Using data to tell better stories

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Using data to make better decisionsAccess to SAS® at an early age can change lives. If the most valuable skills to have in today’s job market are SAS® Analytics skills – and we know they are – then what better way to support young people than to teach them SAS?

That’s the premise, and the promise, of the Yale-Bridgeport GEAR UP program.

GEAR UP stands for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs. The Connecticut-based program, hosted by Yale University's School of Medicine in conjunction with the Bridgeport City School District, is a federally funded US Department of Education grant program aimed at significantly increasing the number of low-income and minority students who are prepared to enter and succeed in post-secondary education.

Approximately 40 rising high school seniors from Connecticut participated in this summer’s boot camp-style program. At the heart of the program was instruction in SAS® Studio via SAS® OnDemand for Academics, available free of charge to educators. Lisa Dierker, Professor of Psychology at Wesleyan University, and a group of peer mentors (undergraduate and graduate students from Yale and Wesleyan) led the students.

In just nine days, students with no background in analytics, programming or SAS selected a research topic, gathered and analyzed data, and presented their work to a host of academic, non-profit and industry representatives.

The students who participated in the program not only learned basic SAS programming, they learned about a whole new arena of professional possibilities.

"This course was an eye opener, I never thought I would have a liking for something like this,” said a student from Bridgeport. After completing the course, she is considering a career in data management.

Academic Outreach and Collaborations Manager Josh Hewitt, who was able to attend the final presentations on July 21, points out that the students participating in the Yale-Bridgeport GEAR UP Program are at a pivotal point in their lives. This fall they will be choosing where to apply to college, and what to study.

“Through this type of experience and with these new skills, students were provided with an opportunity to rethink what is possible. The more students that know SAS, the more students can take advantage of an exciting and rewarding career path,” said Hewitt.

This opportunity was not lost on participants. “The most valuable experience was knowing the program we were using was No. 1 on [MONEY magazine's] list, and that captured my interest completely,” a student from the program said. “So I focused on learning more, and it paid off a lot. Leaving this summer program, I attained something new and fell in love with the little I learned.”

The program concluded with students presenting their research projects to a wide-ranging group of professionals. Their posters covered a number of different topics, but all reflected the specific concerns of these young people, as told through data. Some students explored violence in their communities, others considered the relationship between stress and academic performance.

“It was overwhelming and rewarding to witness these students, who went from never having heard of terms like analytics or big data, let alone SAS, to develop a research question, collect and analyze their data and then present their findings in a matter of just days,” said Hewitt.

SAS OnDemand for Academics makes it possible for students to learn valuable analytics skills that can bolster their professional development. The Yale-Bridgeport GEAR UP Program brings this incredible educational opportunity to low-income and minority students. The result is a win-win for all parties – the students, SAS and the universities.

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About Author

Erin Arizzi

Erin Arizzi is a communications specialist at SAS. Before joining SAS, she worked in higher education as an instructor and researcher. She holds a PhD in communication studies from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she studied technology from a historical and cultural perspective.

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