The economics department in the Richards College of Business at the University of West Georgia is one of only two institutions in the nation that offer Statistical Analytic Software (SAS) certification to undergraduate students. While you may be unfamiliar with SAS, it is a software program used by almost every Fortune 500 Company and has a daily impact on your life.
Business, financial, and economic institutions, academia, and even the federal government use SAS. The software provides a multitude of applications from data entry, forecasting, and financial modeling to time series analysis. Students graduating from UWG with their bachelor’s degrees can now bring valuable knowledge of SAS directly to the workforce with this certificate program.
“We have alumni who have had great success coming out of this program, and the program is only in its third year,” said Dr. William “Joey” Smith, chair of the economics department. “Some go on to work for major firms, while others go on to high-level advanced degree programs.”
The SAS Certification program is intense, but fairly short. It consists of two statistics classes, a business forecasting class, and an econometrics class that aid students in working on two semester-long projects, which are presented at the end of the program at a culmination event: the SAS Analytics Summit, which brings in business leaders from around the region and is a valuable networking experience.
Graduates of the program have one of those business leaders to thank for the SAS Certification that serves them so well, alumnus David Johnson. David Johnson, founder of Cane Bay Partners, provided a generous gift in 2011 that established the David A. Johnson Applied Econometrics and Analytics Fund. This endowment provided the financial resources to begin offering courses in econometrics and business analytics using SAS.
David Johnson makes it a priority to attend every SAS Analytics Summit, where he can meet and discuss the program with the students and give them professional advice. He also serves on panels and speaks at the event.
After seeing the success of the program at the initial SAS Analytics Summit, David Johnson wanted to do even more. His second gift created the David A. Johnson Distinguished Scholar, establishing an endowed faculty position to direct the program. The first faculty member to receive the position was Dr. Smith.
“I think that it is important for this program to continue to grow and to be even more successful than it already is,” David Johnson said. “This is a leading program among universities in the United States, and others are following our lead. We need to continue to innovate and make it stronger for the benefit of the students.”
Thanks to David Johnson’s generous gifts, the next class of students is nearing completion of their SAS Certificate, and they will present their final projects during the 2015 SAS Analytics Summit on March 27, which starts at 8 a.m. at the Coliseum.
“I love to see the projects that solve real-world problems using their analytics training and tools, like SAS,” David Johnson said. “These students are getting the best training in the nation and great job offers when they graduate. Their success is a testament to the quality of the program.”
And students who graduate from the program are indeed finding success. One of Dr. Smith’s former students just graduated seventh in his class from the most prestigious MBA program in Spain at IE University and is now working in market analytics for a major European firm. Other students stay in the South and work for major financial institutions in Charlotte or Atlanta.
Blake Johnson, another graduate of the program, is currently working on his graduate degree at UWG, but he credits the certification program for helping him land his dream job.
“I will be studying inflation with the Bureau of Labor Statistics,” Blake Johnson said. “I’m really excited about it, and it’s kind of a dream job if you’re an economist. In the interview, the first thing that they asked about was my SAS certification. I think the certification is a necessity for economics, but great for anyone.”
Blake Johnson will be responsible for finding the Producer Price Index (PPI) for this region for the federal government. The PPI examines the costs of wholesale products and how that relates to the costs businesses incur when selling products to the general public. He will also look at import and export costs.
“It is a key economic indicator, and it can show us how costs are trending,” he said. “They can be very useful for economists to study the numbers as a whole, for all goods, and even for individual businesses to study the impact of these costs on their individual industries.”
Success stories like Blake Johnson’s are exactly what make David Johnson so excited about the program. And thanks to his donation, the future is very bright for students in the SAS program.
For more information on the SAS certification program or to register online for the upcoming SAS Analytic Summit on March 27 at the Richards College of Business at UWG, please visit www.westga.edu/business.
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