Learning From Our Members

Depositphotos_8073635_xs.jpgLast fall, AIR’s Executive Office staff embarked on a journey to learn more about the work done by the members we serve. As only a quarter of us have a background in IR, this had the makings of a rather long journey. However, thanks to the 203 members who shared with us, we now have a better understanding of the day-to-day duties of AIR members.

Each participating AIR staff member was given a list of randomly selected members to email and request time to talk via phone, for approximately 20 minutes. The goal for each staff member was to “interview” 14 members over a 10-week period. During the call, we asked each member to “talk about the schedule you anticipate for your next full day of work. What meetings will you attend? What tasks and activities will you work on?” We took notes during the calls and then compiled and analyzed the responses.

Throughout the process, and upon completion of the interviews, we all met to discuss our findings. One of the biggest takeaways for us was, “Boy, are these people busy!” While the discussions and lists of tasks, activities, and meetings varied widely, there was a sense that all the members interviewed were focused on the same thing: collecting, analyzing, interpreting, and reporting data so that their institutions can make better data-informed decisions.

It was interesting to note that—while many members performed similar tasks—there was a great deal of diversity in the responsibility for, and decisions based on, the data you collect. For example, some members felt that, “We’re getting data into people’s hands to help them make decisions for student success,” and, “It’s all centered on data, but I think we’ve gotten to the point where we have a decision-based culture.” Others felt there was still more of a challenge: “We are working to get the institution to actually use data for decisions.”

A recurring theme we found was the need for, and a possible move to, centralization of data and shared services. One member told us, “Different people have different data and everyone thought their data was right. We needed common definitions. We have an informed president who understands data so we can drive departments into putting data into one system with quality controls around it.”

Overall, we found that members truly care about the work they do. Although the amount of direct involvement you have in using the data to make decisions varied widely, you feel the burden of being responsible to get good, reliable data in the hands of the people who need it. We heard a variation of this repeatedly: I meet with personnel in departments all over campus to discuss how the data is to be used and how best to explain it for the intended audience.

We thank each of you who took the time to help us with this project and look forward to more opportunities to interact with you, our members.

As part of this project, AIR intern Roberto Orozco, a master’s student in the higher education administration program at Florida State University, compiled the data and wrote a report on the member experience.

AIR Executive Office Staff

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