SAS, ECU to Use Big Data to Boost Research, Rural Prosperity

East Carolina University and analytics leader SAS will join forces to help rural areas overcome economic, educational and health disparities. Using analytics and data visualization, ECU and SAS will work together to support ECU’s recently launched Rural Prosperity Initiative as well as efforts to rapidly grow the university’s research enterprise.

Cary-based SAS will help ECU develop a new generation of technologies, micro-businesses and strategies to boost quality of life in rural North Carolina. In addition, professors, students and researchers will be able to access and apply advanced SAS analytics, business intelligence and data management software toward that goal.

In September, as part of its Rural Prosperity Initiative, ECU launched its big data and analytics research cluster, one of eight research clusters intended to enlist faculty and researchers from across the university to carry out the initiative’s mission. That mission is to focus university resources on combating health problems that plague eastern NC, fostering new economic opportunities and helping ECU and area K-12 schools produce more talent for today’s workforce.

“Working with SAS is just the kind of public-private relationship that we feel is the next step toward greatly expanding ECU’s research enterprise,” said ECU Chancellor Cecil Staton. “This collaboration in particular will provide critical resources and expertise to tackle the challenges in eastern North Carolina and, indeed, much of rural America. We hope this is just the start of a long, successful relationship.”

A new facility will house the cluster on ECU’s future Millennial Campus so government and community leaders can work with ECU researchers to visualize and analyze big data in innovative ways, including virtual reality, in order to make more effective decisions.

“Big data” refers to data sets with sizes beyond the ability of commonly used software tools to capture, curate, manage and process within a reasonable time. It can be unstructured, semi-structured and structured data; however, the main focus is on unstructured data. As such, it requires techniques and technologies with new forms of integration to reveal insights and make the information useful.

“In order to make the most effective decisions and investments to drive the economy and improve the quality of life in rural and coastal communities, ECU researchers must have access to insights that only big data and analytics can provide,” said Jay Golden, ECU vice chancellor for research, economic development and engagement. “SAS Analytics will help our ECU faculty and students discover the ‘why’ behind the data by uncovering hidden relationships and trends.

“Using predictive analytics and forecasting tools, ECU researchers and our community partners will be able to dig deeper into ‘what if’ and ‘what next’ scenarios – a capability lacking in the past,” Golden said. “We are very appreciative of SAS’ generous support of ECU’s mission and look forward to further enhancing our partnership.”

More information about the ECU Rural Prosperity Initiative is at

SAS also will provide teaching materials and on-site training for faculty and staff and help develop analytical programs. Researchers and students will be able to integrate SAS software into their research and engagement activities, giving students hands-on experience with this highly marketable skill.

In fact, in a massive study of 54 million employee profiles, examined which career skills translated into salary bumps. SAS skills topped the list.

“This is an opportunity for SAS to support a university initiative that benefits the people of our home state,” said Emily Baranello, vice president of the SAS Education Practice. “ECU’s research, powered by the data and analytics at the heart of innovation today, could transform the lives and futures of rural North Carolinians.”

SAS’ longstanding efforts to prepare more graduates for the marketplace complements ECU’s academic and service commitments. This collaboration will advance education, innovation and economic developments throughout North Carolina and the nation.

SAS in education

With a special focus on education, SAS strives to give everyone THE POWER TO KNOW. From Curriculum Pathways free digital curriculum and mobile apps for K-12, to free and low-cost access to world-class software offered through SAS Analytics U, SAS is committed to learners of all ages. Additionally, SAS collaborates with colleges and universities around the world to launch degree and certificate programs to foster the current and next generation of analytics talent. With more than four decades of working in education, SAS brings together individuals, institutions, communities and data to prepare people for college, career, life and brighter futures.

About ECU

East Carolina University, or ECU as it’s best known, offers more than 85 bachelor’s, 72 master’s and 19 doctoral degrees to nearly 29,000 students on its Greenville, N.C., campus and through an acclaimed online learning program. The university’s school of medicine is recognized nationally for producing primary care physicians, cardiovascular research, advanced robotic surgery as well as obesity and diabetes breakthroughs. ECU also boasts the largest business school enrollment and largest number of new nurses and education professionals produced by a four-year North Carolina university in addition to the largest studio art program in the state.

Located near Atlantic coast harbors where pirates once roamed, ECU adopted the “Pirates” mascot in 1934 for its athletics program and competes in NCAA Division 1. The university has a globally recognized academic underwater archaeology program and enjoys a supportive relationship with the U.S. military services.

About SAS

SAS is the leader in analytics. Through innovative software and services, SAS empowers and inspires customers around the world to transform data into intelligence. SAS gives you THE POWER TO KNOW.