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  • Ask eAIR
  • 12.14.20

Five Tips for Engaging Faculty

  • by Edward Bolden, Interim Director of Institutional Research, Case Western Reserve University

What are the best ways to engage faculty in IR projects?

This question often starts good conversations that don’t always have clear answers. Of course, the answers differ among institutions and across the breadth of projects in which IR officers are involved. However, there are a few common considerations that might help you get started including one of the largest stakeholder groups at your institution.

  1. Engage early and often. This is true for all stakeholders, regardless of their title or position. The more project scope can be defined upfront, the more objectives and goals can be communicated throughout the team recruitment process. Having goals and objectives also helps you identify which faculty best fit the task at hand.
  2. Work with leadership. Consider faculty governance structures such as Senates or committees as a place to start when looking for with whom you could engage. Many questions IR offices work toward answering are of interest to faculty at large, and they are often willing to lend a hand by providing time at a meeting or referring you to a subject matter expert. Similarly, faculty development and training offices often have experience in identifying strengths, weaknesses, and areas of interest for faculty and may help identify faculty with diverse viewpoints that can contribute positively to IR projects.
  3. Find faculty who have an interest in the project. Whether you are modeling student retention and revenue or looking to get a climate survey in the field, there are always faculty who are interested in what IR is responsible for. Much like students, interested faculty are engaged faculty, so finding the right person who shares an interest in what you are doing could help easily move the project forward.
  4. Share your expertise and let them share theirs. Along with finding faculty who are interested, you may find faculty with expertise related to the task at hand. There is no substitute for good experience, so being clear about what faculty could bring to your project could be invaluable. For instance, faculty with an interest in data governance often have experience with data access or management. Leveraging experience and expertise of each team member makes a good team great. Remember: you should also be clear about what your experience and your area of expertise bring to the team as well.
  5. Express the value your project can bring to faculty. Making clear precisely what the purpose of the project is and any goals that may apply to them while recruiting faculty is a definitive way to secure engagement. Modeling and forecasting student enrollment trends have a strong relationship to faculty size and expectations. Response rates to surveys are typically higher when results can lead to visible change. While time is the most valuable resource, how we spend our time dictates what we value the most. Clearly articulating the expected value behind a project can help cement the engagement from faculty representatives.

There are no obvious answers to the questions about engaging faculty—only that it is often important to do so. Clearly establishing project goals, anticipated outcomes, and action steps early on can help in the process of recruiting strong, passionate faculty to participate in the project. There are many ways to go about finding the right faculty to include, whether you are conducting a program review or statistical modeling, but the most important thing is to get faculty engaged at all.

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eAIR is the newsletter of the Association for Institutional Research (AIR). From its start in October 1987 to today, eAIR remains one of the most important tools for providing news to the higher education community.

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