Volunteering with AIR Enhances Member Experience

Ishuan Li is Associate Professor of Economics, Minnesota State University-Mankato 

ishuan-li.jpgeAIR: Can you share how your AIR membership has impacted you, your career, and your institution? 

I joined AIR in 2013 and volunteered to serve in various positions including peer reviewer, eAIR Tech Tips contributor, and eAIR Advisory Group member. eAIR is the long-running e-newsletter for AIR. As a member, I benefited from IPEDS online video tutorials, and found expert webinars helpful. Mainly, AIR membership allowed me to network with individuals with similar interests in assessment and institutional effectiveness in higher education.

eAIR: What advice would you give to someone new to AIR regarding getting the most out of their membership? 

AIR offers many resources that are of great benefit to members. To get the most out of their membership, I suggest new members explore the resources that are most useful in furthering their personal and professional career goals. These may include gaining knowledge on the latest assessment tools and staying current on institutional assessment innovations. eAIR provides direct and relevant tools to stay current on topics within IR. The many tools offered on the AIR website includes webinars. One excellent example is the July interactive webinar Combining National Datasets by Kristina Powers.

As a faculty member, my professional research interests are in the areas of assessment and institutional effectiveness. AIR membership expands my understanding of assessment in higher education through volunteer work. As a new AIR member, I volunteered as a peer reviewer. This experience helped me become familiar with different views within the IR community. Later, I served as a contributor to eAIR Tech Tips. In this role, I provided feedback on submitted Tech Tips as well as contributing new tips. Most recently, as a member of the eAIR Advisory Group, I contributed suggestions regarding stories on current topics relevant to the IR community, Ask eAIR ideas, and potential interviewees. 

eAIR: How does your involvement with the eAIR Advisory Group and other volunteer opportunities with AIR help you learn and engage with your profession?

Various criteria are used to evaluate a faculty member’s continuing professional development. AIR membership allows me to expand my professional interests in institutional research in general, and assessment of undergraduate education in particular. As a volunteer for eAIR, I have submitted Tech Tips on various subjects. These short “tips” covered the use of the statistical software Stata and expanding the capability of Excel with ExcelR. I also reviewed and provided feedback on Tech Tip submissions. These articles and feedback exercises benefitted my students who used them as learning tools during their undergraduate research projects.

As a member of the eAIR Advisory Group, I am provided a valuable opportunity to contribute to the online newsletter. One aspect of this contribution centers around my perspective on the value of IR. Faculty members do not have a direct role in an IR office. Their views, however, are not unimportant to the products of IR. For instance, outcomes from Undergraduate Research (UR) specifically, and High Impact Practices (HIPs) in general, are difficult to assess. Parametric and non-parametric data analysis can estimate the effects of HIPs if “rich-enough” observational data exist. Faculty members can assist IR by correctly identifying any UR activities in their programs. They can also assist in identifying potential instruments to control for self-selection effect. No less crucial, faculty members and departments should engage with IR to ensure accurate coding of their degree programs. For instance, in my discipline the median salary for Economics majors (CIP code 45.06: general economics) is significantly different from Business Economics (CIP code 52.06). Yet, these two degree programs are coded as general economics due to department idiosyncrasy.

eAIR: How has volunteering with AIR helped you increase your network?

One of the greatest benefits of a professional association includes the people within the network. AIR serves as the hub for IR professionals regardless of where they are in their professional development. As a reviewer for Tech Tips, I networked with IR directors, staff, research analysts, and Associate Provosts. AIR membership enriches my professional network as it adds a different but complementary perspective to Society for College and University Planning, peer corps of reviewers for the Higher Learning Commission, the Council on Undergraduate Research, and other professional organizations.

To volunteer your time and talents, visit the Get Involved page. Not a member? Join today to take advantage of this exclusive member benefit.



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