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Preparing to Thrive by Collaborating with Local Universities

By November 9, 2022Blog

Vivek Patil of the Inland Northwest R User Group (INRUG) talked to the R Consortium about the R Community located in Spokane, Washington, the diverse group of members of INRUG, and the different uses of R language that characterize this community amongst them all.

Vivek Patil is a Professor of Marketing at Gonzaga University, where he used to teach the SPSS to his students for marketing research in the School of Business. After learning about R and attending a course on Data Analysis from Coursera, he learned R to expand his knowledge and introduced R to his students in the Business School.

Why did you personally get interested in learning R? How do you use it in your work and what do you do when you’re not programming?

Vivek: In 2012-13, I was looking for something new to learn as I had earned tenure and settled in on the data analysis tools that I was using for my teaching and research. I had heard about the power of R and the fact that it was an open-source tool that would not cost my students anything motivated me to begin my adventure. At that time, I signed up for Jeff Leek’s, Data Analysis course through Coursera because it used R for its analysis. Although the course didn’t teach R, I forced myself to learn it and I just fell in love with it. 

Rather than writing R packages, my focus has been on utilizing existing packages to address different questions in my domains of interest. Similarly, I teach my students to use different packages to solve business problems. I have taught R in my marketing research class and I created two new courses based on it – Data Visualization and Business Analytics.

What is the R community like in Spokane Washington?

Vivek: It is a very small community. Krisztian Magori, a faculty of Biostatistics at Eastern Washington University, and I created the User Group in August, 2014. We contacted a few of our colleagues and had our first meeting on September 30, 2014. Slowly, we had larger numbers of people who began attending our meetings on a regular basis. 

Who comes to these meetups? What industries do you see more in Spokane?

Vivek: Our attendees and presenters have included faculty and students from many universities in Spokane, including Gonzaga University, Eastern Washington University, and Washington State University. Additionally, many Data Scientists and Computer Scientists from different companies representing sectors such as healthcare, finance, utilities, manufacturing, and computing and information technology services, have also attended and presented in our meetings.  

How has COVID affected your ability to connect with members? What techniques (Github, zoom, other) have you used to connect and collaborate with members?

Vivek: COVID has taken a toll on how frequently the group has recently met. Before the pandemic, we had been meeting quite frequently; there was a time when we would meet in-person on a monthly basis at the Gonzaga University campus. I’m now hopeful that we can begin to meet in-person again and start meeting more often. 

When is your next event? What are your plans for the group for the coming year? Please give details!

Vivek: I have sent a call out to the group members to invite potential presenters to contact me. Initially, I was paying for the meetup pro account with my money and then we had support from Revolution Analytics and Microsoft. I appreciate the support the R Consortium is now providing to fund the Meetup account that has made communication with the community easier.  

How do I Join?

R Consortium’s R User Group and Small Conference Support Program (RUGS) provides grants to help R groups around the world organize, share information and support each other. We have given grants over the past four years, encompassing over 65,000 members in 35 countries. We would like to include you! Cash grants and accounts are awarded based on the intended use of the funds and the amount of money available to distribute. We are now accepting applications!