Refining Our Vision for IR

How the Aspirational Statement Prompted Discourse and Change

By Meridith Drzakowski, Assistant Chancellor, Planning, Assessment, Research and Quality, University of Wisconsin-Stout

AS.jpgIn a time of declining budgets and increasing calls for accountability and assessment in higher education, the Statement of Aspirational Practice for Institutional Research has enabled the office of Planning, Assessment, Research and Quality (PARQ) at UW-Stout to engage campus stakeholders in an effort to find opportunities for improvement and refine programs and processes. This article outlines the initial steps we have taken as a result of our participation as one of the Founding Institutions of the Statement of Aspirational Practice for IR.
Our discussions on the “expanded definition of decision makers” component of the Statement led us to implement a pilot program to intentionally engage campus stakeholders who are the direct recipients of our reports in discussions throughout project planning, data collection, and data analysis phases. In talking with campus stakeholders, we learned that they don’t always understand why we do specific projects and how we expect to use the results.
Our discussions of the “structures and leadership for institutional research” section of the aspirational statement led us to understand that we need to do more to empower faculty and staff to obtain the information they need to inform their decisions. We needed a formal mechanism to help all members of the campus community access and understand the broad array of data and information available from surveys and studies from other offices or sources. Working with stakeholders, we are in the process of expanding our data leads program to address this gap. This program provides training for designated people in each unit to obtain student record data they need from our data warehouse. Data leads serve as the first point of contact when faculty and staff have a data request. 
The ideas presented in “leadership for the institutional research function” outlined in the Statement led us to conclude that the institutional research office should facilitate broader knowledge and use of data collected campus-wide. As such, we are in the process of developing a data analytics map to help faculty, staff and students understand and increase usage of the surveys and data that are collected across many offices and units. 
Overall, our participation in this process enabled us to refine our vision that the institutional research office at UW-Stout will serve as liaison to help all campus community members find and use the data they need for decision making, regardless of which office collects the information.


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