New Member Perspectives

Supporting student success through the provision of data to campus leaders is the most rewarding part of the job, according to AIR members. 

Most-Rewarding-Tasks.jpgLast fall, the AIR staff interviewed more than 200 AIR members to gain a better understanding of the day-to-day activities of IR professionals. This experience was so successful in connecting AIR staff with its members, that the exercise was repeated in the spring with a focus on new members. 
 
AIR staff interviewed 122 first-time members during the first quarter of 2015. Respondents held various positions in IR or related fields (director, data analyst, research assistant, etc.) and represented all sectors of higher education. Members were asked about their most rewarding and challenging experiences in the last three months of their current position, the member benefits they utilize, and other ways AIR could enhance their professional development. 
 
Members reported that data analysis, institutional engagement, and student success were the work tasks that were most rewarding over the last three months. Together, these three categories accounted for more than half of all responses. Although data analysis was the most common response, it appears that a large number of new members see it as a means to an end. These results indicate that IR professionals care deeply about engaging students, faculty, and staff to increase institutional effectiveness and student success. 
 
When asked what proved to be most challenging in their job over the last three months, the top three responses were cleaning/coding data, lack of staffing, and issues related to information technology. What is perhaps most surprising is that 30 different tasks were reported among the 122 interviewed members. The top three categories accounted for only 30% of the total responses and reveal a wide variety of challenges among IR offices.
 
Members were asked how often they read eAIR, the association’s monthly newsletter. More than half (52%) responded that they read eAIR on a monthly basis to stay informed and to keep current on tools and resources for IR professionals. When asked about their use of AIR-sponsored professional journals in the past three months, 33% reported having read an article from Research in Higher Education and 21% reported they had read an article from New Directions in Higher Education.
 
When asked about other ways AIR could enhance their professional development, many respondents answered that they would like more training on topics that included software, products, leadership, statistics, and analytics. While the topics varied, a recurring theme was that new members are interested in improving and enhancing their skills in order to better communicate with stakeholders and be empowered to contribute to data-driven decisions on their campus.  Respondents also value practical tools and resources that can be quickly and easily applied to their daily work tasks.
 
Connecting with members, especially those who are new to AIR, proved to be valuable for staff to better understand members’ daily lives and continue to enhance the services provided. Staff reported that the interviews reaffirmed the role members serve in ensuring that their institution is effectively using institutional research for decision support. 

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Cliff posted on 9/10/2015 3:40 PM
The next time we conduct a similar survey, it would be helpful to know how much (and in what ways) IR people are involved in current efforts to define/redefine degrees, i.e. in Degree Qualifications Profile projects, competency-based degree programs, alternative credentials, LEAP. etc.

On a different track, it may also be helpful to know how much (and in what ways) IR people interact with the National Student Clearninghouse, the Multistate Longitudinal Data Exchange (granted, that's only 4 states at present), Complete College America, the
Data Quality Campaign, etc.