Elections

The 2019 Election Process is Closed

2019  Candidate Profiles

Candidate profiles are provided below for the positions of Vice President, Board Members at Large, and Nominations and Elections Committee members. All candidates responded to a question about the future of institutional research. Vice President and Board candidates also responded to a question regarding outreach to the membership, and Nominations and Elections Committee candidates responded to a question about representation.

View 2019 Election Results


Vice President

(2 Candidates / 1 Position Available)

Michelle_Hall

Michelle Hall, Director of Institutional Research, Southeastern Louisiana University 

In what ways has your experience with AIR, regional affiliates or other organizations demonstrated your outreach and service to a broad membership?  

I have served on the AIR Board twice (2006-2008 as Forum Chair/Associate Forum Chair and 2014- 2017 as Member at Large), served on the Nominating Committee (2011-2013), Local Arrangements Chair in 2006, and proposal reviewer for over 20 years. I I served as a SAIR board in several roles, including President, for total of eight years and received the James Montgomery Service Award in 2013. Also, I served three years on the LAIR board, and frequently present the Newcomers Workshop at the annual conference. One of the things I enjoy most about serving our professional organizations is getting to know people I might not have otherwise. 

Over the next five years, what issues will institutional research need to face to maintain and enhance its value to higher education?  

I think institutional research can become a more prominent and important part of higher education. With the proliferation of 3rd parties being involved in data and increases in technology, more people will have access to data big and small, whether the data is valid or not. Institutional researchers have the skills to help evaluate the validity and feasibility of data and results and are uniquely positioned to see the “big picture” for an institution. This may require us to focus on our data skills (context, limitations, nuances) rather than our technical proficiency in producing numbers. Those technical skills will still be needed because reporting requirements are not going away, they may change, but they will still exist, and in most cases IR will still be responsible for these. AIR will need to support our knowledge and skill development in both areas and I would like to see AIR working with other organizations to play a larger role in the higher education community and provide a voice for institutional researchers in the conversations. Providing a voice may be a difficult task given the variety of needs, resources, and skills in the IR community, but I think it can be done and is important. 

Heather_Kelly

Heather Kelly, Director of Institutional Research, University of Delaware 

In what ways has your experience with AIR, regional affiliates or other organizations demonstrated your outreach and service to a broad membership?  

My IR career began two decades ago and I have been actively engaged with professional networks.  This engagement includes holding various leadership roles in the Association for Institutional Research (AIR) [Treasurer, Board of Directors, Nominations and Elections Committee] and the North East Association for Institutional Research (NEAIR) [President, Treasurer, Steering Committee Member-At-Large, Program Chair].  I am also connected with the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) [Accreditation Liaison Officer], the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO), and the Society for College and University Planning (SCUP).  I believe my professional networks are broad and deep which will serve the Board of Directors and Nominations and Elections Committee well.  It is important to involve new and veteran members in the conversation.  I also think it is important to understand the needs and expectations of the various higher education stakeholders that include, but are not limited to, college presidents, provosts, senior administration, faculty, state and federal entities, students and their families.  I think this can be accomplished via targeted conversations and environmental scanning taking a close look at trends directly impacting higher education. 

Over the next five years, what issues will institutional research need to face to maintain and enhance its value to higher education?  

While institutional research may be a unit that promotes the centralization of data, the functionality of institutional research is becoming more and more decentralized as units across campus are gaining access to data and have the ability to conduct data analyses.  Given the expertise of institutional researchers, it is imperative to explain the importance and usefulness of institutional research and how institutional research can partner with other units on campus to promote student success, the success of our institutions, and in the end positively promote higher education.  Institutional researchers have an opportunity to demonstrate the value of higher education, as well as drive change in higher education.  As such, institutional researchers need to have the knowledge and skills to appropriately collaborate in order to maximize the IR capacity within their organizations.  The Board of Directors should consider the different campus players and external stakeholders needed to maximize the IR capacity within the higher education landscape. 

Member-At-Large 

(6 Candidates / 3 Positions Available)  

Michele_Hanslen

Michele Hansen, Assistant Vice Chancellor, Institutional Research and Decision Support, Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis 

In what ways has your experience with AIR, regional affiliates or other organizations demonstrated your outreach and service to a broad membership?  

I am an active member of many professional organizations such as APLU’s Council on Information, Measurement and Analysis (CIMA), CIMA Data Policy Group, Indiana Association of Institutional Research (INAIR) and Indiana University IR Council. Additionally, over my 18 years in higher education I have developed networks of colleagues throughout the country. I have found these networks to be very responsive to requests for information/advice or the dissemination of information. Likewise, I feel that others view me as a valuable contact and resource. 

Over the next five years, what issues will institutional research need to face to maintain and enhance its value to higher education?  

Given the explosion of data available for decision making, we have been introduced to new technological tools, data sources and vended solutions (e.g., big data, machine learning, algorithms, learning analytics, predictive analytics, data mining, and more). This rapid growth of information technology and changes in the higher education landscape require our IRs roles to expand from traditional reporting and ad-hoc decision support for senior administration to leading institution-wide data analytics to support strategic planning and student success. Part of IR’s value in the future will be in helping decision makers navigate diverse data sources and building data literacy. Additionally, as more campuses employ predictive analytics tools, IR should play the critical role of ensuring the ethical use of the insights gained. IR professionals should be leaders in ensuring privacy and ethical use of data given our access to the data, analysis expertise, and experience in developing research insights. IR professionals add unique value to this world of analytics and big data: we understand our campus academic contexts. Our understanding of faculty and student success factors and issues makes it possible to appropriately understand and interpret the data we’re using. IR professionals will also add value to the future of using data to improve student success and learning by using culturally responsive IR approaches through a lens of equity and social justice in our work. This role will ensure that all students have equal access to and outcomes derived from participating in effective programs, services, and learning experiences. Our role will be critical in making certain that the information is used to promote the success of students and enhance opportunities for them, rather than limiting their choices and access to resources. Again, with advances in technology and analytical tools, institutions have significantly increased capacity to collect and store data about student and institutional performance. The role of IR professionals now and in the future will also be ensuring that data is leveraged for decision-making and to improve student success and learning. However, if we are going to move the needle on improving student success for all students given our increasingly diverse student populations and ubiquitous equity gaps across the higher education landscape, we need to focus on converting data into information needed by decision makers at multiple spheres of influence including faculty members, advisors, peer mentors, and even students themselves. This expanded definition of decision makers will mean that we need to play the role of facilitators and build relationships across the institution so that IR is at the table when decisions are made. 

Mary_Lelik

Mary Lelik, Senior Vice Provost, Office of Institutional Research and Planning, NC State University 

In what ways has your experience with AIR, regional affiliates or other organizations demonstrated your outreach and service to a broad membership?  

My professional network includes past and present connections with regional IR groups in the Midwest and South.  I have served as both director and faculty of advanced practice institutes for AIR.  I have delivered pre-conference and summer workshops on IR office effectiveness, presented at Educause on IT strategic planning and served on panel topics ranging from survey research to managing data science initiatives to the assessment of intercultural competencies in study abroad.  I believe these experiences have given me broad exposure to the questions, concerns and perspectives of today’s IR professionals.  I currently supervise a staff of equally engaged directors and analysts who extend that reach with their own networks of IR colleagues and special interest groups in organizations such as AAPOR, AERA and SUGI. 

My IR career has included work at a private liberal arts college, a regional university, a system office, an urban R1 with a medical center and a large public land grant STEM-focused institution.  I have first-hand experience with the commonalities of the institutional research function across a variety of organizational settings and an appreciation for the myriad ways in which IR is called upon to serve organizations with highly specialized information needs.  I believe the broader our perspectives and the more voices we bring to the conversation, the more innovative we can be in addressing the challenges that lie ahead. 

Over the next five years, what issues will institutional research need to face to maintain and enhance its value to higher education?  

AIR continues to perform a vital role in promoting best practices in the profession, providing networking opportunities for its membership at every stage of their careers, and access to state-of-the-art resources and information on emerging trends in higher education.  What I consider to be the most exciting future for the association is its outreach to other higher education organizations such as Educause, AACRAO, SCUP and NACUBO, to showcase the contributions IR can make across functional activities within higher education.   

For example, I recently attended the annual APLU conference as part of an institutional team engaged in that organization’s newly-launched Student Success Cluster Initiative.   As a result, I was able to attend and participate in activities of the Commission on Information, Measurement and Analysis (CIMA) whose membership includes active participants in regional and national IR organizations.  Sessions in the CIMA track were uniformly well-attended by participants outside the IR community, including provosts, student affairs leaders, and business officers, clearly demonstrating the need for and interest in data-informed decision support across functional roles within the academy.  This is where our greatest potential lies as an organization to affect positive change and ensure the continued vitality of American higher education in a particularly challenging era of fundamental shifts in funding models, modes of instructional delivery, the growth of interdisciplinarity in research and the increasing diversity of the constituencies we serve.  Our profession brings a unique and vital perspective to those discussions.  With your collective affirmation, I hope to actively engage in and contribute to these important cross-organizational outreach efforts by and for the Association.   

Marc_LoGrasso

Marc F. LoGrasso, Senior Analyst, Bryant & Stratton College 

In what ways has your experience with AIR, regional affiliates or other organizations demonstrated your outreach and service to a broad membership?  

As an IPEDS Coordinator and former IPEDS Educator, I have had the opportunity to develop professional relationships with institutional researchers from various sectors all over the country.  As a regular attender at my regional (NEAIR) Annual Conference, I have been able to foster additional professional relationships with a larger number of individuals within the IR field.  From these relationships, I have grown professionally, as I know I can reach out to many people through this network to assist me with various needs, including reaching out to make new connections that I have not had previously. 

Over the next five years, what issues will institutional research need to face to maintain and enhance its value to higher education?  

As the Federal government pushes for greater levels of data security among higher education institutions, our own focus on data security and, more holistically, data governance, will make a big impact on our ability to do the types of research our institutions rely on us for.  This will require all of us in the field to take a closer look at how we are using our data and why we are using it, as ultimately a poor data governance structure may lead us as higher education institutions to make choices that have students’ interests in mind only on the surface level and may lead to various functional areas within our institutions to make decisions incentivized by what is best for their area and not for the institution as a whole. 

Daniel Martinez

Daniel Martinez, Director, Institutional Research, College of the Desert 

In what ways has your experience with AIR, regional affiliates or other organizations demonstrated your outreach and service to a broad membership?  

The California Community Colleges have an active and involved membership. This group is represented by the RP Group (Research and Planning), and I have served on the Board of Directors on three separate occasions. I am also a member of the California association of institutional research (CAIR) and the Association of Study of Higher Education (ASHE). Of course, AIR membership immediately expands connection possibilities. 

What I like about RP, CAIR, and AIR is the camaraderie and support that members provide each other. Interacting with other professionals in the same field was both refreshing and eye-opening. The passion that I had for this work was (and still is!) foreign to my non-IR friends and colleagues, but the first time I attended an IR conference, I knew I belonged. The ideas and methods challenged me to do better work and I in turn sought to help others. The value of professional conferences is so important to me that I was instrumental in re-establishing the annual RP Conference after several years of combining the conference with another organization. At conferences, by phone, or email, I am happy to help others and I am grateful that they are willing to help me, too.  

The value of interacting with colleagues is expanded exponentially when interacting with colleagues at CAIR and even more so at AIR. The type of work being done, the level of expertise, the innovative and interesting work, the fresh ideas – all of those things challenge me to do my best and help me to do a better job for my institution.  

Over the next five years, what issues will institutional research need to face to maintain and enhance its value to higher education?  

I have worked in the California Community Colleges for almost 30 years. In that time, the focus of our work has changed significantly, from isolated social scientists (mostly) with limited influence to a more central role as a partner informing policy and practice. One of the major changes that has occurred is how data is presented for consumption. Data visualization will continue to be a major focus because of its ability to convey information easily for audiences that may not be comfortable with tables and graphs but still need information to inform their decisions.  

What will not change, however, is the need for quality. IR practitioners will require a bedrock of the scientific process and a deep understanding of the IR role in postsecondary education. Technology will never be more important than the scientific process, but it can, will, and should help us tell the stories the data reveal. 

Data stewardship and data democracy will also have an increasingly important presence on campuses and IR professionals will need to grapple with that, including both the implementation of the strategies and the implications of it, too. How the information is made available will continue to get easier and our jobs will require a step to ensure that end users get the information they seek.

Tim_Stanley

Tim Stanley, Director of Institutional Research, Utah Valley University

In what ways has your experience with AIR, regional affiliates or other organizations demonstrated your outreach and service to a broad membership?  

I’ve spent the bulk of my career at Utah Valley University (UVU) as a Senior Research Analyst, Associate Director, and Director of Institutional Research. I’ve also spent four years in the office of Institutional Effectiveness and Planning. Outside of UVU I’ve worked in the IR office of a not-for-profit institution, as well as in the private sector doing market research. I’ve taught computer skills and research methods courses at both large, public institutions and small, private, for-profit institutions; at the undergraduate and graduate levels; both face-to-face and online. I’ve been the Business Intelligence track chair for our system-wide student information system user group.  I’ve also had opportunities to work closely with members of the K-12 community and the workforce as the president of the Utah State ACT Council. Much of the future of AIR lies outside the traditional boundaries of our IR offices. 

My participation with the Rocky Mountain Association for Institutional Research (RMAIR) and AIR have helped expand my network even further. I’ve enjoyed opportunities to work with purposefully diverse groups on projects such as the Statement of Aspirational Practice and the AIR Forum Program Committee. I’ve been privileged to conduct presentations and pre-conference workshops at the AIR forum on a wide variety of topics including: running meetings, technical dashboard design, understanding FERPA, etc. However, my favorite way to participate in the forum is through facilitating discussion groups. For all our differences, we all face similar problems—politics, apathy, too many requests, not enough time, etc. Discussion groups have allowed me to glean insights from IR professionals of all types and have frequently provided pivotal changes to how I do IR.   

The board best serves the association when its membership is representative of various regions and institution types. In that way, I hope to add to the “representiveness” of the board—I represent the Rocky Mountain region, large public universities, open-enrollment institutions, and dual-mission institutions that serve as both community colleges and graduate-degree-granting regional universities.   

Over the next five years, what issues will institutional research need to face to maintain and enhance its value to higher education?  

Over the last decade, powerful tools have allowed virtually everyone to create online surveys. Now the same transition is happening with data analysis.  Powerful analytical tools and increasingly accessible datasets allow a wide variety of people to conduct sophisticated analysis on student success, alumni, and other key issues facing higher education. Institutional researchers are in the middle of this migration. In some ways this is a welcome shift, allowing IR professionals to remove themselves from the day-to-day ad-hoc reporting and focus on more meaningful, value-added research. Understandably, however, some IR professionals are nervous as pieces of their job descriptions erode away.   

Certainly the role of IR is shifting. IR has an opportunity to become even more vital as a voice of authority in competing conversations between “armchair analysts.” Another opportunity lies in the shift from analysts to coaches and consultants. IR offices can provide more than standardized information; they become storytellers and explorers—diving deeply into data around them and returning with insights that are accessible, actionable, and interesting. IR offices can take a leadership role in the governance of information on campus itself—safeguarding data quality and proselyting data literacy. As higher education is battered by a measurement hurricane of accreditation bodies, government agencies, think-tanks, the media, and consumers, Institutional Research can help navigate the storm by identifying measurements that are meaningful as well as those which distract from institutions’ missions.   

IR is simultaneously pulled in two directions: towards the increasing sophisticated techniques of data science, and the ideals of easily-digestible “data visualization” and “user experience.” All of these pressures and opportunities demand new sets of skills than what have traditionally been expected of IR professionals. We need to not only learn to become better analysts, but to create and lead new analysts of all types across our campuses. 

David_Troutman

David R. Troutman, Associate Vice Chancellor for Institutional Research and Advanced Analytics, The University of Texas System 

In what ways has your experience with AIR, regional affiliates or other organizations demonstrated your outreach and service to a broad membership?  

Social media can play a huge role in getting the message out to various constituencies of the organization. For example, social media websites, such as LinkedIn and Facebook, are great places to connect with AIR members. These are powerful resources for sending information and receiving feedback. Communicating through listservs and newsletters are helpful, as well. I find SurveyMonkey to be very beneficial when asking individuals for feedback. 

Over the next five years, what issues will institutional research need to face to maintain and enhance its value to higher education?  

Over the next five years, the following are some of the most critical issues we will face: 

Disseminating information on the Return on Investment (ROI) of higher education. We should be creating college-to-career metrics that highlight how higher education is beneficial for students, employers, and local, state, and federal economies.

Developing new and innovative metrics. There is an opportunity for us to move beyond using traditional student and institutional metrics commonly found in various national rankings and reporting requirements. We should be creative when using university data to develop metrics that will provide a holistic picture of what is happening at the university level (e.g., student success, student learning outcomes, faculty performance, budget, etc.).

Scanning the environment for current and future technologies. It seems like almost every day I receive an email that is promoting a new software, analysis, or product that is supposed to solve the problems I face at work. It is important for us to keep current on which products might be the best fit for each campus.

Having a place at the leadership table. IR personnel should be at the table to provide executive leadership with the most updated information that will enable campus leadership to make informed decisions.

Enhancing our working relationships with various stakeholders across campus. IR personnel should be viewed as data facilitators. We have the opportunity to work with various offices (Student Affairs, Dean of Students, Business Affairs, Career Services, Alumni Associations, Faculty Councils) to create robust data sets. These data sets can provide valuable information on multiple issues facing various campuses. 

Nominations And Elections Committee 

(6 Candidates / 3 Positions Available)   

Rana_Glasgal

Rana Glasgal, Associate Vice Provost for Institutional Research and Decision Support, Northeastern University 

Over the next five years, what issues will institutional research need to face to maintain and enhance its value to higher education?   

Data democratization is at the forefront of Institutional Research. It is important to act as an enabler and facilitator of the delivery of information into the hands of our constituencies. Higher education is becoming more data-driven and our offices do not often have the resources to meet each request, so we must have an eye toward self-service and efficiency. The IR office can be the leader in data and analysis on our campuses, and bring distributed staff along with us through a program of coaching and empowerment alongside appropriate data governance. 

What different perspectives or voices do you think are important to represent on the Board/NEC? How would you go about ensuring diversity within the slate of candidates? 

Diversity of perspective is perhaps the most important aspect of the Nominations and Elections Committee, and one of the primary reasons I would like to join. My career has been with large private research universities, but I have learned so much when I get to interact with those from public institutions, small colleges, non-profit institutions, or community colleges. I would like to expand my network of colleagues to bring in these different viewpoints. I am a volunteer on two nomination committees for my alma mater, and we carefully consider each nominee by many criteria. But one of our most important concerns is a diverse group – whether that be by profession, college major, race, gender, or year of graduation. Our committee has clearly improved the level of discourse and the diversity of opinions by bringing in nominees from all parts of the alumni base. And if we haven’t gotten the diversity we want in the nominated alumni, we solicit more nominations! 

Erin_Holmes

Erin J. Holmes, Associate Vice Provost for Institutional Research, University of Alaska Anchorage 

Over the next five years, what issues will institutional research need to face to maintain and enhance its value to higher education?   

The major issue facing institutional research over the next five years will be how does an institutional research professional create a practice that both broadens the reach (i.e., serves more constituents) and develops a focus on student success? The Statement of Aspirational Practice offers the framework for the profession but the mechanics of the transition are left un-defined.  

What different perspectives or voices do you think are important to represent on the Board/NEC? How would you go about ensuring diversity within the slate of candidates? 

Diverse geographic voices, institutional types and practice types should be represented on the board. The first two, geography and institutional type is fairly straightforward. Seeking board membership from across the country through the regional organizations is the best mechanism to get representation.  

The voices of diverse practice types also need to be heard and represented. Diverse practice relates to the office structure – whether the person has many people in an IR office or if they are a solo practitioner. Too often, the director of an office with direct reports has the time to commit to a national board. The solo practitioner or a lower level analyst is often overlooked or may not have the time in their schedule to serve nationally. These voices must be actively recruited. These types of board recruitments take a personal touch and knowledge of potential board members. 

Karen_Froslid_Jones

Karen Froslid Jones, Assistant Provost, Institutional Research and Assessment, American University 

Over the next five years, what issues will institutional research need to face to maintain and enhance its value to higher education?   

Let me list three that I’ve been dealing with lately:  
Leading Data Democratization: Increasingly, many people across campus have access to data and are doing analysis with that data. IR must be leaders in data governance and we should play a significant role in helping units to use data wisely.  This is not necessarily new, but the diversity of data available and the diversity of people using it will continue to expand. (I note that NEAIR has a ton of conference sessions on governance this year.) Many of us are struggling with how we best serve our campus in our new role. 

Diversifying Skillsets - The Methodologist vs. Analyst: Data analytics is a huge, marketable skillset. In fact, when hiring, IR offices are not competing solely with other colleges/universities for talent. At the same time, we still need people who can do assessment and social science research, areas that might be less competitive but nevertheless critical to our success. How do we hire and staff our offices with the right balance of skillsets and how do we help people with different skillsets and backgrounds work together? Just as accreditation’s emphasis on assessment had an impact on many offices, I suspect that the analytics boom offers similar opportunities and challenges. For AIR, the boom also offers the association opportunities to expand membership beyond just traditional IR offices. 

Confronting the role of technology: Across campus and in our own office, we find that there are more products than we can possibly buy or use to help us with our work. (I’m thinking of all the tools for assessment, analytics, evaluating rankings, surveying, visualizations, student apps that supposedly help with retention, etc.) Those of us in IR are challenged to prioritize our needs, to evaluate options, and to consult across campus to ensure we make good decisions. And, of course, we are not the only ones on campus purchasing products. In the next five years, AIR and the field of IR can play a critical role in assessing the value of technology and can help identify the most important ways we can leverage technology to advance institutional effectiveness.   

What different perspectives or voices do you think are important to represent on the Board/NEC? How would you go about ensuring diversity within the slate of candidates? 

This was a very important issue for me when I served on the NEAIR nominations committee.  We definitely need better race/ethnicity diversity. However, I also hope that we can get younger members more involved, those from a wide array of institutions, and people who come with different skillsets within IR. (AIR needs the perspectives of members who are data-focused, assessment experts, have finance backgrounds, etc.) How would I go about doing it? Well, first of all, we can’t be afraid to talk about it. We need to have diversity as a goal. We have to be careful not to stay with just the typical people that we know because those may end up being people just like us. We have to be intentional about looking for talent and inviting participation. That means looking not only to people already active in AIR, but also to those active at the regional level and those active in other professional capacities.   

Kristin_Mckinley

Kristin McKinley, Director of Research Administration, Lawrence University

Over the next five years, what issues will institutional research need to face to maintain and enhance its value to higher education?   

Over the next five years, we will continue to grapple with the issues facing higher education today – changing demographics, declining financial support, shifting public funding, preparing students for a rapidly evolving and automated future, emerging technologies, and growing skepticism by the public. These issues challenge our existing models, assumptions, and mindsets. As institutional researchers, developing our leadership skills will help our institutions thrive and bring value to the higher education sector as a whole. Leadership skills such as forward or anticipatory thinking, risk taking, and creativity will help to challenge status quo thinking and foster innovative problem-solving.  In addition, either having or developing the ability to convene a diverse group of stakeholders and being able to propose new directions will be critical to our ability to advance. Furthermore, resiliency and courage should not be underestimated as desired skills. Being able to advocate on behalf of others who feel invisible or silenced can effect change and add value.   

Effective institutional research offices will need to engage in all duties and functions of institutional research. As data identifiers, we can help others to develop and refine research questions and anticipate questions related to higher education conversations. As data collectors, analysts, reporters, planners, and evaluators we can provide information for decision- and policy-making as well as planning. As data stewards, we can present evidence demonstrating the need for change and engage others in conversation. As educators, we can convene discussions and encourage collaboration with stakeholders. 

What different perspectives or voices do you think are important to represent on the Board/NEC? How would you go about ensuring diversity within the slate of candidates? 

It is essential that the Board/NEC are comprised of different perspectives so that all 3,000 plus AIR members (on behalf of 1,800 plus institutions and organizations) feel represented and, more importantly, heard. To ensure a diverse slate of candidates, I would advocate for representation based on the institution type (public, private, technical, and community colleges), associations, and agencies; geographic region (US and international), demographics (gender, race/ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, etc.); experiences (lived and/or work-related experiences, institutional/organizational roles, skills, abilities, interests), and cognitive skills and approaches that best reflect the membership of AIR. Selecting a diverse slate of candidates will ensure the members’ interests are represented and can move AIR forward not only in terms of its vision, but also in helping to navigate ever-changing times and adapting quickly and responsibly in the best interest of its members to improve the higher education landscape.   

Michael_Urmeneta

Mike Urmeneta, Director of Analytics and Business Intelligence, New York Institute of Technology  

Over the next five years, what issues will institutional research need to face to maintain and enhance its value to higher education?   

Data, information, analytics, and insight are topics that are front and center for all organizations today.  All signs point to this focus intensifying on the next five years.  We in Institutional Research will need to meet this head-on and embrace our roles as leaders and change agents.

The communities we serve are getting broader and more sophisticated.  There is an expectation that data is always available and actionable.  The ubiquity of business intelligence, data science, machine learning, and AI all contribute to a culture of self-service.

At the same time, everyone wants to play in the sandbox now.  IT departments, academic units, and administrative offices are more than happy to take on an expanded role.  Vendors are more than happy to sell a solution to those units.

That being said, we don’t have to live in fear of getting hit by the bus.  We have the opportunity to drive it. I don’t see us competing. I see us collaborating.  That means we need to come out of the office and into the community occasionally.  We need to show that we can be true strategic partners to our stakeholders.  Our students and our institutions count on us to see further out than most.  We can be the organizers, policy advisors, thought leaders, and change agents that our organizations need. 

What different perspectives or voices do you think are important to represent on the Board/NEC? How would you go about ensuring diversity within the slate of candidates? 

As our field continues to evolve, we will undoubtedly need a cross-section of institutional researchers, assessment experts, and business intelligence practitioners to match the needs of our institutions.

Moreover, we will need leadership that matches the diversity of our membership regarding gender, ethnicity, culture, and institutional mission.  We need to see diversity as a strength as opposed to an issue to acknowledge.  A variety of opinion and background only makes our organization stronger and better able to deal with the future.

Diversity concerning workforce and student body has been a focus topic at the conferences I attended this last year.  It is a national conversation that our organization not only needs to be engaged in but in the leadership of.  As researchers, we spend a lot of time looking at the changing demographics of our student bodies.  As administrators and leaders, we need to spend at least as much time looking at and addressing those changes in our organizations.

The topic of diversity resonates with me.  In looking at my own positionality, I have been an outsider as well as an insider in the neighborhoods I have lived, the educational institutions I have attended, and organizations I have worked for.  It makes me conscious of my own biases, and appreciative of those that have blazed the trail before me.

In addition to being aware of my own positionality and the responsibility I hold, I see myself as an ambassador to the profession and evangelist for the work we do.  In that respect, I hope to continue to wave the AIR flag at the conferences I present at, and the task forces I serve in.

Research has shown that students do well when they see someone like them succeed.  In that same vein, I am aware that we need to show our membership that there are people like them in roles to which they can aspire.  These examples are around us.  We need to shine the light.  The members of today will be the leaders of tomorrow. 

Nicolas_Valcik

Nicolas A. Valcik, Executive Director, Institutional Effectiveness, Central Washington University 

Over the next five years, what issues will institutional research need to face to maintain and enhance its value to higher education?   

One main area of concern for the profession is having the protection afforded to IR directors from backlash for reporting numbers correctly to state and federal officials. Currently there is not any statute at the federal level for a whistleblower type of compliance reporting protection. At most institutions IR Directors and Executive Directors are “At Will and Pleasure” employees who can be terminated if reporting issues have been brought to upper administrators’ attention. I believe the profession should have better protection on these issues through the U.S. Department of Education for IPEDS reporting specifically. Without this type of protection, how does state and federal entities expect to receive information from some institutions who could be punitive to employees for reporting accurate information that may not reflect well on the institution? 

Over the next five years the other issues that will continue to be an issue is enrollment management support, retention issues, graduation issues and budgeting/financial impacts of shrinking state and federal support. Additionally, the issue of Return on Investment for faculty along with the importance of tenure/tenure track at differing institutions will continue to receive increased attention. To address research in these areas, institutional research will need to go beyond focusing only on student data and branch out into other areas concerning an institution, which some departments do, but a number of them do not have the expertise or abilities to research and analyze. The profession overall needs to become more technologically savvy if they are to have an impact. This is the third office I have had to build up from having a manual effort for producing information, to one that uses advanced software to automate certain processes and enhance accuracy as well as capability of the institution.   

What different perspectives or voices do you think are important to represent on the Board/NEC? How would you go about ensuring diversity within the slate of candidates? 

I always look for the knowledge, skills and abilities a candidate possesses that could promote the organization forward. I want to see candidates that are innovative, hard working with a high degree of work output. This approach assists with obtaining diversity if one looks at the qualifications with an unbiased viewpoint. I have had diverse departments with extremely good employees that could promote the organization forward at West Virginia University and Central Washington University.