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What Happened When a Liberal Arts School Equipped a Student with SAS Know-How

Started ‎05-03-2016 by
Modified ‎08-04-2021 by
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Conor Fitzhenry graduates next month from Roanoke College, a small liberal arts school in Salem, Va., with an economics degree. But he’s not sweating the job search. He already has one.


Proof of his SAS skills, earned through the school’s new SAS Joint Certificate Program, helped him sail through a number of interviews. New York’s M&T Bank was so impressed, they hired him. For good measure, though, he plans to pursue SAS certification to further solidify credentials for his banking career.


“I want to become SAS certified because data plays a huge role in this industry,” said Fitzhenry, who has long excelled at math, but had no computer programming experience until he took econometrics at Roanoke. RoanokeCollege.jpg


“Many of the top banks are currently using SAS to manipulate, forecast and create models for their data and this is something I have encountered in many of my interviews,” he said. “Becoming SAS certified gives you an advantage over other applicants who may have similar qualifications because companies won’t have to put as much time and effort into training you as they would other applicants.”


Bonafide SAS Knowledge Gets Employers’ Attention

Roanoke economics associate professor Alice Kassens, who spearheaded her school’s SAS Data and Econometric Analysis Joint Certificate program, isn’t surprised Fitzhenry’s interviewers liked what they saw.


“He told me that over half of the conversations during the interviews are about his SAS knowledge and the Joint Certificate Program,” Kassens said. “He also told them that he will have the knowledge (with practice) to sit for the base Certification Exam and they were very pleased.”


Roanoke is the only undergraduate, liberal arts college in the U.S. with a SAS Joint Certificate Program. Students in any major can earn the credential through courses taken over a year or two. The promise of interesting, lucrative, stable jobs lure students like Fitzhenry.


He landed his dream job weeks before graduation. “I’ll be able to work on a wide variety of projects and be tested with challenging tasks daily,” he said.


Joint Certificate Program at Roanoke Marries Disparate Disciplines

Josh Hewitt, SAS’ Manager of Academic Outreach and Collaborations, said the program serves a number of purposes. “First,” he said, “it is a tremendous differentiator for students to list the certificate on their resume.  It shows an employer that the student has gained a unique set of SAS skills.


“The program also allows the school to pull together a set of courses around a particular piece of software (SAS, for example, or others) and provide students a guided path. The desire to offer this certificate program often brings together faculty from a variety of disciplines that may not have come together before.”


Kassens knows a thing or two about disparate disciplines. She double majored in economics and history at the College of William and Mary before going on to earn her Ph.D. in economics at N.C. State University.


She decided to pursue the SAS Joint Certificate after meeting Hewitt at the Annual Virginia Association of Economists Meeting in March 2015. A collegiate runner who remains competitive, she likes a challenge.


“It was fun to develop a rigorous program with the limited resources we face at a small liberal arts college,” she said. “We learned that it can be done and done well. We already have students, like Conor, who find themselves more competitive on the job market with the SAS analytics skills obtained through the JCP.”


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