Enrollment Management: Enhancing the IR Function

Eric Atchison is Director of System Analysis, Research & Enrollment Management and IPEDS State Coordinator, Mississippi Public Universities

EricA.pngeAIR: How did you transition from an IR role to also work in enrollment management?

I began working in IR at a public, four-year institution as an analyst in 2008 and came to the system office in 2012 to take a similar position. At the system level, the nature of the IR function was more organic to the operations of the executive office. I worked closely with those in academic and student affairs as well as finance and financial aid to tackle large projects at the state-level. In contrast to the institution where I was reporting information to internal (e.g. faculty, administrators, etc.) and external (system office, IPEDS, publishers, etc.) constituents, the system office had a different level of reporting. I found myself providing data and information to the state government and overseeing the IPEDS data collection as the IPEDS state coordinator. This shift in perspective and responsibility allowed me to better understand the usage of the data which I was previously reporting and helped me communicate its importance to legislators, board members, and institutional representatives. As the system office evolved, several initiatives began and our human resources were shifted to maintain oversight and expand our scope. I had been working closely with several constituent groups (admissions, registrars, and remediation programs) through my role within IR and when the opportunity came to transition, I was excited for the opportunity. 

eAIR: What is your role with enrollment management at your system office?

My role is part liaison and part project management. I am responsible for the statewide summer bridge program for eight institutions, monitoring and revising our admissions policies, and working with numerous constituent groups regarding college completion initiatives (e.g. Complete2Compete, Complete College America, etc.). For each of these I work to ensure the proper data are available to help evaluate the status of these programs.  I’ve also been tasked to find gaps in the data we collect with the data needs of the academic side of the system office. Since I work in both our Office of Strategic Research and the Office of Academic and Student Affairs, this expanded role has allowed me to determine where improvements are possible.  For example, several of our institutions are piloting co-requisite remediation but our data system did not have expanded definitions for the variety of delivery methods of these courses. I’ve worked with the IR, academic officers, and remedial program staff at our eight institutions to expand this data collection so we can analyze and evaluate the results of these changes. 

eAIR: Can you discuss how working with enrollment management collaboratively enhances the IR function?

I’ve enjoyed connecting my data management and analysis knowledge and skills to policy analyses. Initially, I was known as the ‘data dude’ within our system and I tended to focus on this resource during meetings. However, my new role has encouraged me to adapt my communication style with various groups such as admissions directors, registrars, and chief academic officers. For example, when discussing enrollment projections, I found it was problematic to focus only on data for estimating enrollment across our institutions. Instances such as this has helped me refine my message by realizing how to best incorporate the right amount of data within these discussions and how to use this information to make further decisions within our institutions. Having open lines of communication across the enrollment management and IR functions have allowed me to increase our data capacity and provide needed information within an ever-changing higher education landscape. 

eAIR: How has your AIR membership enhanced your ability to succeed in an IR/enrollment manager role? How has your membership helped shape your career path?

My AIR membership has provided me with numerous opportunities to grow professionally and learn from my colleagues across a range of professional backgrounds.  As my roles have changed and I transitioned from an institution to a state system, AIR’s resources and programming have been wonderful tools to help me meet the changing job demands. Reading eAIR each month provides a wealth of information and keeps me informed about current topics with the IR field. Attending the Forum has allowed me to experience the vast array of presentation topics and have conversations with both newcomers to IR and those with years of experience.  Also, the opportunity to volunteer with the Association has given me a chance to give back and by welcoming new members, reviewing proposals, and hosting dinner groups. These opportunities for interaction have resulted in collaboration which have further informed the work I do. 




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