Students and professors earn recognition for their work at SAS Global Forum


Student Ambassador Rebecca Peters and Faculty Scholar Penny Holborn

Whether it is through your research, projects you tackle or by teaching, you work hard to accomplish your goals and that deserves recognition.  At SAS, we support students and lecturers who want to make an impact in their careers by given them the opportunity to attend and present at an international conference and network with other SAS professionals from academia or industry. One of those opportunities is SAS Global Forum, where more than 5,000 individuals gather to learn more about SAS and the field of analytics. This year, several students and faculty from around the world were able to participate in SAS Global Forum 2017 through SAS’ student Ambassador Programme or a student or faculty scholarship. The awards are handed out every year.

Being a Student Ambassador means that you will present  your research to a large audience from around the world. Also, you’ll be recognized for your work and awarded for your accomplishments. It’s such us great experience to show off your SAS skills, meet with who could be your prospective employer and it’s a great add-on to your resume.

Being a Student Scholarship winner means that you will be participating as an observer and learn more about how to improve your SAS skills, how SAS is used across industries, meet up with other SAS users and much more.

Being a Faculty Scholar allows lecturers and professors to get recognized for their research with the opportunity to present at the conference as well. Having academia and industry all in one place, allows you to connect with organizations across industry sectors and share ideas and common interest. And don’t forget to encourage your students to participate as well, so they can be exposed to real-world application of course content.

A number of students and professors from the United Kingdom attended SAS Global Forum on a student or faculty scholarship or as a student ambassador. After a wonderful time in the magical Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Orlando, FL, two of the winners shared with us their experience of being recognized as Student Ambassador and Faculty Scholar.

Rebecca Peters: Student Ambassador Winner

What’s your background and education?
I am a Research Student in Computing and Mathematics at the University of South Wales, an opportunity made possible by Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarships (KESS 2) programme supported by the European Social Fund. I was first introduced to SAS whilst studying a BSc in Mathematics at the university, it instantly appealed to me as an easy-to-learn and easy-to-use statistical software.

I am extremely interested in the real-world applications of Big Data due to its extensiveness and varied uses across sectors. Big Data Analytics and Statistics comprise of techniques that are fundamental to the way in which businesses overcome challenges, such as cost reduction and productivity increase. Therefore, I firmly believed that furthering understanding in this domain is integral to advancing in other areas of Computing and Mathematics, such as Artificial Intelligence, Statistical Learning and Data Mining.

The research for my PhD is focused on exploring these techniques within the Steel Manufacturing Industry. Huge amounts of data surrounding the steel production process is generated each day; current improvements and analysis utilise only specific data sets or time frames. By leveraging the latest Big Data tools and SAS Software, I aim to determine key performance indicators to develop a predictive tool to identify when maintenance should be carried out.

What was your favorite part at the conference?
It’s hard to say what my favorite part of the conference was as there was so much going on. I found all of the presentations to be both interesting and informative, an opportunity to learn about the vast variety of solutions made available to SAS users within their respective industries. The short demos that took place in the Quad were especially useful as they enabled me to pick up some great tips in just a short space of time. I was able to see the direct benefit that a particular software or application would have on my research. However, if I had to state my most favorable part of the conference, the hands on workshops allowed me to get stuck in and try out and test software that I wouldn’t have otherwise had access to. Oh and the personalized conference T-shirt were pretty cool too.

What made you apply for the Student Ambassador Programme?
I am very fortunate to have a brilliant supervisor Dr Penny Holborn who is very supportive of me and my studies. My supervisor works closely with the SAS UK Academics group and was aware of the SAS Student Ambassador programme having known a student who had successfully received the award a few years prior. However, it was after meeting with Dr Denise McManus from Alabama University last summer at the SAS UK Analytics Forum 2016 that I decided to apply for the 2017 programme. Dr McManus filled me in on the excitement of the SAS Global Forum experience and recommended I apply.

What was your presentation about?
Insurance is a data-dependent Industry, my final year project whilst studying a BSc in Mathematics focused on understanding what Big Data Analytics and SAS Software can offer to Insurance Companies. In particular, how these new techniques can interact with their existing customer databases and online user generated content. I was extremely honored to be awarded with a SAS student ambassadorship and grateful for the fantastic opportunity to publish a paper and present this work at SAS Global forum. It was fantastic to have a fully engaged audience throughout my presentation, to whom I am thankful for all of the wonderful feedback I received. This was particularly encouraging as it was my first time presenting at a conference.

Would you recommend students that they apply for the student ambassador programme?
I would definitely recommend students apply for the SAS Student Ambassador programme; it is a fantastic and supportive program that is designed to represent your SAS skills. The programme covered all of my expenses, travel, hotel and registration making the SAS Global forum experience possible. SAS Global Forum 2017 was in Disneyland Florida, not every day you get to tell fellow academics you are jetting off to a conference in Disney. However, if I had not received this award this unforgettable experience would not have been feasible. I met a whole host of SAS professionals and students like myself whom I will be sure to keep in contact with. Most importantly, the SAS Student Ambassador programme allowed me to present and publish my research at an international conference and on top of that receive an award for it.

Penny Holborn: Faculty Scholar winner

What’s your background?
I am a Lecturer in the School of Computing & Mathematics at the University of South Wales (USW), I am responsible for a range of modules which utilise SAS Software, including Statistical techniques, Data Mining and Statistical Programming as well as supervising students research in a range of related areas.

I have always been a keen user of SAS since using it on my own undergraduate degree programme and again whilst on an industrial placement, hence I have seen the many benefits as an academic and practitioner. Since starting at USW in December 2014 I had been keen to build the relationship with SAS, as such we are now a member of the SAS Student Academy and have a good relationship with UK Academic Programme on offer. We use SAS across a range of undergraduate and masters level modules and are continuing to develop this relationship.

What was your favourite part at the conference?
My favourite part of the conference was the varied programme on offer. I was able to not only watch interesting presentations from delegates overviewing their application of SAS to a whole range of problems but I was also able to undertake a range of SAS training courses utilising the latest software and applications. I especially valued the 20 minute demos run out of the Quad that involved a variety of SAS techniques and procedures. It was great to watch short relevant demonstrations of the latest updates or techniques that I could see me using within the classroom.

What made you apply for the faculty scholarship?
I am currently in the process of designing a new MSc in Data Science for USW and was able to see the many advantages that SAS Global Forum could offer me during this process. I felt it would be an excellent opportunity to be able to talk with fellow academics in a similar situation to me but also those with much more developed programmes who could offer advice and support. I was also able to see the latest developments in software and University applications to use throughout the new course. Finally it would allow me to discuss with companies and those in industry their desired outcomes of such a course. It would also allow me the opportunity to discover new technologies to enhance my current teaching.

Would you recommend academics that they apply for the faculty scholarship?
I would recommend any academic who uses SAS for either teaching or research to take advantage of the faculty scholarship. It is an excellent opportunity to attend what was an extremely worthwhile and enjoyable event. I really have gathered a wealth of resources and knowledge that I am looking to put into place back at USW and I was able to network with not only numerous academics across the world but also make contacts with SAS representatives and those in industries.

Next year’s conference will be held in Denver, CO.  Keep an eye on the application process and don’t miss your opportunity to be a student ambassador or student/professor scholarship recipient to SAS Global Forum 2018!


About Author

Mayra Pedraza

Associate Briefing Program Specialist, Marketing Executive

Mayra is a Marketing Specialist for the Academic Programme at SAS UK, she develops the brand awareness across the whole UK & Ireland student community. She joined SAS in January 2016 as an intern. Mayra manages the UK Academic social media platforms to share ideas and support other SAS users, she also creates events and sessions which contribute to engage more students into the analytics world.

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