KSU students invite firms to make pitches
by Bridgette Bonner
bbonner@mdjonline.com
April 13, 2013 11:57 PM | 2802 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
KENNESAW — Kennesaw State University statistics students have reversed roles when it comes to job fairs. Companies line up to try to impress the students and compete to hire them.

The students are learning Statistical Analysis System, which 95 percent of fortune 500 companies use to configure data, Jennifer Lewis Priestley, statistics professor, said. Companies are looking for people who are familiar with SAS, can extract data into the software and can communicate findings to colleagues and clients, she said.

On Friday, the students participated in SAS Day, which started out as traditional job fair and has become a way for students to market themselves. There’s a supply problem for companies looking for statistical analysts, and Kennesaw has the supply, Priestley said.

The students are the ones who set up booths with posters and samples of their work, and the prospective employers visit the booths and compete for the students’ attention, graduate student Daniel Brasuell said.

“Any company interested in data analysis would benefit from the kind of work we’re learning to do,” Brasuell said. “It’s like a career day students usually go to, but this is the employers going to a career day.”

Graduate statistics student Chris Cusamano knew what to expect going into this year’s SAS Day. The field has been a passion for him, and he’s become comfortable speaking to people and showing off his skills.

“It’s a great opportunity to talk to a lot of employers face-to-face about my projects and showcase what we’ve learned,” Cusamano said, going into his third SAS event. “The companies come to us, because we have been trained with this skillset that they’re looking for in the real world.”

Anyone who uses numbers in their company would have a spot for the statistics students, he said.

Last year, Cusamano had applied for a job with One Analytics and Consulting in Kennesaw before SAS Day, he said. Through the event, he was able to make himself stand out from other applicants and landed the position.

The event is a partnership with the SAS Institute. Representatives from the University of Georgia and Georgia Institute of Technology have attended SAS Day to learn from the program at KSU, Priestley said.

There were between 40 and 50 students presenting to about 75 companies, she said.

“If we want our students to be successful, they’re going to need to be able to use SAS,” Priestley said.

Most students’ presentations Friday illustrated the use of SAS in determining risk assessment and credit scoring. They used a logistic regression model to predict a customer’s probability of default.

“You’re seeing where the company will make the most profit from the type of customer they approve, based on their credit history,” Cusamano said.

But graduate student Nicholas Levelsmeir took it a step further. For his first SAS Day, he wanted to show employers he was capable of approaching a project from multiple angles.

“I focused on optimizing the process,” Levelsmeir said.

He wrote computer codes for each step of the process, allowing the process to become more automated with less room for error.

“You’re advertising yourself here,” he said.

Priestley said that since the implementation of statistics as a program at KSU in 2006, there is a 100 percent employment rate among students who took classes in the program. It’s available on the graduate and undergraduate levels.

“What makes us different from other universities in Georgia and nationally is that we teach statistics from a highly applied perspective,” Priestley said. “It’s a curriculum built on the way practitioners use stats, so our students know how to apply them to get jobs.”

The classes have a strong emphasis on computer software and how to translate data into information to solve problems.

“Every field has to deal with data and translate it into language to solve problems,” Priestley said. “You don’t do that with a calculator, pencil and paper. You do it with computers.”
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