AO's Provide Support in Changing IR Landscape

​Eric Atchison is Director of System Analysis, Research & Enrollment Management, Mississippi Public Universities and is Past-President for the Mississippi Association for Institutional Research

EricAtchison.pngeAIR: Can you briefly discuss your role as a state Affiliated Organization (AO) leader?

I’ve been an active member of the Mississippi Association for Institutional Research (MAIR) since 2009. I’ve served as a Member-at-Large for the four-year sector and as the volunteer Webmaster. I was elected Vice President in 2016, transitioned to President in 2017, and am now serving my last year in this three-year term as Past President of the Association.

eAIR: Can you talk about some of the recent, important work you have done with the Mississippi Association for Institutional Research (MAIR)?

Our group has historically had around 50 active members in any given year, but we’ve seen membership expand in various ways over the past several years. As the institutional research function expands and diversifies across institutions, we have had faculty and staff from other areas participate. Graduate student interest has also increased as programs incorporate IR into the curriculum. As institutional budgets and priorities shift, we have realized a single fee structure may not fit all members’ needs. Since our annual meeting is a multi-day event, a member may only be able drive in and attend one day or only participate in workshops. 

Being active in MAIR, the Southern Association for Institutional Research, and AIR have helped me understand the value f9c072c5-7f6f-462b-8a75-f10fa6fd6297.pngand purpose of these associations within the field of IR. MAIR conference planners provide sessions that are both research-oriented and applicable and have a focus on issues facing institutions in Mississippi. For example, some recent topics presented include initiatives like Complete 2 Compete, a statewide adult degree completion program. Recently, we’ve partnered with AIR to co-sponsor IPEDS workshops during the pre-conference time slot. These workshops have a high interest with our membership and are open to non-members who have an interest in IPEDS. We have had a dedicated SACSCOC update session to provide all members with information about the recently revised Principles of Accreditation. Since we are a state group, updates from state’s four-year governing board and two-year coordinating board have helped to communicate state or system-level issues that may impact institutions.

We’ve also improved the way content is delivered to our members. Two years ago, we surveyed our membership to determine what topic areas are of interest and what skills are needed most. We utilized this information to do outreach for conference sessions that fit these responses. We’ve also expanded conference receptions to include a poster session which has allowed for broader participation. 

eAIR: Can you briefly discuss some of the upcoming work you will do with MAIR to respond to the demands you’ve described?

We have been tasked by our membership to evaluate two organizational topics before our 2019 conference. First, we will address changes discussed previously regarding membership. An ad hoc committee has been formed to evaluate our bylaws and make recommendations for changes to membership types and associated fees. Our second task is to evaluate the process for identifying nominees for leadership positions to streamline the election process. I’d also like to begin formulating a strategic plan to help MAIR leadership identify and execute tasks by having set goals for what we want MAIR to accomplish over time.

eAIR: As we begin a new membership year, can you share how your AIR membership has impacted involvement in MAIR?

MAIR members vote each year for a ‘Best Presentation’ award based on the presentations made at the annual meeting. Our affiliation with AIR allows the recipient to have an automatic acceptance to the AIR Forum. This recognition has allowed several members to present on a national stage on topics such as IR leadership and propensity score matching techniques. 

My recent experience serving on the AIR Nominations and Elections Committee has prepared me to take a deep dive into how we identify and select future MAIR leadership. Learning from this thorough nomination process will benefit our ability to communicate expectations of serving in a MAIR leadership role.

Recently, AIR’s webinars have also been of interest to our membership as an affordable and effective professional development opportunity.  



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