eAIR spoke with Iryna Johnson, Associate Director for Analytics, Auburn University about the Forum call for proposals, attending the Forum for the first time, and the intrinsic value of AIR membership.
eAIR: The 2020 Forum call for proposals is now open. How would you encourage higher education professionals to submit a proposal for possible presentation at the Forum, and why?
“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”– Samuel Beckett. I have been submitting my proposals and presenting at the AIR Forum since 2005. Presenting helped me become more confident about my work. Submitting a proposal, on the other hand, is a mixed bag—sometimes you get a congratulatory message of acceptance and sometimes you get a thanks, but no thanks. Yet in the end, submitting proposals and presenting have been rewarding experiences. While I have been fortunate to receive best paper awards, even better has been the honest—sometimes positive and sometimes not so positive—feedback from colleagues on my proposals and presentations. These experiences helped me keep up with the evolving field of institutional research and better understand the interests and expectations of IR professionals from other institutions. I would encourage other IR professionals to submit their ideas for possible presentation at the Forum. I will. After all, one cannot succeed without trying.
eAIR: As someone who has been submitting proposals and presenting at the Forum since 2005, what tips do you have for potential proposal submitters for making their proposal more readable?
The topic you pick goes a long way. What makes you excited about your work? What makes you think about going beyond what has been already done in the field? What do you have to offer to other IR professionals who are struggling with similar issues at their institutions? Once you pick your topic, keep in mind that you probably know more about it than your reviewers. Help your reviewer envision your presentation by providing an effective narrative. Try to evaluate your proposal using the scoring rubric reviewers will use for evaluation. Last, but not least, create an abstract that will compel reviewers and other Forum participants to attend your presentation.
eAIR: As a member who has attended the Forum for many years, what are some of the best things to take advantage of when attending the Forum for the first time?
Ever since my first AIR Forum, my main goal has been to attend as many presentations as possible. Attending presentations helps me generate ideas and gain a better understanding of what other IR professionals are doing. At the Forum, I try to meet and seek out the professional opinions of institutional researchers who work on projects similar to mine. The Forum is also a great way to reconnect with colleagues you have worked with in the past. Simply put, the Forum helps me keep up with it all.
eAIR: AIR membership is no longer required to attend the Forum. How would you persuade a higher education professional that AIR membership is valuable not only to them but to their institution and the students they serve? How has AIR membership been of value to you?
Institutional research has been my profession for over 15 years. Over the years, my membership has helped me acquire knowledge and skills as well as find colleagues from other institutions. My experience shows that the more you get engaged with the association, the greater the benefits of your membership. By getting involved through presentations, publications, networking, volunteering, and assuming leadership positions, one can gain confidence and become a better IR professional. My membership also has an intrinsic value—by being a member, I help AIR and promote my profession. Knowing that my modest contributions helps AIR improve the state of IR is a reward for the effort it takes to participate.