Good educators are more than a source of knowledge; they inspire, innovate and continuously adapt to provide their students with the best learning experiences. They embrace new technologies, foster critical thinking and prepare students for future challenges.

Recognizing their importance, SAS recently honored educators at SAS Innovate 2024. This year’s event shone a spotlight on the winners of the 2024 SAS Educator Award and the 2024 HBCU+ Fellows. This was the ultimate platform to celebrate and honor educators who have prepared their students to master SAS skills.

But the celebration didn't stop at the awards ceremony. SAS Innovate was a melting pot of brilliant minds, all dedicated to pushing the boundaries of what's possible with analytics and AI. This unique environment provided them with an opportunity to network with their peers, gain invaluable insights from cross-industry professionals and dive deep into the latest advancements in SAS technology.

After inspiring keynote speeches and hands-on sessions, we caught up with a few of the educators. Here's what they took away from the experience.

Learning at the conference

Incorporating SAS tools into classroom curriculums can help prepare students with the skills needed to thrive as technology advances.

Randall Rieger, the 2024 SAS Educator Award winner in the US, talked about this and his learning experience at the conference.

“Sessions on SAS® Viya® were particularly enlightening for me,” Rieger said. “The hands-on setup with computers allowed for an interactive learning experience, which was more effective than passive listening.”

Rieger found that the active participation required in these sessions significantly improved his understanding and retention of the material. This practical approach highlighted the value of experimental learning methods in mastering complex subjects.

Recognizing these benefits, he plans to continue learning about SAS Viya and introduce it to his students in the near future.

Ephrem Eyob, an HBCU+ Fellow and faculty member at the College of Business at Virginia State University, appreciated the opportunity to meet industry professionals and expand his professional network. “The conference offered new insights into AI, machine learning and best practices in data science, as well as success stories and case studies that sparked innovative ideas and informed us about industry trends.”

Planting seeds for the future

An educator's role in equipping students with the necessary skills cannot be overstated. Understanding these technologies and how they can fit into real-world applications of their curriculum was important to the experience of the educators we talked to at SAS Innovate. It’s all part of preparing future talent for the demands of the modern workforce.

Robin Yap, winner of the 2024 SAS Educator Award in Canada, sees analytics as a ubiquitous and persistent field essential for future-proofing careers. “Being analytics-aware is crucial, and attending events like this helps us bring the best and latest technology and business case studies into our classrooms.”

Dennis Sigur, a 2024 HBCU+ Fellow and professor at Dillard University, attended his first SAS conference and was amazed by the scale and number of participants. Sigur found immense value in learning how other institutions and industries utilize SAS.

“Meeting the [HBCU+ Fellows] cohort and exchanging ideas was a great experience,” Sigur said. “Talking to [SAS users], both beginners and experts, gave me new ideas on how to incorporate SAS into my classes and share with colleagues across different departments. It’s about planting seeds for future incorporation of SAS into our curriculum.”

The culture of SAS

Rieger noted that SAS is much more than just another software program. “It’s a comprehensive suite of advanced technologies with a vibrant culture around it, offering much more than just a software tool.”

Academic partnerships are part of that culture. SAS remains committed to partnering with universities and colleges worldwide to prepare students and educators for success in an AI-driven economy, equipping them with the skills and knowledge needed to thrive in the rapidly evolving landscape of analytics and AI.

We encourage academics who are ready to learn about resources for teaching and learning analytics and AI to participate in SAS Educate, a free virtual learning experience, July 22 – 25. Sessions will cover best practices, curriculum development, talent-industry connections, certifications, ethical innovation and GenAI. Registration is now open!

Save the date: Experience SAS Innovate 2025, to be held May 6 – 9, 2025, in Orlando, FL!


About Author

Lilia Rodriguez

Global Academic Program Manager

Lilia Rodriguez, Ph.D. is an Academic Program Manager in the Academic Innovation and Strategy team at SAS where she helps advance analytics education by partnering with higher education institutions and by designing programs to responsibly support minority serving institutions. Before joining SAS, Rodriguez worked on the design, execution, and coordination of equity-oriented educational programs and tools across the P-20 pipeline, including local and global university-community partnerships. Rodriguez earned a Ph.D. in education from the University of California, Los Angeles. Her interdisciplinary training in the learning sciences, cultural studies, and anthropology influence her interest in human ingenuity and innovation for social improvement.

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