e-AIR Newsletter October 2015

Hiring an IR Director: Advice From the Field

Longtime AIR member Bobby Sharp was asked to share his perspective about the components of a successful search to hire a director of institutional research. Read his advice about the timing of effective searches, candidates’ backgrounds, and the key skills necessary for the role. 

I received an email from a longtime colleague whose university had not had a director of institutional research for quite some time due to lack of funding. She explained that the institution was exploring hiring a director of institutional research who would be responsible for traditional IR responsibilities, with a focus on improving student learning and student retention through research, analytics, and survey design. As such, she asked for my suggestions about conducting a successful search.

My colleague’s quest is shared by many of us who have been trying to position IR effectively for the near and intermediate future. It's an ongoing conversation locally and beyond, and it’s something I have pondered often over the past 34 years. Deliberations about the function of IR within an institution and ideal attributes of an IR director are very campus-specific. MORE
Opportunity is Knocking!
By Gayle Fink
2015-2016 Immediate Past President
Nominations and Elections Chair
Three years ago, opportunity knocked for me when I was nominated to run for the AIR Board. Now, as the Chair of the Nominations and Elections Committee, I want opportunity to knock for you as well! Please consider nominating a colleague or yourself for a leadership position in AIR. Nominations are being accepted for the following:

  •  Vice-President (one position)
  •  At-Large Members of the Board (three positions)
  •  Nominations and Elections Committee Members (three positions)

You may think to yourself, “What does a Board member, or Nominations and Elections Committee (NEC) member, do? What is the time commitment? How does the Board operate? How often are meetings? Are meeting costs covered? What is the financial condition of the Association? How will I grow professionally?”

I know that I certainly felt awkward asking these questions. To help you evaluate whether or not to nominate, the Board has commissioned a brochure, entitled AIR Governance Leadership Opportunities, describing the expectations for Board and NEC service.

It is our sincere hope that this brochure will inform your decision-making process.

On behalf of the NEC and the Board, I thank Past President Julie Carpenter-Hubin for drafting the document and the Executive Office for copy editing and formatting.

AIR prospers in large part due to its member volunteers who give generously of their time and talent. Volunteers benefit AIR by sharing knowledge, expertise, and advice, which in turn enhances our services to members. MORE
Keeping AIR Members Informed
AIR welcomes brief announcements of interest to the IR and assessment communities, such as the release of a report, funding opportunities or a request for applications. Send your announcement to eAIR@airweb.org and include a link to your website as well as a contact name and email address. Announcements
Who's on the Move?
New titles. New promotions. New institutions. Friends and colleagues on the move.

Being Prepared for the Provost
Dear Julie: How can I look prepared and knowledgeable to my provost?

Working with the provost and other upper-administration members can be challenging, but it is also an opportunity to share important information and be recognized as an integral part of the decision-making process. Here are some tips to look good to the provost!

Know what’s going on in the institution. Large initiatives like regional accreditation or the addition of new programs are likely to be communicated widely across the campus. Smaller, more campus-based programs may not be. Take time to look at internal newsletters, emails, or other updates to see what else is happening on campus.

You’ll be ready with good ideas for how to measure success in new initiatives if you are familiar with each program. New initiatives may be national programs such as Foundations of Excellence or implementation of the Degree Qualifications Profile, or may be campus-designed course revisions, or new social media initiatives. 

Julie Atwood is the Associate Vice President of Specialty Accreditation for the American Public University System. MORE
The Functions of Institutional Research
As part of AIR’s 50th anniversary celebration, historic documents including papers, books, and manuscripts are being added to the AIR History page throughout this year.

One such document is The Functions of Institutional Research (2nd Edition) by Joe L. Saupe. Reflecting, 25 years after this paper was first published, on how the purpose, organizational placement, effective characteristics, and tools of institutional research have changed and, in some ways, remained constant, is an interesting study during this historical year for AIR. Saupe defines institutional research as "research conducted within an institution of higher education to provide information which supports institutional planning, policy formation and decision making."

We invite you to comment on the relevance of Saupe's statements for today's institutional research.
USNWR Graduation Rate Performance
By Annie Davis Weber, Manager of Strategic Planning, Institutional Research, Effectiveness, & Planning
University of Mississippi

The annual rankings published by U.S. News and World Report are always a source of interest to university leaders. This visualization is a page from a detailed analysis of each of the factors of the U.S. News ranking formula that compares the University of Mississippi to its peers in the Southern Universities Group (SUG).

The graduation rate performance measure is the difference between the actual graduation rate of an institution and the graduation rate predicted by U.S. News. The page presents the differences between the two rates on the top, so that the reader can immediately see who is over- and under-performing. MORE
A Crisis in Student Loans?
According to a recent report, the spike in student loan default rates in the last 10 years can mostly be attributed to students enrolled at for-profit colleges and, to a lesser extent, community colleges. MORE

AIR Travel Grant Furthers Research
Kang Bai (Assistant Provost, Southeast Missouri State University) and Ying Zhou (Associate Provost, East Carolina University) co-presented Using Mediation and Moderation Modeling to Analyze Effects on Retention at the 2015 AIR Forum in Denver.

They were two of 19 winners of the 2015 AIR Affiliated Organization (AO) Travel Grant, created to partner with AOs and serve the skill development needs of institutional researchers who might otherwise be unable to attend the Forum. Qualifying AOs receive matching funds from AIR on a dollar-for-dollar basis, up to $1,000.

eAIR: 2015 was the inaugural year of the AIR Affiliated Organization Travel Grant. Can you share how you learned of the grant and how the process worked?

We participated in the Virtual Conference of the Overseas Chinese Association for Institutional Research (OCAIR) to share our research and receive feedback from colleagues. Later, the Chair of OCAIR informed us that our presentation had been selected as the best OCAIR presentation and we would be awarded the 2015 AIR AO Travel Grant. We were pleased that the decision was based on members’ scholarly/professional work. MORE

Windows Command Prompt
By Becky Bell, Institutional Data Coordinator/Research Analyst, Office of Institutional Research, University System of Maryland
If you work with raw data files, there may be a time when you want to quickly combine the same type of files from either multiple years and/or from multiple sources. Windows Command Prompt, which allows users to write commands and perform tasks on the computer outside of the Windows interface, provides a quick and easy way to combine or merge multiple raw data files (.txt or .csv) that have the exact same file layout in fixed width or delimited format.

It can also help you avoid spending time writing out the syntax or going through importing and merging the files one by one, especially if you do not expect to repeat the process or combine similar files again in the future. MORE
Good Reads for the Higher Ed Professional
Keep current with the latest news from these influential journals:

- Journal of Higher Education
- The Journal of The First-Year Experience & Students in Transition
Announcements for conferences, meetings, institutes, symposiums, and other events of interest. See the LISTINGS.

Thanks to AIR Members
Our members are not only incredibly helpful, they are a pleasure to work with. Here are some special thanks to those who have gone beyond the call of duty for our Association.

There are more than 140 listed on AIR's Job Board.
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