Statistics students win major award

SAS forum
Gina Colaianni and Matthew Mitchell


SAS Global Forum Student Symposium honors several

KENNESAW, Ga. (Apr 20, 2017) — Kennesaw State’s Three Amigos team took first place at the SAS Global Forum Student Symposium in Orlando, beating out teams from Cal Poly, USC and Oklahoma State, with their deep dive into a bank’s data sets that help marketers predict which potential term-deposit customers to target to maximize profits.

The Three Amigos was one of four KSU teams to place in the competition’s Top 8. Their winning project, “Factors Determining Term Deposit Purchases (How a Bank Can Get Other People's Money),” examined a direct marketing campaign designed to sell term deposits. Their research showed which factors in the data set would contribute to a high volume of sales of term deposits.

Three Amigos teammates included Gina Colaianni, Jonas Magdangal and Matthew Mitchell. Along with three other KSU teams, the Amigos competed against 80 student teams from 36 universities in the SAS student competition.

“Last year, our MSAS program also had one team participate in the symposium, and they made it to the Top 8 out of more than 80 teams,” said Xuelei “Sherry” Ni, associate professor and program director of the Master of Science in Applied Statistics, who served as the faculty supervisor of all the teams participating in the competition. “I am so proud of them and all their hard work!”

Lewis VanBrackle III, chair of the Department of Statistics and Analytical Sciences and professor of statistics, said this is the first time so many KSU teams made it to the competition’s final round.

“We know we have one of the best programs in statistics and analytical sciences in the country,” said VanBrackle, “so winning the top prize at the SAS Global Forum recognizes the achievements of our students and faculty.”

The other KSU teams competing in the Top 8 were the Data Ninjas, Fatal Car Accidents and the KA team.

 SAS forum

Kennesaw State students and faculty attending the SAS Global Forum included, from left, Matthew Mitchell, Gina Colaianni, Seung Lee, David Allen, Xuelei Sherry Ni, Muniza Naqvi, and Christina Jones.

Jennifer Priestley, director of the Ph.D. in Analytics and Data Science and professor of statistics, was recruited to be a conference speaker at the SAS Global Forum. Priestley spoke on the topic, “Make a University Partnership Your Secret Weapon for Finding Data Science Talent.”

Priestley appeared with Eric Schmidt, global director - revenue management optimization and innovation with InterContinental Hotels Group, to discuss how Kennesaw State has successfully created strong university-corporate partnerships. Jim Goodnight, the co-founder and CEO of SAS, led the discussion.

“The three of us had a great time discussing how universities and corporate partners can work together in ways that benefit all,” Priestley said.

The event serves as an annual showcase for college students to demonstrate their skills in the application of SAS Analytics to real-world data. Teams use SAS to perform analyses on select data sets, then submit a paper with their solution to the problem.

SAS, which stands for Statistical Analysis Software, is used to mine data and perform high-level analyses.

The SAS Global Forum is the annual conference planned and sponsored by the SAS Global Users Group, which is open to all SAS software users throughout the world. The conference provides dozens of workshops, presentations, demos and networking opportunities for thousands of participants every year.

– Robert S. Godlewski


A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit