Assistant Professor Cali Davis, Troy University

“Change is hard for a lot of people, but it's especially hard in higher education,” says Cali M. Davis, Assistant Professor, Troy University. From changing jobs to changing student attention spans, Davis has experienced a lot of change over her career. She spoke about her experience recently at SAS Explore in Las Vegas.

Early in her career, Davis spent a decade working in admissions at the University of Alabama, where she applied analytics to the university's recruitment and retention efforts. From there, she returned to her first love, teaching statistics and data mining at The University of Alabama's Culverhouse College of Business. She had a short stint as a high school math teacher and now works as a professor of statistics and data mining at Troy University.

Davis began using SAS® Enterprise Miner in 2003 to build predictive models for student recruiting and retention. “I felt like it was a hot, new super tool," she says. She continued her use of Enterprise Miner in the classroom where she told students, "There is nothing like it for building models and pattern discovery. It can run multiple models fairly quickly."

Davis describes the strengths of SAS Enterprise Miner while speaking at SAS Explore

Throughout her career, however, Davis has also been an advocate for expanding your toolbelt to include many different tools and techniques for analytics, encouraging students to learn tools and techniques that will bring value to businesses. Her courses often cover SEMMA, decision trees, regression, neural networks, market basket analysis and cluster analysis.

Earlier this year, she decided to take her own advice to heart by learning SAS® Viya®. An expanded relationship between Troy University and SAS for SAS Academic Specialization helped her on her way with free training, certification discounts and web-based access to SAS Viya.

"I decided Spring 2023 would be the semester of change for me," says Davis. As she was still learning to build models and solve problems with SAS Viya herself, she began teaching her graduate students how to use it too. She decided to teach one course with Enterprise Miner and one course with SAS Viya – and compare how students felt about each.

Watch: Check out highlights from SAS Explore on demand!

Finding a new love for SAS® Viya®

Today, Davis says, "I have a new love of SAS Viya," and many of her students agree.

Davis says students pick up SAS Viya quicker, it’s easier for creating new variables and for building dashboards. "Student attention spans around 12 minutes," says Davis, "But if you say the word 'dashboard,' they look up."

In a recent survey, one student said, "The one part of SAS Viya I enjoyed the most was that the user interface is easy to navigate. Figuring out the best way to transform the data is very easy with Viya data visualization features."

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Alison Bolen

Editor of Blogs and Social Content

Alison Bolen is an editor at SAS, where she writes and edits content about analytics and emerging topics. Since starting at SAS in 1999, Alison has edited print publications, Web sites, e-newsletters, customer success stories and blogs. She has a bachelor’s degree in magazine journalism from Ohio University and a master’s degree in technical writing from North Carolina State University.

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