Interview with Cory Clasemann

​Cory Clasemann is Assistant Vice President for Institutional Research at Ivy Tech Community College (Indiana).

Interview by Leah Ewing Ross

 

Special Features Clasemann cropped.jpgeAIR: How did you enter the field of higher education, and what led to your current role at Ivy Tech?

I was fortunate to have my work-study job as the curriculum coordinator for the Allergy/Immunology fellowship program at Creighton University turn into a full-time opportunity when I completed my bachelor’s degree. In that position I gained exposure to both program accreditation and research. After moving to Indiana, I found a similar job at the University of Indianapolis (UIndy). When UIndy was looking to develop an IR department to expand the role of data in decision-making, I was fortunate to be in a position to take a leadership role in this area and grow with the university as its data needs expanded. After working at UIndy for eight years, I was looking to take that next step in my career, which is what led me to Ivy Tech.

eAIR: Assuming you didn’t grow up planning to be an institutional researcher, what profession did you envision pursuing, and why?

I earned my bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism because that’s all I wanted to be when I was growing up. The ability to tell a story from all angles through the power of television was incredibly intriguing to me. However, when I truly realized after graduation what that would mean—mainly that I would have to “earn my stripes” behind the camera working weird shifts in locations far away from my family and friends—I found that I was not as ready to make the jump into television as I had initially thought. Consequently, I found myself following a different career path. I’m happy with how it has turned out, though I’ve sometimes wondered how I could follow career paths that are seemingly very different. In hindsight, I’ve discovered that a lot about what attracted me to journalism is also what attracted me to IR. I am extremely inquisitive by nature, so I’m constantly asking questions and looking for answers and solutions, which is an important characteristic in both fields. Perhaps most importantly, I wanted to have the ability to tell a story for a group of people who aren’t always in a position to convey it themselves, which is a vital component of both journalism and IR.

eAIR: In which AIR-sponsored programs have you participated, and how have those experiences influenced your career?

Collections of data do not speak for themselves—they require advocates who can tell the story and give the data meaning.

Although I haven’t presented at any of the annual meetings, I make it a point to attend each year for the valuable information and networking the venue provides. It is always reassuring to find colleagues who are working through similar issues, so being able to learn new methods and discuss possible approaches is extremely helpful. I always find at least a few pieces of valuable information to take back to my institution.

I was also fortunate to receive an AIR IR Fellowship, and as part of that experience, I attended the National Summer Data Policy Institute (now the National Data Institute). The amount of data available to us through the federal government is more than most people realize. I have already been able to utilize some of the data in my daily work and my personal research, and I anticipate using it even more over the next few years.

eAIR: You have had professional titles that include the terms “institutional research” and “institutional effectiveness.” How have your experiences shaped your understanding of the IE-IR conversations in higher education?

The central tenet for me has been that the name of the department and/or position does not matter as much as the value and role given to this function within the college. The most important factor is for these positions to be drivers of institutional change. Every institution has plenty of data, but it does not mean the institutions have the correct data or that the data are being effectively used for decision-making. Collections of data do not speak for themselves—they require advocates who can tell the story and give the data meaning.

eAIR: You recently transitioned from a private church-affiliated four-year university to a statewide community college. What challenges do you anticipate, and what opportunities excite you?

The biggest challenge for me has been adjusting to the change in size and scope. I went from a mid-size institution (5,400 students) with one campus to an institution that has campuses across the entire state and serves nearly 200,000 students. While there are a lot of similarities in the types of questions the two institutions ask, it requires a mental shift to think about the data and related policies in statewide terms. Of course, working at a public college also raises the need to appreciate the political impacts of institutional and state policies.

This complex set of interactions is also what excites me about the position. A four-year university and a community college often view the educational pipeline and their roles within it in very different terms. My passion has always been at-risk students and those who are more likely to be marginalized within the confines of traditional educational structures, so I feel energized working at an institution that holds access central to its mission. Working at a community college gets me more involved in an area in which I believe I can make the biggest impact.

eAIR: What do you do for fun?

I love spending time outdoors. Whether I am doing landscaping work or enjoying a relaxing evening on the patio, I find nature to be very relaxing. I am also a big music fan and have played piano for many years. I got away from it during college, so I’m enjoying the opportunity to reacquaint myself with the beauty of the instrument.