Welcome to the SESUG 2019 Blog!

Many people experience will experience 2 or 3 days of wonderful happenings at SESUG Williamsburg. They see all of the papers and networking, demos and parties. What they don’t see is everything behind the scenes that went into making this happen. It’s a year round job that started for 2019 before the 2018 conference ended. This monthly blog is a peek behind the curtain at some of the many decisions, research, frustrations and excitement. We hope you enjoy.  Submit your papers here and register here.

Making your life easier with technology at the SESUG 2019 conference

Comic from https://xkcd.com/

There will be a lot going on during the SESUG 2019 conference… how will you stay organized and make the most of your conference experience? Staying connected and making the most of the technologies available will help you navigate the conference effectively!

In Chuck’s last Blog, “What Will We Do When in Williamsburg With You?,” he refers to this neat idea of the Forgetting Curve proposed by German psychologist,  Hermann Ebbinghaus. “Research shows that by 30 days after an initial learning event, if no attempt is made to retain the learning, we remember only about 21% of what is learned.” Much research has been done on memory since. One strategy to reduce the loss of what we learn is to reinforce it in different ways and frequently – that is where technology comes in!

A memory drum was a technology developed back in 1887 to continue the fine work of Ebbinghaus and it was upgraded over the years to really understand how people remember things. It was improved and upgraded up through the 1970s to run experiments on memory. The good news is, instead of a memory drum, we have a conference app that will help you stay on top of what is scheduled at SESUG 2019. We have several other modern day technologies to keep you connected and make your conference experience a little easier!

Memory Drum 459B, Serial No. 21B

the SESUG 2019 Attendify Conference App

You can get the SESUG 2019 Attendify conference app on your mobile device here: tinyurl.com/sesug-wmbg. As of now, we have the conference schedule including the paper presentations and topics that will be discussed and there will be a lot more information to come. We will be pushing notifications and updates through the app regularly to remind attendees of important activities and things that are happening during the conference. This is an easy way to stay up to date on the latest!

App Features


You can easily bookmark everything from presentations to speakers. Click on the bookmark symbol to save things you really don’t want to forget. If you would like, you can opt to give yourself a 10, 30 or 60 minute reminder alert prior to the event.


If there is something specific you want to remember about a speaker, presentation or activity – just make a note.

Interacting with Attendees

Through the app you can post to the Activity Stream to share your thoughts with all attendees. We will have a photo and video album so you can document and share with others some of the awesome things you see. You can also connect with specific individuals by sending private messages. Take advantage of these app features and connect with more SAS users like you!

Interactive Maps

These maps will show you the layout of the Williamsburg Lodge and also link the academic sessions and activities in each room with schedules.

View of the interactive maps in the SESUG 2019 Attendify app

Remember to Bring Your Own Device to the Hands on Workshops to connect to SAS with AWS

Bring your own device to the HOW sessions

Hands on Workshops (HOW) this year will be set up such that attendees bring their own device. These are 1.5 hour sessions that are included in registration to dive deep on certain SAS topics and get some hands on experience. We will have instructors covering topics on UNIX tools (GNU), the use of Proc Tabulate and ODS, regression modeling, and SAS Visual Analytics. Thanks to Pinnacle Solutions, Inc., we will be using Amazon Web Services (AWS) to make presentation materials and SAS software available to attendees. Attendees will need a laptop, web browser, and Remote Desktop client. Please make sure you have an appropriate Remote Desktop client for your operating system.

– Windows users: the default Remote Desktop client is fine
– Mac OS X users: download the Microsoft RDP v10 app from here.

Attendees do not need to have SAS licenses on their own computers. However, if attendees decide they want to use their own computers and SAS licenses during the presentations, class materials will be available for download.

No laptop? No problem! Attendees are welcome to attend HOW sessions and watch as the instructor works through the exercises on the screen.

Monitors, E-posters and Super Demos… oh my!

We will be taking advantage of monitor screens to provide as much information as possible to attendees. In the Exhibit Hall, we will have Super Demos shared by SAS representatives. These brief but informative tutorials provide some of the latest features and capabilities that SAS has to offer.

Don’t forget to swing by the e-Poster monitor and check out which papers were accepted in this section. There will be 10 SESUG paper presentations displayed and authors will be available during scheduled times to answer questions about their work. Some topics include: imputation effects from the FACTOR and MI procedures, analyzing data with JMP and using PROC IMPORT. A handful of the e-Posters relate to topics in the Healthcare/Pharma industry, so if this is your field – stop on by and say hello!

Connect to WiFi at the Hotel

We will have WiFi available at the Williamsburg Lodge during the conference. Look for the WiFi password on the Schedule at a Glance (SAAG) – which you will receive at registration. It will also be posted on the SESUG 2019 Attendify conference app.

Not into technology?… no problem!

For those of you who like to connect in other ways, we have options to get the information you need to have a successful conference. The Schedule at a Glance (SAAG) is always a well-loved item at the conference. It is a printed version of the academic session schedule and other important information (like a conference cheat-sheet) – you will get one at registration. Also, look for signage around the hotel to point you in the right direction and find what you need.

See you all in Williamsburg soon!

What Will We Do When in Williamsburg With You?

We expect over 350 people to be coming to SESUG Williamsburg. People from all parts of the southeast United States, from the Northeast, from the Midwest, and even from California. What the heck are all those people going to do?

image from www.familyvacationcritic.com

Nota Bene: Make sure you get the app. This will be our main channel of communication for the conference, where we’ll start filling in the details on all of these activities. You can get the app via tinyurl.com/sesug-wmbg or this QR code.

Of course, there are lots of good papers to see at the conference and people are going to be taking advantage of as many of them as possible. Rachel’s blog on the Contours of the Conference give a tantalizing overview of the many exciting topics.

But the conference won’t be going 24/7 and it shouldn’t. Analytics and data are amazing, but, and don’t hate me for this, they aren’t all there is.

A Day at Colonial Williamsburg

People will be looking for things to do over the weekend, during lunch and in the evenings, and, like any good destination location, it turns out that there are many exciting activities in the area. The City of Williamsburg, in addition to York and James City Counties, spent $1.25 billion to provide public education and colonial hospitality and preserve historic structures and artifacts. They strive to “take colonial history out of the glass exhibit case and bring it to life. Paid visitors can throw axes at a target, shoot colonial-era muskets and make candles through a dipping process.”

There are great websites with good information about things to do. For example, this site has found 25 free things to do in Williamsburg, including riding the Jamestown Ferry, visiting the U.S. Army Transportation Museum, adventuring on a 30,000 sq. ft. playground for your kids, touring the College of William and Mary, and 21 other activities, though I’m sure they didn’t get all of them. Oddly enough, they don’t include taking a nap.

Here’s another site that lists Things to do in Williamsburg VA as well as some of the many, many places to eat. Because lunch and dinner are on your own, you’ll want to check out the area restaurants. We’ll help you out and more will be coming later about the various food options.

Here’s a fun list from a few years ago: 10 Things The Founding Fathers Would Be Doing In Williamsburg, VA, Today

And “from the horse’s mouth,” we have Things to do in Colonial Williamsburg.

While we want you to explore and enjoy the beautiful and rich area, SESUG will have many things for you to do, also. Most of these are directly sponsored and organized by SESUG, others are just organized and then some are just, “Hey, check this out if you want!” Let’s see what there will be.

Disclaimer: Things change. What is described below is our best understand of the conference that will happen two months from now. We want things to happen this way or better. But things change. Don’t take this as a promise or guarantee. If they do change, we’ll let you know.

Saturday and Sunday

Things are quiet Saturday. The Conference Workshops start Saturday afternoon and are wonderful, cost-effective ways for detailed learning and SME interaction. Most of them are on Sunday. One of them is on Wednesday, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

golf course

If you golf, the Williamsburg Lodge is right next to the Golden Horseshoe Golf Club. The Gold Course was recently renovated and for the more advanced golfer. The Green course is longer and a little more forgiving. The Spotswood Course (shown on the left) is for great family fun.

We might have Yoga available on Sunday. One of SAS’ best instructors, Charu Shankar, will be leading like-minded individuals in yoga, on her own mind you, to help you relax in preparation for the conference. Whether she does it on Sunday depends on whether she gets in to Williamsburg on Saturday or not. If so, look for her in the Liberty Room at 7 am.

Do you want to build up your physical muscles before you build the mental ones? You can use the Fitness Center with a full-featured gym or swim in the indoor lap pool. If more relaxation and rejuvenation is what you’re looking for, then The Spa of Colonial Williamsburg is the place to be. You can enjoy a Seaweed Body Detox Treatment (Don’t ask me. I have no idea) or come as you are for a Nirvana Stress Relief Massage. They have many options.

Of course, there are meetings Sunday afternoon. First Timers, Grant Recipients, Section Chairs, Speakers and Volunteers will all be getting together to prep for the conference and make it the best one yet! (Note that we still need volunteers. Go here to do so.)

“Research shows that by 30 days after an initial learning event, if no attempt is made to retain the learning, we remember only about 21% of what is learned.” (Sorry. I forget who said that.) Use this time on Sunday afternoon to set learning goals for the conference. Prepare for after the conference now so that you can retain what you’ll learn.

Use this time, too, to sign up for a Birds of a Feather meet-up. See the options below for Monday evening.

Sunday evening

The Opening Session is Sunday evening. We’ll have delicious desserts, snacks and a bar. You will have time to eat, but save room for dessert, though!

Sure, at the opening session, we’ll have all the boring stuff ?, but then the rest of the evening is all about escaping and relaxing. We will be building up our reserves, calming and warming up the mind so that we can learn, process, analyze and enrich those minds and our skills over the next two days.


Monday morning

If you are up and about and want to energize for the day, Charu (see above) will be leading a yoga session at 7 am in the Liberty Room. Bring comfortable clothes. Don’t be late for breakfast and the speaker, though!

We are kicking off Monday morning with a keynote breakfast. The plated breakfast will be the finest in all Williamsburg. The speaker (more on that later <cue suspenseful music>) will be the finest, as well.

From breakfast, most of us will be going to the Academic sessions. We have lots of great sections with lots of great papers. For the in-between times, or if there’s just not a session you like, there are still edifying things you can do.

Exhibit Hall

The Exhibit Hall will be in two areas. SAS and some sponsors will be in the Virginia D. Other sponsors may be out in the Virginia foyer. Not only are they important to talk to because they are sponsoring the conference and helping us do what we do without raising the fees too much, but they also have great knowledge about SAS, analytics, the industry, the market, hiring, and more. They are a veritable wealth of knowledge that you can tap into. Visit them. THANK them. Learn from them.

Code Doctors

Speaking of veritable wealth of knowledge, we will also be having the Code Doctors at times throughout the day. These experts in SAS coding are volunteering to help you solve problems that you are having with your code. Don’t be afraid to talk to them. Most of them are very gregarious. They also like helping people, even if it’s not their particular area of expertise, which is hard because they have lots of areas of expertise. Don’t make them waste their time being bored. Bring your challenging problems and see if you can stump them.


We are doing more this year to help attendees and companies connect. We used to be concerned, let’s say, that companies wouldn’t send their people if we allowed active recruiting. Maybe that was true before the internet and LinkedIn but now companies are recruiting and employees are looking all the time. Particularly if you are a soon-to-be graduating student or a company looking for one, then SESUG will be a great opportunity for you to meet face-to-face and, just maybe, it’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Monday Noon

Technically it’s not Noon as we are breaking for lunch at 11:30 am! Lunch is not being provided by the conference for two reasons. The first is that there are many, many great options in the area. Watch for more information in the October blog, but for now, there will be a restaurant and a deli in the hotel. There are restaurants in Merchants Square and a shuttle that we can use to get to these places. Bus service is free to all guests staying at official Colonial Williamsburg hotels. That’s us! Buses operate from 9 am to 10 pm daily and arrive at each stop at least once every fifteen minutes. Finally, there are lots of chains and local restaurants down Richmond Rd only 10 minutes away. Again, more later.

Monday afternoon

How’s your LinkedIn profile? Are you making the connections you want? A LinkedIn expert will be at the conference in the Virginia D to review your profile with you and give you their tips. You can stop in to the Exhibit Hall starting at Noon and they’ll help you improve your profile (if you need it!) to attract more connections.

We will take a break from the learning Monday afternoon for a Networking Snack. Attendees can enjoy the best snacks that the hotel can offer, some that you can only get at the Williamsburg Lodge, while you discuss what you’ve been learning that day. Network with others to see what they have done in the area. Question the vendors about what they have to offer. Share your experiences and learnings. Challenge each other! What a great way to learn.

We end the afternoon and move into the evening with the noble tradition of the SAS Reception. They provide the food, drink and experts, and you provide the questions. What a great time! They want to hear from you, too. What are you doing with SAS? What do you want SAS to do that it doesn’t now? Give your feedback. They want to hear!

Monday evening

Monday evening is the traditional time for an all out party. And this year, you get that that with options! We start with BOFs and the Colonial 5K Fun Run.

Birds of a Feather

In what analytics topic are you very interested? SQL? NOSQL? Visualizations? Python? Semi-colons? Data Science jobs? Birds of a Feather (BOF) are people interested in the same thing. You can sign-up for one of the pre-chosen BOFs or one that someone added on-site. Join them at the selected restaurant and go for it! Get to know each other. Connect on LinkedIn. Enjoy the amazing food and drink that the area restaurants have while you go on and on about SQL vs. the Data Step, integrating SAS and python, putting visualizations on interactive graphs or whatever most interests you.

Colonial 5K Fun Run and Walk

The Williamsburg area and the William and Mary campus are very beautiful. We will have a 5K Fun Run and Walk to enjoy the scenery and do something good for our health. We’ll use the route that the DoG Street Running Club uses for our run. See the map below. You can go as fast or as slow as you want. It’s a Fun Run, after all. If you want to walk it, then that’s beautiful, too. We’ll probably have a waiver or something, so be looking out for that.

Here is our route map. Don't worry, we will make sure you don't lose your way!

Posted by Dog Street Pub Running Club on Wednesday, March 5, 2014

þe Alde Pub Crawl

After a run, walk or bit of BOF-ing, join us for a casual, self-directed tour of the pubs, taverns and breweries that Colonial Williamsburg area has to offer on DoG street and nearby. If we’re adventurous, we may walk out to Brickhouse Tavern Williamsburg and do some karaoke! We’ll probably need another waiver, mostly for the karaoke. Anyone have any experience with that?

Ghost Tours

If you like spooky fun, Williamsburg has Ghost Tours that will excite and titillate you. Here’s a list of tours from TripAdvisor.


Tuesday morning

If she didn’t enjoy the Pub Crawl and ghost tours much, Charu will again be leading in a yoga session at 7 am in the Liberty Room. Bring comfortable clothes.

“[I] Woke up on a groovy Tuesday. Even my hangover’s fine. Woke up on a groovy Tuesday. Hung my mind out on the line.” Now it’s time to bring your mind in from the line for another exciting day of networking and learning. We’ll be starting off with food for the belly and food for the mind. The breakfast buffet in the beautiful Virginia E and F will be paired with an open SAS Exhibit Hall. What questions from the day before do you want to ask a SAS SME about? What products did you not get demo’d the day before and you still want to see?  The exhibit hall will be open to breakfast area so you can have some meaningful conversations over eggs and coffee. Start the day with energy for the body and mind!

Did you miss the LinkedIn SME Monday afternoon? They will be there again Tuesday morning. Beef up that profile! Make connections! Rule the world! Okay, don’t do that.

Tuesday Noon

Did you go to the Fun Run and miss the BOFs? Here’s your second chance to network on your most exciting topic with like-minded peers. Find the designated place and grab a lunch and learn.

Tuesday Afternoon

“Tuesday afternoon / I’m just beginning to see / Now I’m on my way / It doesn’t matter to me / Chasing the clouds away” Wow! You’ve just finished an amazing two and a half days of maybe the best education and expansion of the whole year. Closing session will be nice wrap up of the events. Say “see you later!” to old friends and new ones. Could there be door prizes? We’ll see!

Wednesday Morning

What?! Can’t get enough of the awesome SESUG Williamsburg?! If you have the luxury of spending another half-day learning more techniques to make you even more valuable to your employer, then we are here for you. The conference may be over, but Josh Horstman will be teaching “Advanced SAS Macro Language Techniques for Building Dynamic Programs.” Rachel and I will be around Wednesday, too, so please stop us, say “hi” and tell us what you liked and didn’t like about the conference. It matters to us.

QR code

By the way, remember to get the app. This will be our main channel of communication for the conference, where we’ll start filling in the details on all of these activities. You can get the app via tinyurl.org/sesug or this QR code.

And Beyond

Now you’re back in the office. Hard at work. Will you use what you’ve learned? Yes! If you want to. Here are some tips to know now for after the conference.

  • Review and organize your notes from the conference.

  • Download and highlight papers for talks you attended.

  • Download and highlight papers for talks you didn’t.

  • Plan 10 ways that you can use what you’ve learned in your day-to-day job.

  • Teach your colleagues what you learned at the conference. You greatly enhance your learning when you teach others.

  • Start planning for the paper you are going to give the next year.

Contours of the Conference

Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick
USGS GeoTIFF DRG 1:24000 Quad of Williamsburg. Product:500613

The conveyance of Fresh Goods and Ideas has arrived here from adventurers and established Ladies and Gentlemen across the King’s lands. This compleat Sett of teckniques, case studies and examples of Statistical Arithmetick will be made available to any Person desirous of becoming a more useful Member of civil Society. The ingenious and valuable literature, in prose and verse, will be presented at the Event of High Society in beautiful Williamsburg, VA in October 20-22, in the Year of Our Lord 2019. For your great learning, we have measured the Length and breadth of these Papers taken in.

We have a final line up for this year’s SESUG conference in Williamsburg and it is going to be spectacular! There seems to be a lot of enthusiasm for this year, as the number of submissions for content was high. We had 174 paper proposals on topics ranging from data processing to output and reporting.  This left the decision-making process challenging for the conference committee but the results are in with 144 accepted papers.

Accepted Paper Hot Topics
Accepted Paper Hot Topics

Many of our accepted papers and presentations will discuss the use of SAS Macros to improve efficiency in SAS programs.  The use of these techniques can reduce the amount of code written and save the programmer time.

For the analysts, statisticians and data scientists… we will have a lot of discussion surrounding data analysis methodology and predictive modeling. If this is your interest, then grab a seat and take it all in – there will be an entire two days of presentations dedicated to these topics in the Statistics and Data Analysis track.

Data visualization has been a hot topic for several years now and there will be plenty to talk about at SESUG 2019. Many of our presentations will also discuss the use of SAS Formats and the Output Delivery System (ODS), which are staple tools for formatting and stylizing your summarized results. You will be able to find many of these talks in the Reporting and Visualization track.

Although it may not have made our top list, Open Analytics will be a highlighted track this year. There are several papers dedicated to integrating R, Python and other open source platforms with SAS. The Open Analytics track will run most of Tuesday and will cover topics like SAS and R Integration for running Random Forests to leveraging SASPy for more effective script writing.

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SESUG 2019 Presenters

Not surprisingly, most of our presenters this year come from the southeast region of the US. But we will have presenters traveling all the way from California to share their analytics knowledge. There are several presenters traveling internationally from India and South Korea as well! They all come from different industries and bring knowledge that will spark great discussions and get attendees thinking about how they do analytics.

SAS Presenters

In addition to the great information and content shared by SAS users like you, we will have presentations made by SAS as well. Here are the great topics they will be sharing:

Panel Discussions

We will have 2 hour long Panel Discussions this year – one in the Analytics Leadership track and the other in the Reporting and Visualization track.  The Analytics Leadership panel discussion will include invited individuals to discuss trending topics on analytics leadership. They will share experiences and highlight effective approaches to promoting analytics in an organization. The Reporting and Visualization panel discussion will focus on strategies to create effective marketing graphics, discuss which graphics platforms can be used, and the ethics involved when “selling with graphics.”

Hands on Workshops

Unlike the Pre-conference and Post-conference workshops, these workshops are run alongside other concurrent sessions during the conference. This year we are running the HOW sessions as a “bring your own device” setup. Attendees will be asked to remotely connect to an AWS server through their own devices using their Remote Desktop Connection application, which will allow them access to the Hands on Workshop exercises on a virtual machine. An instructor will be present to guide you through the exercises. There will be a variety of topics discussed in these workshops including, but not limited to, UNIX tools (GNU), the use of Proc Tabulate and ODS, regression modeling, and SAS Visual Analytics.

Conference Pre- and Post-Workshops

We have talented, recognized, and experienced instructors prepared to share their knowledge in 4-hour sessions before and after the conference. You can sign up for a conference workshops when you register for the conference for an additional cost that is well worth the price. Here is the list of workshops available this year.

Join us in Williamsburg… Registration is Open!

There will be a lot covered at SESUG 2019. If you are interested in any of these topics or have your own in mind that were not mentioned, join us October 20-22, 2019 in Williamsburg, VA. You can register for the conference here.

Three Positive Impacts Sponsors Have on You

Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love Our Sponsors

What do you think about SESUG sponsors? You see them on the website, in e-mails, and with tables at the conference. We might get e-mails from sponsors before or after the conference. Why do we have sponsors and what does it mean to you when you see “SESUG Williamsburg is brought to you by …”

Obverse and reverse of a three pence note of paper currency issued by the Province of Pennsylvania and printed by Benjamin Franklin in 1764.

You, the reader, make up two critical components of SESUG. You are the teachers and the learners. You are the whole reason for the conference.

The third critical component is sponsorships. These conferences are expensive. If you’ve ever worked with a hotel / conference center, you know how much they charge for everything, and I do mean everything. Pitchers of water, those may be free of charge. Cookies, electrical power, lunch, projectors, you name it, if we get it from the hotel, it costs money and a lot.

One way we can cover the expenses of SESUG is to charge more for registration. We do not like that idea. (Do you? If you think it’s fine, then let us know in the comments.) We’ve been trying very hard to keep the costs down and the registration fee low. For example, we do not have printed programs anymore. Instead we have the app and online program. We also may not have bags or t-shirts, especially since many people bring backpacks or other bags already, and some people have a lot of t-shirts already. (Is that thinking right or not? Let us know in the comments.) We are also not including lunch, which would be between $30 and $45 per person. We make those choices not because we are mean, but because we want to keep the conference affordable for you.

Leonardo DiCaprio from Wolf of Wall Street

The other way we cover expenses is by having sponsors. When we get more sponsors, we can do more things. We can have lunch for everyone. We can have dedicated Wi-Fi for everyone. (Do you know what Wi-Fi is short for? Let us know in the comments.) We can bring in better keynote speakers, not like the one we had in 2016. (Yes, that was me.)

But even if we don’t have all of those amenities we still need sponsors. The current plan and fee structure already assume a certain amount of sponsorship just to break even. Sponsors are very important.

So why do companies sponsor? The two main reasons companies sponsor are relationship building / brand recognition, and lead generation. They are there to meet you and for you to learn more about them. And, frankly, they want to sell their products and services. If you are an influencer or decision-maker, then they want to see if you are a potential client. This is how it works everywhere. We either pay for an app directly or we pay with our attention on ads.

What does it mean for you?

First, you will see ads from sponsors before, during and after the conference. We, and they, do not deluge you with the ads. Everyone knows that’s counterproductive. Our goal is that the ads are relevant to you, or at least as relevant as we can make it without digging into your privacy! (What do you think about ads? Good, bad, indifferent? Give us your feedback.)

Second, you will have the opportunity to learn about schools, employers, products and services. Some of it won’t be relevant at this time, but understanding the broader analytics ecosystem is very helpful to your career.

Third, you will have a greater conference experience. If you’ve been to the SAS Global Forum, you know the potential. We know we’re not going that big, but, with sponsors, we have room to grow.

Also, it’s important to remember that SAS has been our biggest sponsor from the very beginning and still is today. They help us with speakers, events, Grants and technology. Thank you, SAS, for all you do!

Speakers, attendees and sponsors are the three legs that make the conference possible. So, whether you are attending the conference or not (and we hope you are!) please learn about our sponsors and show them your appreciation.

Finally, if your company would like to be a sponsor, please reach out to us. The Prospectus can be found here.

Stay up to date about SESUG Williamsburg. Follow us on Twitter. Like us on Facebook. Connect with us on LinkedIn. Stop by the local barbershop and catch all the news.

The three most important words for SESUG: CONTENT! CONTENT! CONTENT!

Was this the first SESUG conference?

Good content can really make an attendee’s experience. We come to learn and there is no better place than SESUG with Academic Sessions, Demos, Hands-on-Workshops, Pre- and Post-Conference Workshops and Peer-to-Peer learning. But how does that content get there and how are we doing so far? Let us see…

As Academic Chair for the SESUG 2019 conference, one of my responsibilities is managing the content of paper proposals that you submit for the conference in October. By no means do I do this alone – I get a lot of help from the Section Chairs who oversee their individual academic sections. It is very much a team effort. As paper submissions roll in they are on the front lines reviewing content and eventually they will be the ones who guide final authors to the final stage in Williamsburg. A quick shout out to my Section Chairs – you all are the best and you make this conference great!

Thank you, Section Chairs!

I have shared how Chuck and I identified the tracks for this year’s conference. Now I want to take some time to reflect on the responses and provide a sneak preview of some of the topics we may see this year. Unfortunately, it is too early to announce the final roll call since the submissions will still be accepted until June 13th (wink, wink, nudge, nudge). But hopefully this teaser will pique your interest on attending or even submitting a proposal of your own.

Submission Hot Topics

We have had many great submissions so far across all of our academic sections. Keywords were collected on the submission applications this year to help with organizing conference content. Here are the popular keyword topics people have submitted content for, some of which we will see and hear about in October. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “Words may show a man’s wit, but actions his meaning.” Keep those submissions coming… there is still time! 

Keywords from SESUG 2019 paper submissions

Tried and True

For as long as I have been involved with SESUG, the most popular sections that get the most submissions are the instructional how-to sections (this year called Know your SAS: Foundations and  Know your SAS: Advanced Techniques), Statistics and Data Analysis, Reporting and Visualization and Coder’s Corner. This year has been no different – over 60% of the paper proposals we have thus far were submitted to one of these sections. Many of these submissions propose papers on topics like the use of SAS Macros, tips for efficient programming, and commonly used SAS procedures that an analyst should always have handy in their analytics toolbox.  

Welcomed Surprises

I have heard somewhere that if you build it, they will come. We decided on an Open Analytics section this year in the hopes that SAS users who integrate their analytics with open source platforms would have a designated place. To be honest, Chuck and I really were not sure how it would go. However, this section has seen strong paper abstract submissions. It seems a lot of people are excited and enthusiastic about having a focused track on these topics and I can’t wait to see how it will all unfold in October.  

If you build it, they will come. Field of Dreams
If you build it, they will come.

Can We Get a Little TLC?

I understand it is still a bit early, but as of now there are a few sections that need a bit of love – Data Management and Big Data, Planning and Administration, Industry Specific Topics (Education/Institutional Research, Pharmaceuticals, Government), Analytics Leadership, Hands on Workshops and E-Posters.  These are great sections that I anticipate will get plenty of content in the coming weeks. If you have an idea for sharing installation, deployment, and migration tips – submit a proposal to the Planning and Administration section. Instructions for submitting can be found here.

If you are concerned that you don’t have anything exciting, remember that a large diversity of people come to SESUG with a wide variety of backgrounds. Believe it or not, there will be things you know that many people don’t! What did you learn this year? Teach others. Have a case study for your industry? People love that! Do you integrate SAS with open source analytics? Show us how! Presenting to others is a great way to not only share your knowledge but build it up even stronger for yourself.

If it is your first time presenting at a conference and just want to get your feet wet – give E-Posters a shot. Hands on Workshops is a great way to dive deep on a topic. HOW instructors will have 1.5-2 hour instruction time, which is plenty to cover several examples on a topic of your choice. Last but not least, our new Analytics Leadership track is for the leaders and champions of analytics who wish to share experiences and highlight effective approaches to promoting analytics in their organizations. 

Conference Pre- and Post-Workshops are Available

We have talented, recognized, and experienced instructors prepared to share their knowledge in 4-hour sessions before and after the conference. You can sign up for a conference workshop when you register for the conference for an additional cost that is well worth the price! You can find the list of workshops available this year on the SESUG website for more details.

There is still time to Contribute your Ideas!

If you have an idea for a paper, submit your abstract by following this link here. The SESUG 2019 Call for Papers is open until June 13th!

Interview with the Grant Lady

The First Lady Grant: Julia Grant with husband and son.
The First Lady Grant: Julia Grant with husband and son.
– Smithsonian

Hear ye! Hear ye! The Grant Applications portal is now open! Students, Faculty and High School teachers can find info here. If you work outside of academia you can find info here. As Ben Franklin would have said if he knew about the program, “Ready money can be found in the SESUG Grants. Apply today!” Read on for a behind the scenes look at the Grant program with the incoming Grant Lady, Charlotte Baker.

For over 13 years SESUG has been providing scholarships to the conference. Let me introduce you to the amazing person who will be overseeing that process, Charlotte Baker. Charlotte was the co-chair for the 2018 SESUG conference in St. Pete. Now she is taking over the Grant committee from the indomitable Barbara Okerson, conference chair 2011. Charlotte will be the new Grant Lady and like a cat lady, she feels strongly about the Grant program and takes care of her Grantees very well. Recently, Charlotte and I had a conversation about all things “Grant.”

Chuck: Hello Charlotte, it’s good to see you. You’re looking wonderful today!

Charlotte: Thank you, Chuck. It’s good to see you, too.

Chuck: The Grant program has been around a long time, but with so many people attending the conference, why do we need it?

Charlotte: Many new SAS users can benefit a great deal from attending a conference like this in terms of long-term SAS use, but they can’t afford to go. The Grant program is a mechanism to help those people get to SESUG who otherwise couldn’t by giving reduced registration and hotel rates, and an opportunity for travel stipends. We want new people and new ideas!

Chuck: You say they can benefit. Why is the conference good for grantees?

Charlotte: Grantees receive all the usual good stuff when they attend SESUG plus a built-in network within the network for longer term support. Grantees also get to see a bit of the inner workings through volunteering during the conference. What’s not good about that?

Chuck: I’ve seen the budget and I know that the Grant program is expensive. Who pays for the grants?

Charlotte: SAS Institute pays for most of the grants and SESUG pays for the rest through the general conference budget. It is a big investment but totally worth it.

Chuck: It sounds like a great program. Do users think so? Do many people apply for the grants?

Charlotte: It depends year to year. We always get more applications than we can fund but are really hoping for at least 20 applications for each of our grant categories this year for competitiveness. We usually get more student and professional development applications than faculty applications. Sometimes our timing for the applications are weird for academics and people miss the messages.

Chuck: Hmm, that’s not good that they miss the message. What’s going on and what would you tell them?

Charlotte: The summer break is what’s going on. Students, Faculty and High School teachers are focused on finishing classes up. And then they may go on summer break. By the time they get back it’s too late for them to apply since applications close in July. [Ed note: July 8th] I recommend that they take some time right now and fill out the application and get it in. Don’t forget student ID’s, pictures and all that other stuff, too.

Chuck: How do you decide who gets the grants? Is there a statistical model?

Charlotte: Wouldn’t that be neat?! We really go through and look at the people that are applying and why they want to come to SESUG. We rank the applicants based on their responses. Our preference is people who are presenting a paper and we pick applicants from the Southeast and Northeast (old NESUG territory) first and second. We also really pay attention to whether you can come to the whole conference (or at least most of it). While we do get applications from previous grantees (who we love!), only those who have not gotten a grant in that category before can be picked.

Chuck: What is expected of the grantees at the conference?

Charlotte: Show up. Learn. Volunteer. Meet people. Have fun!

Chuck: It sounds like a successful program. Are there any success stories for the grant program?

Charlotte: All the previous grantees are fantastic success stories. The current Executive Committee has two former grantees (myself included) and many of our section chairs for operations and academics have been grantees before. It is always great when they like it enough to come back and help move this all-volunteer organization forward.

Chuck: Now most importantly, “Who is buried in Grant’s tomb?”

Charlotte: I really hope old Ulysses and his wife haven’t absconded!

Charlotte and Chuck – SESUG St. Pete 2018

Why is a track a track?

Rachel Straney, Academic Chair

We run the race with determination!

One of the first major tasks that Chuck and I were charged with as Conference Chairs was to identify the academic sections that would serve as a blueprint for conference content. You would think that coordinating a conference for analysts as analysts would make it easy to predict the topical areas that attendees plan to attend… Not in the slightest.

It is challenging to balance consistency with originality. Every pair of SESUG conference chairs that has served before us have infused their own personality and character into the event. Although we went into this with the hopes of leaving our own mark, it was also important to us to ensure that the conference was consistent with past years and retained the SESUG spirit. 

So what was the process and why is a track a track? Well, never having attempted something like this before, the statistician in me came out and I turned to identifying what was done at past SESUG conferences. I pulled SESUG conference proceedings from the last 7 years. I classified all the proceedings into what I called “General Section Names.” This was a real qualitative approach and after I was done, I went back for more – a cross sectional evaluation of all the SAS Regional User Groups…. And while I was at it I threw Global Forum in there for good measure. I was creating tables and summarizing any patterns I saw from them…

While I was spinning my analytical wheels, Chuck was dreaming up big ideas. His approach was more creative and rather than asking the question of “what was?” started asking “what could be?” It was during our first site visit to Williamsburg while driving from the Williamsburg Lodge back to the Richmond Airport that we started to discuss our ideas about academic sections. “What do you think about an Analytics Leadership track?” he said enthusiastically. “And how about Open Analytics?… It’s the future of analytics and we can put the spotlight on it in historical Williamsburg!” He said in his humorous Chuck style.

After our collaboration, we landed on the academic sections we have for this year. Many of them you know and love like “Coder’s Corner” and “Statistics and Data Analysis.” Some sections will have familiar content with new names, like “Know your SAS: Foundations” and “Know your SAS: Advanced Techniques.” These two sections stemmed from the well-attended “Building Blocks” from past years. Our hope is that by having two sections classified by programming experience, attendees will have an easier time finding content that is relevant to them. Other sections are entirely new, like “Open Analytics;” Although for many years we have seen papers presented at SESUG that leverage SAS with open platforms, we felt it was time to designate a section just for them.

After the process of identifying the academic sections came to a close, I realized that my co-chair and I had balanced consistency and originality quite well and I knew we would make a pretty good duo. Chuck is the creative and I bring the pragmatism. Together I think we identified a good set of topical areas that I hope all attendees will enjoy.

Till we meet in Williamsburg!