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Ninth annual SAS Day showcases creative uses of statistical analysis software

KENNESAW, GA, Apr 17, 2016

Kennesaw State’s ninth annual SAS Day on Friday showcased about 40 undergraduate, master’s and Ph.D. data analytics and statistics students’ research projects, ranging from an analysis of NFL plays to awareness of conservation programs at Zoo Atlanta. SAS, which stands for Statistical Analysis Software, is used to mine data and perform high-level analyses.

"Analytics is inherently interdisciplinary, and this was reflected in the research posters,” said Jennifer Lewis Priestley, organizer of SAS Day. “There were posters which examined the awareness of conservation programs at Zoo Atlanta, factors influencing infant mortality in underserved populations, risk-profiling in sub-prime credit markets, mathematical optimization of data-cleansing processes, and small-business credit models, to name just a few."

The competitive event introduces students to about 250 local businesses and regional SAS programming users, who help judge the students’ work and provide valuable insights about how data is used in non-profit and for-profit endeavors. Sponsors of SAS Day included Southern Company, SAS Institute, Inc., MicroBilt and Equifax.

"KSU SAS Day introduces our students to regional SAS users, allows them to begin building their professional network, and gives them a look at real-world careers available to them in analytics,” Priestley said. “Our students also have the opportunity to discuss collaborative projects with local businesses."

One of those projects involved the Arby’s Restaurant Group. Arby’s CEO Paul Brown, the keynote speaker, discussed how much the role of data analytics has driven his company towards increased profitability. Sales, up more than 8 percent last year to $3.5 billion, were helped in large part by carefully analyzing various consumer purchase data sets.

"We’ve taken a real data-centered approach to the business," said Brown, who is at the helm of the privately held, Atlanta-based fast-food chain.

Kennesaw State statistics students played a role in Arby’s success, according to Priestley, by examining the chain’s social media effectiveness through Yelp’s crowd-sourced restaurant reviews.

"KSU helped Arby’s examine the association of Yelp reviews to sales," said Priestley. "We examined both the numeric reviews as well as the text comments."

Priestley, who also is the director of the Kennesaw State’s Ph.D. in analytics and data science, said the new Ph.D. program is making great strides.

"It has exceeded all of our expectations. Our first cohort, which began in Fall of 2015, received 35 applications for 5 funded slots. The second cohort for Fall of 2016, which we have just accepted, received 38 applications for 5 funded slots."

— Robert S. Godlewski

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