New Program Will Simplify Data 'Crunching' at Baylor

Dec. 22, 1999

by Alan Hunt

A new partnership between Baylor University and Cary, N.C.-based SAS Institute, the largest privately held software company in the world, will provide the university with leading-edge technology and expert consulting services and student training in the fields of data management and research.

Commencing with the 2000 academic year, the new program will enable Baylor to obtain information that previously took weeks or months to generate. SAS software will be used to extract data that can be used in key management assessments and decision-making.

The data analysis can even predict trends. Used in enrollment management, for example, it will be able to select the 5,000 students most likely to enroll at Baylor based on predictive data modeling. Also, a retention model built around the new system will be capable of identifying students who are unlikely to return to school the following semester, allowing ample time for intervention by counselors.

Through the partnership, Baylor administrators, faculty and staff will keep abreast with the latest techniques in data managing and organizing (or data warehousing) and data discovery (or data mining). The new system also will teach students how to build and maintain a data warehouse. They will use the data warehouse as a research base to develop business plans for case study assignments.

"Our students will learn real-world business skills in data warehousing and data mining," said Dr. G. W. K. Willis, professor and chair of the information systems department, and director of the Center for Applied Geographic and Spatial Research. "Data mining and knowledge management are very hot topics across corporate America, so our students will be learning current practices that will help them be more competitive in the marketplace," he said.

Baylor is one of a select group of academic institutions to enter into a strategic partnership with SAS Institute, which has offices throughout the U.S. and around the world. Baylor has been a customer of SAS Institute since 1987.

Baylor's Graduate School volunteered to be the first to implement the new system due to its pressing need for comparable data. "We have almost a hundred separate graduate degrees and programs, each with distinct missions and unique data," Dr. Larry Lyon, dean of the graduate school, explained. "The graduate school must effectively integrate these programs to ensure that the overall mission of the university is served. Without comparable, reliable, accessible data, that job cannot be done."

Jeff Babcock, vice president of the Public Sector Group at SAS Institute, said, "SAS Institute will be able to share its technology and decision support expertise with a leading university whose mission is to educate men and women for worldwide leadership and service. These are the business leaders of tomorrow. At the same time, we are supplying faculty and students with the technology appropriate to handle real-world challenges. Our goal is to help academic institutions apply today's technology for effective communication and learning."

A final aspect of the agreement calls for the joint development of a Data Mining and Knowledge Management Center at Baylor. This facility, located in the Hankamer School of Business, will allow students and faculty to use SAS data mining products to discover and determine relationships and correlations within data.

"The rapid growth and importance of data mining and data warehousing requires that all business students understand the fundamental technologies associated with this area of knowledge management," said Dr. Reagan Ramsower, associate dean for technology information systems at Hankamer. Ramsower also noted that Baylor faculty will be engaged in several research projects to extend the applications of SAS Institute technology in various areas.

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