e-AIR Newsletter September 2015

New Member Perspectives

Supporting student success through the provision of data to campus leaders is the most rewarding part of the job, according to AIR members.

Last fall, the AIR staff interviewed more than 200 AIR members to gain a better understanding of the day-to-day activities of IR professionals. This experience was so successful in connecting AIR staff with its members, that the exercise was repeated in the spring with a focus on new members.

AIR staff interviewed 122 first-time members during the first quarter of 2015. Respondents held various positions in IR or related fields (director, data analyst, research assistant, etc.) and represented all sectors of higher education. Members were asked about their most rewarding and challenging experiences in the last three months of their current position, the member benefits they utilize, and other ways AIR could enhance their professional development.

Members reported that data analysis, institutional engagement, and student success were the work tasks that were most rewarding over the last three months. Together, these three categories accounted for more than half of all responses. Although data analysis was the most common response, it appears that a large number of new members see it as a means to an end. MORE
Establishing Baselines to Evaluate Performance
By Glenn W. James
2015-2016 Vice President
As many of our colleagues currently are engaged with launching a new academic year, your Board of Directors certainly hopes for a great start to the new academic year for you!

It looks like the year ahead will have plenty of challenge, but also much opportunity for accomplishment!

In the July edition of Board Corner, AIR President Gary Pike indicated that the Board of Directors would be exploring and discussing strategies for accomplishing the “Ends” of the Association, such as the End statement that “higher education leaders [will] view institutional research as essential.”

Yes, discussion of such strategies was a major topic during the Board’s face-to-face meeting in August, and this month’s Board Corner is designed to share some information regarding that discussion.

Ends Policies are developed to provide broad strategic direction of the Association, but in terms of outcomes to be produced.

Therefore, the Ends Policies indicate the following, as excerpted from AIR Governance Policies, July 9, 2015:

AIR exists so that higher education institutions effectively use institutional research – data, information, and analysis for decision support – in a rapidly changing environment.

This must be done within AIR’s available resources.

— Institutional researchers have knowledge and skills necessary to perform the duties and functions of institutional research, including: methods and tools; internal institutional effectiveness; external accountability; professional and interpersonal skills; and research and scholarship.
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.
Distance Education Enrollment Grid Map
By Arie Spirgel, Senior Research Associate, Nova Southeastern University

​As institutional researchers, we spend a considerable amount of time thinking about geography. Where do our students come from? Where should we devote recruitment resources? From where do online students take courses?

Maps are an obvious way to visualize this type of information, with the shading of regions, such as states, representing the measurement of some variable, such as enrollment. However, choropleths, as they’re called, suffer a major drawback: Each state takes up a different amount of visual space. One solution to this is the grid map, which assigns equal space to each state and places each one in its relative position. MORE
Using IPEDS Data to Direct Institutional Success
Dear Jennifer, how can I use IPEDS data on my campus to help direct institutional success?

There are a vast number of variables housed on the IPEDS website under the “Use the Data” link (formerly called the Data Center), many of which are commonly used in dashboards and benchmarking studies.

A couple of valuable comparisons that are easier through the use of IPEDS data are: (1) where your institution is now compared to where it was at some point(s) in the past, and (2) where your institution is compared to a set of other institutions at some point(s) in time.

Using comparisons like this can demonstrate institutional progress and success.

Jennifer Dunseath is Director of Institutional Research for Rhode Island School of Design. MORE
AIR 50th Celebration
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 Memorandum to a Newcomer to the Field of Institutional Research by John M. Lyons. We invite you to review the introduction to this paper and compare the definition of the term “Institutional Research” as discussed in 1976 with the current landscape of the field today. Share your thoughts in the comment box and return often to engage in the discussion.

Out of the Basement, into Decision Making
John Pryor is founder and principal of Pryor Education Insights and one of the leading experts in college survey research at both the national and local levels.

eAIR: How did you become interested in assessment and survey research, and how did that transition into a career?

I wanted to make a difference. I originally started graduate school in cognitive psychology, but it was apparent to me by the time I got my MA that it was not for me. I wanted something more than spending my life writing papers that I thought only five people would ever read. After a long time pondering what I wanted to do, I ended up taking a research assistant job at UVA.

I found that the very rigorous training I’d received in methodology and statistics was sorely needed in this field, and the first big project I was given was running a statewide survey of alcohol and drug use in the Virginia public university system. I was essentially doing institutional research, but it was another five years before I heard that term. MORE

Using the Excel Status Bar
By Lisa Haynes, Senior Research Analyst, Texas Woman's University
As presented in many previous Tech Tips, we have seen that there are usually a number of different ways to accomplish the same task in Excel. Offered below is a very basic, but extremely efficient tip on working with both filtered and non-filtered data that will work with Excel 2007 or later.

The status bar (the bar with the word, “Ready” in the lower left corner), found at the bottom of the Excel screen, provides a quick and easy method to display information to the user. For example, the user can see if the Caps Lock is on, or the page number at a glance. MORE
Familiarity with Financial Aid
In this report, survey results demonstrate that many students are unfamiliar with financial aid options, with only about half of students from families making under $50,000 reporting familiarity with the Pell Grant.  MORE
Good Reads for the Higher Ed Professional
Keep current with the latest news from these influential journals:

- Innovative Higher Education
- Research in Higher Education
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 120 listed on AIR's Job Board.
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