SAS Global Forum Executive Board: Shaping the conference experience for SAS users


SAS Global ForumSAS Global Forum is the premier worldwide event for SAS professionals. It brings nearly 5,000 users and executives from across the world together to share new techniques and technologies to help expand users’ SAS skills. But an event of this size (hundreds of presentations, dozens of workshops and several networking opportunities) doesn’t just happen.  While SAS Global Forum is supported by SAS, the event is entirely planned and run by volunteers of the SAS Global Users Group and governed by an Executive Board charged with shaping the conference experience for fellow SAS users.

A Little History

Volunteers have been running the event since, well, before it was an event. It can be argued that the first event of SAS users occurred in 1974, when a two-hour “birds-of-a-feather” session of SAS software users was held at the annual IBM Share meeting. The following summer, SAS users met again for two days at Abbott Labs. These two gatherings were so successful that the attendees decided to plan an annual, international meeting of SAS users and the first annual International SAS Users Conference was held in Kissimmee, Florida, in January 1976.

After this initial experience, this group of volunteers realized that they simply didn’t have the resources to completely execute a large conference. They asked SAS to help with mailings and print collateral and formed the original SAS Global Forum Executive Board to handle planning and execution. The board would select a chair from its members. Eventually, every member of the original board served as chair. To expand the pool of possible chairs, the board began selecting new chairs from users who were actively using SAS and regularly attending the annual conference. These new chairs would serve on the Executive Board for terms before their respective conference years.

Today the Executive Board consists of 30 members and five SAS employees. These SAS experts have decades of technical and SAS expertise and are recognized as leaders in their chosen fields. Most importantly, though, they are fiercely dedicated to SAS and the user community.

The Role of the Executive Board

The goals of the Executive Board haven’t changed from those early days. They are charged with providing the SAS user community opportunities to:

  • Enhance skills with SAS content and professional development.
  • Increase understanding of all products and services provided by SAS.
  • Gain access to a network of peers for collaboration and information exchange.
  • Provide opportunities for feedback to SAS about their products, services, and policies.

SASGlobalForumExecutiveBoardIt’s a role the Executive Board takes very seriously. “My favorite part of being an Executive Board member is having the chance to make a difference for our attendees,” says Lori Griffin, the 2009 conference chair.   “Listening to what users are looking for in their conference experience and working to make that experience the best it can be is very rewarding.”

Executive Board Member and 2003 chair Art Carpenter agrees. “Being a member of the Executive Board provides me an opportunity to influence the direction and content of the SAS Global Forum Conference.”

Help Shape Your Conference Experience

Because they have such an impact on the event, Executive Board members actively seek and welcome feedback from the user community. In fact, if you know any of the members, they encourage you to contact them directly with ideas for presentations or thoughts on how to make the conference even more valuable. (View the members of the SAS Global Forum Executive Board.) If you don’t know anyone on the board, please share your ideas with event organizers ( who will bring your suggestions forward.

In addition to requesting your feedback, the Executive Board also asks that you consider volunteering. All Executive Board members started out as volunteers, expanding their involvement over the years, and know how critical volunteers are to the success of the event. “I come from a big Catholic family and we were expected to share our time, talent, and treasure, and to always help and pitch in whenever possible,” said Executive Board Member Tony L. Oña, the 1990 conference chair. “There is great satisfaction knowing that you’ve made a difference and did your best in making things happen for the greater good. By getting involved, I’ve met with great success, have learned a lot and developed lasting friendships along the way.”

There are numerous volunteer opportunities and tons of reasons to volunteer. Jennifer Waller, This year’s Global Forum Chair and Executive Board member Jennifer Waller shares her thoughts on volunteering in her blog Can you help?” Volunteer opportunities aplenty at SAS Global Forum 2016. You can learn more about 2016 SAS Global Forum volunteer opportunities and sign up on our Volunteer page, or contact Global Forum’s Volunteer Coordinator at

If you plan to attend SAS Global Forum this year, make your conference experience one to remember. Help the SAS Global Forum Executive Board shape the perfect conference experience by sharing your feedback and volunteering. Who knows, maybe one day you’ll chair a conference and become a member of the SAS Global Forum Executive Board.

P.S. Nominations for the 2019 chair are open. Learn more.







About Author

Larry LaRusso

Principal Communications Specialist at SAS

Larry LaRusso is the editor of the SAS Tech Report and SAS Learning Report newsletters and the SAS Users, Learning Post and Analytics U blogs. He has worked at SAS since 2000 in marketing, communications, customer experience and management roles for both the Education Division and External Communications. You can follow him on Twitter @lalaru102.

1 Comment

  1. Nice description - a minor correction is that in your table you have "Appointed" which I think contains the year that we were chair even though people like Ken Koonce and myself were part of the EB from the beginning. Also currently, newly selected chairs to be are appointed to the board several years before they actually chair a conference.

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