AIR Forum Denver, CO May 28-31, 2024

Pre-Conference Education

Pre-conference educational opportunities are offered as multi-day, full-day, and half-day sessions on Monday, May 27, and Tuesday, May 28. Topics range from the development of specific skills to approaches to institution-wide needs. Seats are limited, and additional fees are required (AIR member and nonmember prices are listed for each offering).




Please note: All times are listed in U.S. Mountain Time Zone. Pricing is displayed as (member/nonmember). 

Monday, May 27 – Tuesday, May 28

Multi-Day Bootcamp (Monday 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. and Tuesday 8–11:30 a.m.)

  • Foundations Bootcamp: The Cornerstone for Any IR Professional ($550/$750)

    Institutional research professionals are subject matter experts who help stakeholders answer questions in pursuit of data-informed decision making. Although this is an important aspect of IR, answering questions is not helpful if inquiries don’t illuminate the true knowledge sought. IR professionals are more than just curators of information—we are partners in discovery, which requires helping institutional colleagues clarify goals and refine questions in addition to the analysis of data, making sense of results, communicating findings, and generating insights. This workshop is an intensive exploration of IR’s agency in data-informed decision cultures and highlights the skills required to be effective in this field. It is an extension of AIR’s highly successful virtual Foundations series and an essential experience for any IR professional. The workshop starts with a question and sees an IR project through to its culmination. Workshop elements include principles of research design, survey design, descriptive statistics, effective reporting and communication, and translating findings into recommendations.

    As a result of this bootcamp, participants will be able to:

    • Understand common data-related higher education terminology
    • Identify a research design appropriate to address stated research questions.
    • Understand quantitative and qualitative data collection techniques, sampling, and testing for reliability and validity.
    • Construct a high-quality survey and conduct proper validity tests on the survey instrument
    • Identify and conduct proper descriptive statistics to best summarize research findings
    • Create effective visualizations and reports to community findings.

Multi-Day Workshop (Monday 12:30–4 p.m. and Tuesday 8–11:30 a.m.)

  • The Art and Science of Managing the IR Office ($375/$575)

    Jeremy Goodman, Independent Consultant

    Most IR directors and other management staff move up from within the field. But when we are promoted into management positions, we rarely receive any formal or structured learning opportunities on what management means and how to do it well. Allocating resources, managing workflow, and leading a team require different mindsets and skills from the individual contributors we used to be. In this workshop, we will focus on building, managing and communicating with your team and effectively managing resources such as staff time and budget to achieve your office goals, including exercises designed to consider how you might apply what you’ve learned when you return to your institution. Whether you are new to managing an office or just never had the opportunity to learn about it in a structured way, this may be the experience for you. 

    As a result of this workshop, participants will be able to: 

    • Discuss the shift in mindset needed to move from an IR/IE staff member to the office leader. 
    • Discuss management techniques like staff hiring, staff retention, managing office workload, and budgeting.
    • Discuss the difference in strategies between office staff management and “managing up”.
    • Discuss how to adapt/adopt the knowledge shared in this workshop to their unique IR/IE office setting.

Monday, May 27

Monday Full-Day (8 a.m. – 4 p.m.)

  • Best Practices for Reporting and Using IPEDS Data to Improve Office Efficiencies ($25)

    Kurt Gunnell, Director of Institutional Research, Western Governors University; John Ingram, Director of Institutional Research, LaRoche University

    This recently redesigned workshop provides intermediate-level keyholder training, and is specifically designed for individuals who have led IPEDS data submissions at their institutions for at least one full reporting cycle. It features best practices in IR, as well as technical efficiencies in data management through Excel and in review and submission of IPEDS survey data. The workshop expands on the use of IPEDS data for benchmarking to address key institutional questions and needs. Participants should have experience with the “Use the Data” section of the NCES website, and a working knowledge of Excel

    Note: IPEDS survey component submission instructions and basic benchmarking concepts are not covered in this workshop.

    Requirement: Participants are required to bring a laptop with wireless capability and Microsoft Excel.

  • Beyond Compliance: How to Use IPEDS Data to Examine Student and Institutional Success ($25)

    Eric Atchison, Vice President for Strategic Research, Arkansas State University System; Sandra Kinney, Independent Consultant

    This workshop is designed for individuals interested in utilizing IPEDS data to examine and measure student and institutional success. The first half of the workshop explores the five IPEDS surveys that contain academic performance metrics (Completions, Graduation Rates, 200% Graduation Rates, Fall Enrollment, and Outcome Measures). Through group discussion, activities, and lectures, participants will learn what the measurements can—and cannot—tell us about student and institutional performance. The second half of the workshop will involve hands-on activities to work through a series of case studies based on real-life scenarios. Participants will identify the question being asked in each case study; determine the best metric(s) to use to answer the question; extract data using the IPEDS tools; perform analyses; and present the data to answer the question. Participants will gain the knowledge needed to explore and answer questions at their institutions or organizations.

    Requirement: Participants are required to bring a laptop with wireless capability and Microsoft Excel.

  • From Superhero to Super Efficient: Managing People, Processes, and Data ($375/$575)

    Justin Shepherd, Associate Vice Provost, Institutional Research and Decision Support, Emory University; Jillian Morn, Research Scientist, University of Washington; Wyntre Stout, Research and Evaluation Specialist, University of Pittsburgh

    Overworked? Under-resourced? Rewarded for your good work with even more work? Institutions rely too heavily on their superheroes, but this can lead to frustration and burnout. This workshop will teach participants how to develop processes and guidelines to establish sustainable workflows and manageable workloads. The five-part agenda covers setting realistic expectations and establishing a life/work balance for yourself, for senior leadership, and for your staff. We’ll focus on policies, documentation, and processes that can take you from “Wonder Woman” to “What a Wonderful World”.

    As a result of this workshop, participants will be able to:

    • Develop management and leadership skills to effectively guide an IR office with direct reports.
    • Leave with practical knowledge about process documentation, file organization, and risk management they can implement in their organizations.
    • Practice organizational planning through hands-on exercises practicing effective communication and drafting procedures, policies, process documentation, and management philosophies.

Monday, May 27

Monday Half-Day Morning (8–11:30 a.m.)

  • Imputation Methods for Nonresponse in Surveys ($200/$400)

    Kimberly Ault, Research Statistician, RTI International; Joel Hampton, Research Statistician, RTI International; Brandon Hopkins, Research Statistician, RTI International 

    Survey researchers commonly encounter missing data during data analysis. This workshop is designed for researchers who are interested in methods to address missing data. The first half of the workshop will include a presentation of key concepts of missing data techniques, goals of imputation, imputation methods, and provide examples of imputation methods in a practical setting. Imputation methods used for the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering Survey (GSS) will be used as examples. The second half of the workshop will involve hands-on activities to work through a series of imputation examples from the IPEDS and GSS data.

    As a result of this workshop, participants will be able to:

    • Understand differences between unit-level nonresponse and item-level nonresponse.
    • Understand importance of handling missing data.
    • Explore imputation methods.
    • Consider the strengths and challenges of different imputation methods for surveys.
    • Outline how to apply different imputation methods and approaches to their own institutional context and practice.
  • IPEDS Data Tools (SOLD OUT)

    Jessica Shedd, Assistant Provost for Assessment & Institutional Research, Tulane University

    This workshop provides a hands-on deep dive into the IPEDS Use the Data website to better determine which of the various tools to use in applied higher education research. Participants can expect to learn when to use Data Trends, Statistical Tables, Summary Tables, Compare Institutions, and Custom Data Downloads leading to increased efficiency in responding to data requests. We will explore each of these tools and the benefits and limitations of each.

    Requirement: Participants are required to bring a laptop with wireless capability and Microsoft Excel

Monday, May 27

Monday Half-Day Afternoon (12:30–4 p.m.)

  • Assessing and Improving Your Institution’s Data Culture ($200/$400)

    Ravneet Chadha, Associate Vice President of University Analytics & Institutional Research and Chief Data Officer, University of Arizona; Ashley Hurand, Assistant Director, University Analytics & Institutional Research, University of Arizona

    Many institutions of higher education may find themselves in a position of being data rich but information poor. For institutions in this position, learning how to build an effective data culture may be the key to bridging the gap towards becoming more information rich and ultimately creating a decision culture. This workshop will focus on providing an overview of data culture, augmented through real-word examples in application at the University of Arizona. The session will also incorporate hands-on learning experiences to support participants’ understanding of their own institution’s unique needs based on various self-assessments. Armed with this new understanding, the session will conclude with an overview of templates, tools and resources that can be leveraged to help participants begin building a customized toolkit to establish and enhance data culture for their campus.

    As a result of this workshop, participants will be able to:

    • Describe central tenets of data culture.
    • Understand their institution’s unique needs based on a variety of assessment instruments.
    • Identify methods used to increase data culture and start building a toolkit for taking action. 
    • Locate resources to further their knowledge.
    • Expand their network of colleagues embarking on similar work.


  • How Can Our Work Promote Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) on Campus? ($200/$400)

    Jihye Kwon, Associate Director for Survey Research, University of Southern California; Rodolfo Núñez, Senior Research Analyst, University of Southern California

    While the majority of higher education institutions emphasize and make efforts toward promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) on their campuses, institutional research (IR) professionals have not been an important part of these conversations and efforts. By nature of their work, IR professionals are well positioned to derive and provide crucial DEI insights for their institution that may influence institutional policies and practices to engender campus environments that are more equitable, inclusive, and conducive to remediating disparities in educational outcomes for underrepresented minority groups. Through learning and adopting equity-minded practices in data analysis, data disaggregation, survey design, and choice of language, IR can play a pivotal role in promoting DEI. This session seeks to demonstrate the impact that IR professionals may have in advancing DEI efforts within their institutions. The session will empower IR professionals to assess their own practices, language choices, and perceptions of DEI; initiate conversations about DEI; and take action within their IR offices. Attendees will also learn examples of more inclusive language to better enable them to create reports, surveys, presentations, and data stories that serve the needs of diverse stakeholders.

    As a result of this workshop, participants will be able to:

    • Understand the expertise and power of IR in promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion.
    • Assess themselves about their practices, languages, perception and efforts in DEI related work.
    • Learn how to start DEI conversations and initiate DEI work within their IR office.
    • Learn equitable and inclusive language that can be used in reports, surveys, presentations, and data storytelling.
  • Navigating Generative AI: A Practical Approach for IR/IE Professionals (SOLD OUT)

    Mike Urmeneta, Chief Analytics Officer, The Urmeneta Group; Jason Simon, Associate Vice President Data, Analytics, and Institutional Research, University of North Texas

    In our field of institutional research and effectiveness, it's vital to delve into emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP). Despite higher education's slower adoption rate, integrating AI into our daily tasks is essential for better data-driven decisions and institutional growth. Our strong foundation in meticulous research, thorough data analysis, and ethical data usage set a solid groundwork for exploring AI adoption. We're optimistic about AI's potential but emphasize a cautious approach. By adhering to good research practices and ethical standards, we can smartly innovate with AI. Each step should mirror our profession's values and standards. It's crucial that AI aligns with our established research traditions and ethical data responsibilities, propelling us forward technologically, unlocking new knowledge, and fostering a continuous learning and improvement culture within our institutions.

    As a result of this workshop, participants will be able to:

    • Participants will gain a foundational understanding of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Natural Language Processing (NLP), including key concepts, tools, and the historical evolution of these technologies.
    • They will also learn about the importance and opportunities presented by AI and NLP for advancing the field of Institutional Research and Effectiveness (IR/IE).

Monday, May 27

Monday 2-Hour Workshop (12:30–2:30 p.m.)

  • Meaningful Metrics: Eliminating Weasel Words to Measure what Matters Most ($100/$300)

    Megan Masters, Director, Academic Technology Experience, University of Maryland College Park 

    Weasel words and vague ideas render important goals immeasurable.  Words like “amplify”, “enhance”, and “innovate” are motivational and aspirational, but what do they really mean? How do we know, for example, if our community partnerships have been sufficiently “amplified”? Or if our DEIJ investments have been adequately “enhanced”? On the surface, these words are used to motivate audiences to support well-meaning institutional initiatives. But, if we don’t take a moment to carefully examine the outcomes related to their measurement, the use of vague words might unintentionally stifle the very goals they are intended to support. In this workshop, participants will be led through the six layers of meaningful measurement, ranging from inputs, reactions, learning, application, impact, to ROI. Participants will then spend time refining the goals, objectives, or vision statements they identified into performance-based statements that can be meaningfully measured. We conclude with participants’ development of a customized measurement model designed to support their institutions' most pressing challenges.

    As a result of this workshop, participants will be able to:

    • Recognize and analyze the presence of "Weasel Words" in mission statements, vision statements, and performance goals across various industries, with a particular focus on higher education.
    • Gain practical skills in meaningful measurement by working through a comprehensive framework. They will learn to progress through the six layers of meaningful measurement, including inputs, reactions, learning, application, impact, and ROI.
    • Develop critical thinking skills by examining mission, vision, and performance goals from diverse industries and identifying areas where language can be clarified and made more precise.

Monday, May 27

Monday 2-Hour Workshop (2:45–4:45 p.m.)

  • Using Parameters in Tableau to Present Complex Retention & Graduation Data ($100/$300)

    Amanda Adams, Associate Director, Institutional Research, New York University; Zachary Dungan, Senior Institutional Research Analyst, NYU Steinhardt; Reina Li, Institutional Research Analyst, NYU Steinhardt 

    Retention data is an important and complicated metric of student and program success. As IR professionals, our goal is to make data digestible through dashboards that our data consumers can intuitively navigate. Using 10 years of student data organized by incoming cohort, we will teach session participants to leverage parameters in Tableau to simplify the presentation of complex data. Participants will be given a simple Tableau dashboard at the start of the presentation, and they will learn how to combine different types of charts into a single view using the parameter feature. The audience will also learn to connect piped text in Tableau tooltips and titles to interactive filters to strengthen explanatory text around the dashboards. By the end of the session, the audience will be able to take this knowledge of parameters and apply it to their own institutional data.

    NOTE: This workshop is designed for current Tableau users.

    As a result of this workshop, participants will be able to:

    • Learn how to create and use parameters to customize Tableau visualizations to make them meaningful to a wider audience.
    • Learn how to write piped text in titles and tooltips that automatically adjust based on selected parameters and filters.

Tuesday, May 28

Tuesday Half-Day Morning (8–11:30 a.m.)

  • Culture Eats Strategy: Where Data Literacy Meets Data Governance (SOLD OUT)

    Heather Epstein-Diaz, Program Director, Data Governance & Analytics Services, Florida State University; Rick Burnette, Senior Vice Provost, Chief (Academic) Strategy Officer & Institutional Data Administrator, Florida State University

    Many data governance initiatives fail to deliver tangible value to their institutions. These programs focus on compliance and control while ignoring the need to develop a culture of data democratization. Data governance seeks to manage data as a first-class citizen - effectively, securely, and consistently. Data literacy empowers individuals to make informed and competent decisions using data through the development of a culture of democratization, data competency, and conversations for data-informed decision making. Unfortunately, data governance and data literacy are often treated as separate entities within organizations, resulting in institutional blind-spots that hamper the full potential of data to drive institutional change. This workshop, "Culture Eats Strategy: Where Data Literacy Meets Data Governance," will explore how data governance, driven by data literacy, is critical to unlocking the value of well-governed data.

    As a result of this workshop, participants will be able to:

    • Highlight the benefits of integrating data governance and data literacy for institutions.
    • Define clear objectives for data literacy within the context of data governance.
    • Identify strategies for collaboration between data governance teams and data literacy educators.
  • Data and Analytic Literacy: Your Role Leading the Institution to Success ($200/$400)

    Jason Simon, Associate Vice President - Data, Analytics, and IR, University of North Texas; Loralyn Taylor, Associate Provost for Institutional Effectiveness and Analytics, Ohio University

    The joint statement by AIR, Educause, & NACUBO lays forth a clear challenge to act now.  One major challenge in maturing analytic landscapes is the gap between IR methods and tools and the knowledge and data literacy of decision makers to harness and trust these approaches. This gap can lead to lost opportunities, distrust of analytic/data approaches. Using a theoretical framework of executive data literacy, this workshop provides attendees with an understanding of the core concepts of data literacy, analytic maturity, and analytic culture. Attendees will also learn how to address common pitfalls and how to navigate these for success. After assessing their own campus data maturity, attendees will use these concepts to build an action plan of short-term and long-term strategies to begin to impact student and institutional success.

    As a result of this workshop, participants will be able to:

    • Understand and apply the key concepts for a framework of Data and Analytic Maturity.
    • Jumpstart plans to enhance their local campus communities’ use of data and analytics.
    • Assess their own campus maturity and readiness for analytic and data literacy.
    • Develop a specific action plan that is tailored to their unique campus situation, culture, and maturity level.
    • Articulate the value proposition for data literacy and analytic maturity.

  • How to Build an Analytical Workflow for Program Assessment ($200/$400)

    Gina Deom, Data Scientist, Indiana University; Stefano Fiorini, Manager Research and Analytics, Indiana University – Bloomington

    This workshop is designed for IR analysts who are interested in learning about and applying statistical methodologies for program assessment, specifically propensity score matching and distance-based matching methodologies. The first half of the workshop will provide an overview of the methodologies, their usefulness for IR applications, and the core steps involved in a matching analysis. The second half of the workshop will involve applications of using matching approaches on a synthetic dataset and using a tool kit of resources that facilitates the rapid delivery of program evaluation analyses to campus stakeholders.

    As a result of this workshop, participants will be able to:

    • Articulate the use of propensity score matching and distance-based matching algorithms in institutional research.
    • Discuss the core steps involved in a matching analysis.
    • Apply the methods of propensity score matching in program assessment.

    A tool kit of resources (user guides, synthetic training data sets, matching application interface, and RMarkdown report template) will be made available to session attendees via a public Github repository.

  • I Have a New Job in Institutional Research…Now What? ($200/$400)

    Jessica Shedd, Assistant Provost for Assessment and Institutional Research, Tulane University; Shama Akhtar, Director, Institutional Surveys and Analysis, Bowie State University

    This informative and interactive workshop is designed for individuals who are new to the field of institutional research. We review the typical roles and responsibilities associated with IR, highlight useful resources, and learn how to develop connections with others in the field. 

    As a result of this workshop, participants will be able to:

    • Understand common projects and responsibilities in institutional research.
    • Identify useful resources to aid their work and professional development.
    • Develop relationships with other professionals in the IR field.
  • Introduction to Statistical Models for Institutional Research (SOLD OUT)

    Yuxiang Liu, Director of Institutional Research & Assessment, Yeshiva University

    An understanding of statistical models can be valuable for institutional researchers.  This workshop is aimed at building a solid understanding of basic statistical concepts and models, and their applications to solve the real-world problems in institutional research. The workshop will introduce the following statistical models: a) Correlation, b) Linear Regression, c) Logistic Regression, d) Chi-Square, e) t-test, and f) ANOVA. The workshop focuses on the interpretation of statistical analysis results. Each model covers the applications of the model in IR, how to test its assumptions, how to interpret the statistical analysis results, and how to calculate the effect size.

    As a result of this workshop, participants will be able to:

    • Understand the basic statistical concepts and models for institutional researchers.
    • Understand what assumptions should be tested and how to test the assumptions for each model.
    • Run the model, interpret the statistical analysis results, and calculate the effect size.
  • Rankings Unveiled: Modeling College Ranking Data to Inform Stakeholders ($200/$400)

    Nigel Noll, Manager, Decision Support, Tulane University           

    As institutional researchers, we are frequently confronted with the task of analyzing and explaining performance on college rankings to university stakeholders. This session will focus on analyzing rankings that use methodologies that rely on normalized weighted performance on metrics (e.g., US News Best College, Time Higher Education World University Rankings). Through hands-on examples using a sample dataset and an example generic ranking methodology akin to current common ranking formulas, participants will work through the process of reconstructing rankings to create a data model in Microsoft Excel that enables analyzing the degree to which a change in performance on an individual metric would impact overall score and rank. The session will emphasize normalizing data and the impact of normalization on changes in rank, shedding light on relative performance. Participants will gain a greater understanding of rankings and practical skills that can be used to inform strategic decision-making.

    As a result of this workshop, participants will be able to:

    • Demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of how college rankings are constructed, including the key metrics, standardizing data with z-scores, and weightings used in ranking calculations.
    Create a data model that enables analyzing the degree to which a change in performance on an individual metric impacts overall score and rank.
  • Strategies to Assess Analytics to Improve Student Success ($200/$400)

    Tasha Dannenbring, Lead Data and Analytics Consultant | Sr. Strategic Project Manager, Unicon; Eric Atchison, Vice President for Strategic Research,  Arkansas State University System; Eric Godin, Vice President of Strategic Planning and Effectiveness, St. Thomas University

    This session will provide participants with the opportunity to develop a plan for improvement on current work that is being done in student success analytics at their institution. Using the Student Success Analytics Rubric, participants will use results they have collected to develop a project plan for improvement and refinement of an existing student success initiative.

    Participants will have the opportunity to share challenges and success with others, and workshop facilitators will provide constructive feedback and resources. Various tools for project planning will be provided, along with a library of resources. Participants will come away with an actionable plan and resources to use to move forward when they return to their institution. In an environment with an abundance of data and entities seeking to help students, this rubric provides a path forward toward addressing the dynamic and extraordinary circumstances that our students are experiencing today.

    As a result of this workshop, participants will be able to:

    • Evaluate their institution specific needs related to student success analytics.
    • Develop a plan to address areas of challenge related to their student success analytics goals.
    • Build relationships with other Institutional Researchers and experts in the field.
  • The Art and Science of Enrollment Forecasting (SOLD OUT)

    Chris Orem, Director of Institutional Research, James Madison University

    In this workshop, participants will be introduced to an enrollment forecasting model used to project enrollments at a large (20,000+) public university for almost 20 years. Adaptable to institutions of any size, the model, which is based in Excel, can help institutions forecast future enrollments using historical data and sound reasoning. The model is not designed to project how many new students will attend an institution, but rather, how they progress, hopefully to graduation. Participants will receive a template to use with their institution’s data and receive examples of how results are shared across campus.

    As a result of this workshop, participants will be able to:

    • Identify guidelines to consider when implementing an enrollment forecasting model
    • Explain the logic behind the forecasting model employed by the presenter’s institution
    • Adapt the model to their own institutions
    • Identify various strategies to communicate the information effectively to stakeholders.