take a look at this thorough review

Just to let you know, once you’ve signed up (for free!), the community managers of Process Street will follow up on you through emails to see how you are doing with their product, and will happily provide you a complete set of tutorials to help you onboard if you allow them! 

  1. Asana: PM/TM

Asana is another excellent tool that can help you manage different projects while also improving your time management. What makes this program stand out from other PM tools is that it’s super flexible – there are many ways you can tailor it to fit your needs, and integrate it into your daily life. If you have a ton of group projects, no sweat – it can keep track of things such as which person is responsible for each task, the information related to these tasks, and all other information related to its progress. 

No worries – the basic version and downloadable app are both free (though Asana works just as well online)

Intrigued? Here are two places to look for detailed information:

  • Their YouTube series, “How to Asana”
  • The Asana Guide includes articles on a variety of topics, including how to get started, team onboarding, and what they call “Aha moments” (different ways to integrate Asana into your favorite apps that will make you say AHA!)
  1. Toggl: TM

Toggl is a great time management tool that can be used by both individuals and by groups. It only takes one click to start a new time entry, and data is synced between different devices so you can start your time on your browser and stop it on your phone. Moreover, the app converts all the tracked numbers into reports so you have a good idea of just how long you spent watching Netflix compared to studying for a test. Tags and colors make for really nice data visualizations. Also, because Toggl is a simple and intuitive app, you will not be spending hours trying to learn how to use it. You can sign-up for the free basic plan here

And if you insist on watching a tutorial, we’ve got you covered 

P.S. If you want to check-out similar apps, here are some examples: 

How to stay sane in online transition – Zoom

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By Salome Pachkoria and Anna Phillips 

Have you counted how many times you have heard the word “Zoom” over the last month? Too many to count? This is why, for our first blog post, we have decided to give you a quick introduction to Zoom in the form of links to short (1-4 minutes) videos!

Just one thing – what even IS Zoom? Zoom is a video-conferencing software that allows individuals and groups to meet and work together productively. As Zoom is going to become our new best friend this semester, let’s explore what fun features are available!

To start, we’d like to highlight a few functions we discovered in Zoom that we thought would be incredibly useful for faculty and students alike. They are as follows:

  1. Break-out groups on Zoom:

This impressive feature makes it possible to have in-class group discussions. The host can assign co-hosts and decide the number of rooms as well as members of each breakout room. The host can join any breakout room, and broadcast messages to everyone. 

  1. Screen sharing options:

This is very helpful for anyone who wants to do a presentation, or actively show a step-by-step process to others in the call. There are different screen sharing options including sharing a specified screen, a certain file, and more! 

  1. Recording:

This can be a very useful feature, especially since recordings can be directly uploaded to the cloud for sharing purposes.

Here are some other really important (and fun!) things you can do in Zoom:

  • There is a chat room available for every Zoom meeting. Make sure you can use it if necessary – for example, if you don’t want to interrupt a lecture but need to ask a question. 
  • Make sure that you use the Mute/Unmute function properly. (It’s a good idea to put your audio on mute when you are not talking, if you think there might be some ambient noise that will disrupt your classes/meetings).  
  • Here is a video on how to join Zoom meetings (this way you aren’t late due to “technical difficulties”)
  • Here is how you can schedule a meeting
  • Some META Lab GAs have been having fun with Virtual Backgrounds! Try it! 
  • In this 10-minute video, you will see many different ways to customize a meeting so it is exactly how you want it!  
  • Syncing Zoom with your calendar might be helpful. (That way you are not watching Netflix while you are supposed to be in class or a meeting!)

By the way, many of the features mentioned above require use of the desktop app. Downloading it is super easy – go to the download center, download Zoom Client for Meeting, and install it. This will also give you the ability to customize your preferences (for example, you can make sure that for every meeting you join, you will be joining with muted audio and no video). So, go ahead and download the app so you can start playing with all the fun things we showed you above! 
We understand that some people aren’t as enthused by video instructions. Here’s an article that goes over many of the same things