Board Corner

What Are We Doing and Why is it Important?

A long time ago, in a past life far, far away… two questions my administrative team would continuously ask students to answer were: “What are you doing in class, and why is it important?” These questions remain the crux of my mode of operation, as articulating answers to these questions is extremely beneficial in clarifying why we do the things we do. This applies to our work as AIR Board members as well.

As a Board, we operate using a system of Policy Governance - a model which allows us to focus on the big picture (referred to as our Ends), to delegate to the professional staff at the Executive Office the methods for reaching those Ends, and to monitor and evaluate the work being done in a clear and rigorous way. As a Board, we are responsible to you, the membership, to make sure your needs are being met - that we are clear about what the association does and its importance. This is where the Ends policy comes into play.

The Ends Policy describes the results and value for the membership, and the AIR Ends policy drives the direction of the Association. A great deal of time, deliberation, and reflection on the work of this and prior AIR Boards was focused on our Ends policy - driven by our desire to clearly articulate exactly what AIR is doing and why it is important for the membership and the profession. This work is not done within a bubble. AIR Board members are continuously seeking out opportunities to meet with you as members to gather feedback on what exactly YOU need from YOUR association.

Our current Ends policy, based on what we heard from you and on countless hours of discussion between the Board and the professional staff at the Executive Office, states:

“AIR is a global association of higher education professionals. AIR exists to empower those individuals at all levels to utilize data, analytics, information, and evidence to make decisions and take actions that benefit students and institutions and improve higher education. This must be done within AIR’s available resources and in such a manner that the value to higher education is worth the investment of those resources. 

A.  AIR educates institutional researchers, higher education leaders, and professionals and organizations on the value 
     of institutional research.

B.  AIR empowers and supports higher education professionals in:  

    • Contextualizing data across campus and throughout higher education; 

    • Learning methods and tools of the institutional research profession; 

    • Evaluating the effectiveness of institutions; 

    • Conducting research and scholarship. 

C.  AIR provides opportunities for the development of professional and interpersonal skills. 

D.  AIR promotes the development of professional networks.”

(AIR Governance Policies, September 2018)

As in all Policy Governance structures, our policies are living documents, meaning that they change based on the needs of the organization. As an AIR Board, we will continue to seek feedback from you to make sure our ENDS policy reflects “what we are doing, and why it is important” for our members

Christine Ross
AIR Board Member at Large



 December 2018 Comments

To add a comment, Sign In
There are no comments.


Look for the Helpers

October was quite the month - for me personally, for my university, for our Association, and for our country. Family illness, institutional crises, hurricanes, and senseless hate crimes can make simply waking up and facing the day seem like an act of bravery. In my part of the world, this has taken place as the weather turns cooler, the trees shed their leaves, the fields lay fallow, and daylight becomes scarcer.

In times like these, I am reminded of the sage advice from my childhood television “neighbor,” Mr. Rogers. He said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.‘“

Throughout October I was thankful for the many acts of kindness and help I witnessed. AIR Board and Executive Office colleagues made sure Association business continued smoothly while expressing care and concern  on a personal level, to me and to those dealing with the aftermath of the hurricane. My colleagues here at Maryland have allowed me to make family care my first priority, even as we work together to keep doing our best for the university we love. And I have witnessed countless examples of compassion and kindness - to my family and to hurting communities. For example, NEAIR held its annual conference in Pittsburgh, just after the Tree of Life murders, and provided attendees with suggested ways to help the hurting community.

One of the sentiments I hear most from members of the IR community is our desire to help improve our institutions and support our students in achieving their goals. We believe that the data, analyses, and interpretations we provide can and do make a difference for our institutions and in the lives of students. That passion for student success, continuous improvement, and educational mission is what attracted me to IR over 20 years ago, and what has kept me engaged in our work. Even as our profession has evolved and the environments in which our institutions operate change, this passion remains strong and true.

As we in the United States enter the season of Thanksgiving, I am thankful for our profession and our commitment to empowering decisions that improve the lives of individual students and higher education in general. I am thankful our profession has connected me to smart and engaging people who care deeply about their colleagues and their institutions. And I am thankful I have been able to help my own colleagues and the institutions I have served. May we all be so fortunate.


Michelle Appel
AIR President



 November 2018 Comments

To add a comment, Sign In
There are no comments.


Ethical Use of Data

As more and more campuses employ predictive analytics tools, the logical next question is how to ensure the ethical use of the insights gained. We need to ensure that the information and interactions boost opportunities for students, rather than limit their choices. Institutional researchers are at the forefront of this issue, as we have access to the data, perform analysis, and generate research insights that may trigger interventions by end users. Therefore, we must pay special attention to the ethical use of data.

As an example, my institution has spent the past five years engaging with multiple vendors, implementing different software tools, and doing our best to consider the usage of the findings and how to properly engage with students. In reality, we had pockets of teams following best practices, but we did not have a university-wide approach. My unit is now engaged in coordinating the holistic development of a university philosophy statement governing the ethical use of data. However, my university isn’t alone in this journey!

AIR recognized this critical topic and sponsored multiple events with deep dives into data ethics. In March, the EDUCAUSE/NACUBO/AIR 2018 Enterprise IT Summit included a session on “The Ethics of Analytics.” The May 2018 AIR Forum included an Impact Session on “Exploring the Ethics of Analytics,” a discussion group on “Applying the AIR Code of Ethics…,” and a keynote by Cathy O’Neil, “Weapons of Math Destruction,” that included details on the accidental bias of algorithms.

The AIR Board is also closely following this trend. To encourage an updated focus on the ethical use of data, the Board has plans for an advisory workgroup to update and enhance the AIR Code of Ethics and Professional Practice. While the currently posted version includes amendments from 2013, the general language remains largely unchanged from its original 1992 adoption. The new advisory workgroup will consist of a few Board members and a set of invited AIR members. The group is expected to work through the winter and hopes to have a culminating face-to-face convening in March.

The ethical use of data is a rapidly changing environment for higher education. As our AIR Forum 2018 panel of experts were quick to proclaim, there are still “more questions than answers” surrounding the ethical use of data. However, by collectively sharing the experiences of individual institutions, encouraging the focus at the association level, and updating the AIR Code of Ethics, the overall attention will continue to highlight best practices, and, hopefully, start to answer some of the questions.

Paige Borden
Board Member at Large


 October 2018 Comments

To add a comment, Sign In
Total Comments: 1
Nancy posted on 10/18/2018 4:16 PM
SO GLAD that you're talking about this subject. As our modeling has gotten more and more deterministic, coupled with the ongoing conversation about GDPR, I hope higher education can get out in front of setting responsible standards for fair data use. Count me in to any approach you'd like to take.


From Professional Development to Professional Responsibility: My Journey to a New Understanding

Back in the day, my professor in graduate school gave me a nudge to submit a proposal for a national conference. My first thought was “Wow, really?!”  I thought it was neat that someone I admired so much thought this was something I could do.

Then, I thought, “Who me? I’m not sure I have anything to say!” He assured me that the evaluation project I had been working on was worth talking about. After all, if our institution was wrestling with how to address an issue, then certainly, others were too. That made sense and it felt good to know we were probably not alone.

“But I don’t know that I have the best example,” I countered. He said that nobody had “THE” answer. Rather, he suggested, we could spark a discussion with others by bringing this topic to the surface. He was so enthusiastic about the possibilities of getting a discussion started. That was new to me, as I had been thinking of the conference as more of a one-way classroom rather than a two-way conversation.

“Well, I’m nervous about speaking to a large audience. A lot of people at the conference have much more experience than I do,” I said. He suggested that this would be a great way to pick the brains of others who may have already encountered this topic in their work. Also a good point, I thought. I could actually ask other people for input on MY project. Plus, I could stretch my presentation skills; I had given plenty of presentations in class and they had always gone just fine.

“But what if they ask me questions I don’t know the answers to. I don’t want to look foolish.” He assured me that nobody has answers to all questions. I really didn’t understand how he could be saying this. After all, he had written/produced literally hundreds of articles and presentations. He asked me what the worst thing that could happen would be if someone asked a question I couldn’t answer. “Well, I guess I could just tell the person I don’t know or write down their question and get back to them," I said. He suggested that I could also ask other audience members if they had the answer. That didn’t sound so bad. I would prepare the presentation to the very best of my ability, and be open to questions for which I may not have an answer.

Our conversation turned from one of professional development for me (what would I gain?) to one of professional responsibility (what could I give?). I realized my education and experiences were not simply a means to an end (obtaining a job or being promoted) but, really, just a beginning. My education was preparing me to contribute to the profession, and it was my responsibility to do so. Wow.

I have carried that lesson with me throughout my career .

The 2019 AIR Forum Call for Proposals is now open. What can you give of yourself and your work to others? How can you spark a discussion? How can you contribute to a greater understanding of the field?

Will you accept the call to fulfill our professional responsibility? I sincerely hope you do. 

Shari Ellertson
Board Member at Large


 September 2018 Comments

To add a comment, Sign In
Total Comments: 1
Vennessa posted on 9/21/2018 8:50 AM
Thank you for this, Shari! I often feel the exact same way you felt, but the idea of reframing presentations as a two-way conversation and as our professional responsibility really resonates. It's interesting how just a small shift in perspective can make such a big difference.


Sharing a Lane: Lessons in Collaboration

I’ve discovered a love for lap swimming in the last year - some of you may have bumped into me in the lap pool at the Forum. It has become a great form of exercise and relaxation for me and I try to get my laps in at the campus pool before each workday. Swimming in the campus pool terrified me when I started because a) I was so much slower than everyone else, b) I could only do a lap or two freestyle before needing to flip onto my back, c) I might have to share a lane with someone, and d) colleagues in the pool!?

With time, I got faster and worked up to more consecutive laps of freestyle, but I continued to avoid lane sharing like the plague until a temporary pool closure made it impossible. Thankfully, there were kind and friendly experienced swimmers who helped me learn, and, as I now reflect on it, sharing a lane is a lot like learning to collaborate with colleagues outside of IR. Here are some key elements:

Look for a friendly face and ask. There are some people who clearly don’t want to share their (literal or figurative) space, and there are others who look more open. If you have a choice, go for the latter. Find colleagues who are looking to work across areas and to collaborate and be explicit in inviting them. Working with someone who is welcoming will make the transition easier and likely help both of you. When possible, avoid those who clearly aren’t ready for collaboration for whatever reason. Ultimately they may come around, but there is no reason to start there if you don’t have to.

Agree on the rules before you startSwimmers typically share lanes by either splitting the lane (each takes half) or “circle swimming” (going counterclockwise around the lane). Sometimes the rules are explicitly posted and other times the swimmers decide, but either way you have to know how to share before you start, or chaos ensues. Similarly, when collaborating outside IR it is useful to set the ground rules ahead of time. Who will be responsible for what? What kind of data access and security need to be arranged? How much effort is each party willing to put into the project? Over what amount of time? Being explicit at the outset avoids chaos.

Leave your ego (and your self-consciousness) at the door. When sharing a swim lane with someone for the first time, it’s tempting to try to “prove yourself” by swimming faster than normal or a using a stroke you think you “should.” That tends to lead to a less than pleasant early experience - wearing yourself out or splashing your partner are two I can think of. Similarly, when we start collaborating with a partner in our work, we might feel competing urges to show everything we can do or to hold back out of shyness. Neither of these is helpful for the project overall. If you focus on the project, and what will lead to the best outcomes, things seem to go more smoothly.

Be open to learning new ways of doing things. I learned a lot about swimming and how to simultaneously pace and push myself by listening to my lane partners. Similarly, I’ve learned more than I could possibly quantify from my collaborators, from project management and data connections to statistical methods and teaching pedagogy. Even after my projects have ended, those lessons have stayed with me and I’ve adapted them to my IR career.

Be aware of your partner and make adjustments to their style. Partners don’t always go at the same pace. Not everyone has the same priorities. And we all have different ways of approaching things. Pay attention to where your partner is and make adjustments if necessary. Just like you need to be sure you don’t run into (or over) someone in your swim lane, you need to be sensitive to your collaborators and where they are in the project.

Don’t assume it will go on foreverProjects end. Lanes open up. Just because a collaboration ends doesn’t mean it wasn’t useful or positive. Sometimes we take a break, go it alone, and then come back together when the next need arises. And sometimes we plan for more collaboration in the future - teams form, friendships are forged.

You may be wondering why this is in the Board Corner. The Board has been thinking about how our members collaborate with others outside of IR. In fact, collaboration with IT has been a recurrent theme we’ve heard from you regarding IR and the future. With that in mind, we’ve invited an EDUCAUSE Board member to attend our August meeting (likely happening as you read this) as a guest. We are testing the waters to see if an additional perspective will help us to understand how AIR can serve its members in this vital area. We hope that by doing some lane sharing ourselves, we can promote positive collaboration to help our members and our institutions.

Michelle Appel
AIR President 


 August 2018 Comments

To add a comment, Sign In
Total Comments: 1
Eric posted on 8/16/2018 3:23 PM
A great analogy for a topic that we often find difficult! Thank you for the insight, Michelle! Just keep swimming :)













Those Ubiquitous Unit Records

Unit Record Data. This three-word phrase sets IR professionals’ hearts racing - some out of fear and some from excitement. For years, higher education has struggled over who should have access to which bits of unit record data, if any. For over a decade, the federal government has been prohibited from creating a unit record system. And for at least as long, mini-unit record systems have propagated throughout states and organizations. With more and more of these systems springing up and with increasing federal momentum to overturn that ban, last August the Board’s IR Future committee identified the ubiquity of unit record sets as one of four themes to explore.

The volume and complexity of unit record data available to IR professionals may depend on where our offices sit in our institutions. Some offices bear the sole responsibility for cleaning and freezing their own census data while others must go through IT offices for everything, including accessing and aggregating it. Some offices can view student records in a Student Information System while others are prohibited from doing so. Some of us have very limited sets of data while some of us have large data warehouses. This diversity of experiences with our own institutions’ data reflects the diversity of institutions in the United States and abroad. And this diversity may lead us to differing viewpoints on the external collection and use of unit record data.

Clearly, all of us want to promote the use of data so that our students, our institutions, and our stakeholders are well served. But, as is often the case, we don’t all agree on how best to do that. At institutions, data governance, data security, and data ethics have become key issues for consideration when exploring who gets to use unit record data and how they may use it. Some of us have seen new restrictions on data, such as those data generated by Financial Aid systems. At the federal level, the College Transparency Act could open the door for a new federal unit record system.

So, where does this leave us as a profession and an Association? The Association and the Board have no stated position on the legislative policies around the collection and use of unit record data. AIR is, by its constitution, a professional development and education association. Our Ends policy explicitly states that we “exist so that higher education institutions effectively use institutional research - data, information, and analysis for decision support - in a rapidly changing environment.” We help our members develop the knowledge and skills necessary to work in these environments and to understand the potential impact of legislation. AIR continues to offer a variety of training around the collection and use of federal data. In June, AIR convened a new Data Policy Advisory Group (DPAG) to more effectively contribute the IR perspective in policy conversations, to provide technical assistance to policy-makers, and to educate members on current and potential federal regulations, policies, and legislation. Learn more in this issue of eAIR.

These efforts are helpful in ensuring that the Association and our members are both engaged and informed. We will all be watching as new developments arise on this topic and as the DPAG begins its work.

Michelle Appel
AIR President 


 July 2018 Comments

To add a comment, Sign In
There are no comments.
























After the Forum, Our Work Begins

Those of us able to attend the Forum last month likely came back to our institutions with lots of new ideas and new perspectives. I always think of the Forum as the place where I am professionally reinvigorated, where I find lots of new ideas that sometimes turn into new projects. So, while the Forum comes at the end of both the academic year and my campus’ fiscal year, it is also the beginning of new ideas and projects.

Similarly, the AIR Board transitions at the Forum. We said goodbye to members transitioning off the Board and we welcomed new ones. This year, we set aside time for “office hours” to listen to what members had to say, and we engaged in sessions that brought new focus for us on issues we’d been pondering. The Forum allowed me, as President, to think about and share my areas of focus for the Board for the upcoming year.

As a Board, our job is to pay attention to the long-term goals for the Association, and we delegate the operational tasks associated with those goals to the Executive Office. We are responsible for having clarity about why the Association exists and what the future of the profession is. Last year we conducted listening sessions, formalized an IR Future committee, and worked on our Ends Policy which enumerates the Association’s goals. This year, we will continue in this vein, including a review of the AIR Code of Ethics, particularly in light of analytics; a continued review of our Ends Policy; and an examination of our Board structure. All of this is done with a focus on the long-term health of the profession and the Association.

On a final note, I saw a fair number of Forum attendees talking about ethics and our continued work when scanning the #AIRForum2018 Twitter feed. If you weren’t part of those conversations, you can still find them on Twitter by searching for that hashtag. On the final day of the Forum, I saw a challenge to keep promoting our good work and to keep the conversations about our work going on Twitter. Please join the conversation and tag @AIR4Data or use the #IRWaterCooler hashtag.

Michelle Appel
AIR President 


 June 2018 Comments

To add a comment, Sign In
There are no comments.













With Thanks...

The 2017-18 AIR Board will conclude our work at the Forum later this month, and as we reflect on our work of the past 12 months, we owe you, the members, our thanks.

With a commitment to collaboration, we set the Board agenda for the year with a focus on being well informed about members’ needs based on their sense of the future of the profession. This gathering of the voice of members is one of the most important responsibilities of the Board, and we are thankful that the work of previous boards set a strong foundation for us to turn our attention to input and feedback from a wide variety of stakeholders in institutional research.

In concert with the Executive Office, we held 13 listening sessions at affiliated organizations (AOs) and other conferences across the country throughout the fall and early spring, asking about changes and trends, skills and training, and raising the profile of IR. While a final report is not yet complete, some emerging themes are data, outcomes, the evolution of the profession, technology, funding, leadership, pipeline and training, and communication. We hope to be able to share preliminary results at the Forum, with a final report to be shared in June.

While it is interesting to hear the thinking about our profession, it is incumbent upon us to act on that input. This year, the Board made the IR Future Committee a standing committee, with a required report at every Board meeting. This committee is charged with ensuring that the Board understands the broad context in which institutional researchers work, and how this context is evolving. The results of the listening sessions will inform the IR Future Committee as well.

I am proud of our work this year, and must thank the AIR staff for their support of the Board as well as the work they do day in and day out for the membership. My thanks also goes to the rest of the AIR Board, whose wisdom and passion make AIR a stronger organization. A special thank you to Cliff Adelman, whose dedication to the Board drove him to participate up through the last teleconference before his death. His legacy as an institutional researcher and as a Board member is one of curiosity, new thinking, good questions, and a desire to get things done. I hope we have done him justice.

It has truly been a privilege to serve as you as the president of AIR this year. I have had the opportunity to interact with you and to gain an even greater appreciation for the breadth and depth of work institutional researchers do. It is a tremendous source of pride to call you colleagues, and to be a part of this organization and the work we all do for higher education and, as Cliff would  be the first to point out, the students we ultimately serve.

Ellen Peters
AIR President 


 May 2018 Comments

To add a comment, Sign In
There are no comments.

It’s Almost Forum Time!

While it is unseasonably cold and stormy in some parts of the country, I am brightened by the knowledge that the AIR Annual Forum will take place about a month from now. I find the Forum to be rejuvenating in many ways, and for those of you who will be able to attend, here’s some unsolicited advice about getting the most out of your Forum experience. For those of you who are unable to attend in person, the recorded sessions from Digital Pass can still provide you with some of the benefits.

  • If you are interested, inspired, or instructed by a presentation, reach out to the presenter. Presenters spend a lot of time preparing, and are proud of their work. In true institutional research form, they want to share and collaborate – and they will be interested in your questions and observations.

  • Strike up conversations with the people sitting next to you at sessions and meals. I met one of my closest colleagues when we began a conversation at a meal, and we went on to collaborate on a large fun project.

  • Pick your session carefully, and be open. If a topic is interesting, but not directly connected to your area of work, check it out anyway. The Forum offers a chance to gain exposure to a wide variety of topics, and to build your knowledge base.

  • Be open to sessions from different higher education sectors. If you work with a community college, check out a session from a small liberal arts college. There is great work being done across all of our sectors – and with organizations. Our work overlaps more than we think!

  • Ask questions, or make comments at the sessions. Presenters are eager to hear how their work is received, and your perspectives and questions help us all to refine our work.

  • Give yourself at least one goal for the Forum. Find someone with whom you will write a proposal for the 2019 Forum, or find a mentor, or resolve to bring a specific idea back to your institution or organization for implementation.

  • Pace yourself! There are great sessions throughout the conference, and it can be overwhelming.

  • For those of you who are attending your umpteenth Forum, find ways to elevate new voices, while at the same time sharing your wealth of experience.

  • Remember the “Rule of Three:” instead of trying to remember everything, think about three new things you learned or connections you made, and focus on putting them to use when you return.

  • If you are interested in playing an active role in the governance of AIR, attend the Business Meeting on Wednesday afternoon. We’d love to have you!

Please share your tips for getting the most out of the Forum, and/or if you are willing, share a goal or two!

Ellen Peters
AIR President 


 April 2018 Comments

To add a comment, Sign In
There are no comments.













Collaboration. It’s Magically Delicious!

Collaboration. It’s what’s for dinner. Well, maybe it’s not edible, but it is necessary for IR and our institutions to be strong and healthy.

While that’s not news to many of us working in IR, it was reinforced during the joint AIR, EDUCAUSE, and NACUBO Enterprise IT Summit 2018 that was attended by four Board members as well as numerous institutional researchers from across the country. This was the first time that these three organizations have partnered together to share the ways in which we are mutually dependent on one another to serve our institutions.

One particularly salient presentation focused on the importance of building trust – and acknowledged that a first attempt at a Data Governance Committee didn’t go over well, as it lacked a clear focus and roles for each member of the committee. A revised structure that leveraged committees already in existence was much more successful. This new structure was developed by IR and IT working together to identify both the focus of the work, the right players, and the important contribution of each person at the table in ensuring strong data governance. Trust was built as the IR/IT partnership acknowledged that their first attempt wasn’t working, and valued their colleagues’ time enough to rethink the structure, and to be clear about the ultimate purpose of the work.

But data governance isn’t the only reason for collaboration – be it with IT or other areas at our institution. Other presentations shared projects around facilities management and around maximizing classroom space both in person and online. The collaboration between IR and other offices affords IR an awareness of the concerns that those offices face and positions IR to apply our expertise to assist them in finding solutions.

The Summit reinforced the importance of multiple perspectives in our approach to our work in higher education – not just for IR, but across our institutions. And as I reflected on that, it struck me that our Board may have limited perspectives which might hamper our ability to ensure that IR is valuable across higher education. How can we be sure that IR is serving well if we don’t hear the voices of those who we are serving? This year, we’ve worked to gather the voice of the membership through listening sessions at affiliated organizations across the country, and we are eager to learn the results of the subsequent qualitative analysis. Perhaps our next step is to gather the voices of consumers of institutional research as well as those upon whom IR depends.

Collaboration takes on many flavors, and keeps the work interesting and nutritious. Bon appétit!


AIR President 




 March 2018 Comments

To add a comment, Sign In
There are no comments.

Shaping the Future of Our Association

Vote Today!

AIR is fortunate to have an extensive network of members with broad understanding, creative vision, keen insights, and balanced perspectives about the complex work that we do. Combining the rich resource of AIR members with the capabilities of Executive Director Christine Keller, the outstanding leadership team and staff of the Executive Office, and all of the many member volunteers, we easily can see that there is so much to appreciate in AIR – especially the many professional development opportunities for AIR members.

The strong spirit of sharing and helping each other to learn, grow, and improve is evident. We certainly are able to capitalize on the diversity of knowledge among us and leverage our collective versatility in addressing the needs at hand. Our resulting contributions in the development of information and analyses are crucial to the higher education enterprise in which we serve.

As we continue our journey toward addressing the multifaceted challenges of tomorrow, we each have an opportunity to help in guiding the direction of AIR and shaping the future of our profession! The 2018 AIR election is in progress. If you already have voted in the election, then thank you for your participation. If you have not already voted, then you have an important opportunity to indicate your preferences for a number of Association leadership positions. Fourteen AIR members have stepped forward to be candidates for positions on the Board of Directors or on the Nominations and Elections Committee.

The Board of Directors has a fundamental responsibility for looking forward, thinking ahead, and helping to guide AIR in targeted ways that will help Association members to flourish in our careers and to have significant positive impact upon students and the institutions to which we are so committed. Similarly, the Nominations and Elections Committee seeks to identify an array of outstanding candidates for leadership and service in positions on the Board of Directors. All of these elected positions, on the Board and on the NEC, have important impact and influence upon the future of the Association. So, now is your chance to affect that impact by voting.

Great appreciation goes out to all of those AIR members who are candidates in this election. Serving on the Board of Directors or the Nominations and Elections Committee is a direct contribution to the strength and capability of the Association. Thank you to all of the candidates for your willingness to contribute!

I hope that everyone will take a few minutes to learn about the candidates and then vote! The election closes on March 5.

You are helping to shape the future of AIR!

Glenn W. James
AIR Immediate Past President



 February 2018 Comments

To add a comment, Sign In
There are no comments.


Affiliated... And it Feels So Good 

So, I’ve edited the Peaches and Herb lyrics a bit, but I think it’s apropos. As the Board has attended Affiliated Organization (AO) meetings across the country this fall, our purpose has primarily been engaging members in listening sessions, and gathering the voice of the membership as we think about the future of our profession. It’s been very instructive, and we’ve written about that in previous Board Corners. I’ve noticed in my interactions, however, that it’s also been a chance for us to see the strength in both the AOs and our relationship with them.

I had the opportunity to attend conferences at the Pacific Northwest Association for Institutional Research and Planning (PNAIRP), my “home” AO, as well as the Northeast Association for Institutional Research (NEAIR). Later this month, I will head to Taiwan to present at the Taiwan Association for Institutional Research (TW-AIR). Other members of the Board attended conferences ranging from California Association for Institutional Research (CAIR) to Southern Association for Institutional Research (SAIR), to Maryland Association for Institutional Research (MdAIR). We noted the more intimate feel of these conferences, and the great opportunity to learn from you all in smaller groups. 

As AIR continues to evolve under new leadership, we are working to redefine the relationship between our AOs and our national Association. At the PNAIRP conference, I had a discussion with a member who had been awarded a best presentation in a prior year and subsequently presented at the AIR Forum. While there, this member had the opportunity to interact with a member from another region, and that sparked some new knowledge, which could be brought back to PNAIRP members. It is this cross fertilization that helps us grow as professionals.

At the same time that we’ve been thinking about this relationship, I received an invitation from the European Association for Institutional Research (EAIR) to write a few words in their program for their 40th anniversary, which they will celebrate at their conference this summer. To be honest, I was initially a bit stumped about what I might say. But as I thought back to the presentations I heard at PNAIRP and NEAIR, I realized that my colleagues within these AOs had provided a guide for me. 

I wrote about the changing role of institutional research, where we serve as coaches and educators, inspired by Alice Few and her colleagues at the University of Washington, Tacoma, where they are working with faculty to help them understand the nuances of their data definitions so that faculty can interpret institutional data accurately. And I wrote about institutional research as a collaborative leader in improving retention rates through data-informed decision making, as exemplified by Patrick Wynne and Elisabeth Lackner from Queensborough Community College at the NEAIR conference.

The relationship between AIR and the AOs here and abroad is an important one. We have much to share, and as we exchange and grow ideas across and among these organizations, we strengthen our profession. We both are so excited ‘cause we’re affiliated, hey, hey…


AIR President



 January 2018 Comments

To add a comment, Sign In
There are no comments.


Reflections from the Newest Board Members

The Thanksgiving leftovers are long gone, we are racing toward finals, and we are gearing up to bid farewell to 2017. So it’s a perfect time to reflect, right?

As the newest members at large on the Board, we decided to take a few moments amidst the hustle and bustle of December to discuss our experiences on the Board so far and what we are most looking forward to in 2018 and beyond.

The most surprising thing about serving on the AIR Board

Paige: While service to IR was not new for me, the AIR policy governance model was a surprise compared to prior board experiences. We were provided with training, which was very beneficial and helped me understand the process quickly.

Christine: I agree. The AIR Board definitely does its due diligence in orienting new members. A lot of work was done at the beginning of this year’s Board service to make sure we all were on the same page regarding the policy governance model as well as to make improvements in how the Board utilizes its governance for the best interests of our membership.

Shari: The policy governance model has been the biggest “ah-ha” for me, too. It provides clarity of role and empowers both the Board and the Executive Office (EO) to help AIR run efficiently and effectively. Our reviews and discussions of the scheduled monitoring reports has opened my eyes to new aspects of the AIR operation. I have learned a lot more about AIR through reading them.

What we enjoy about serving on the AIR Board

Paige: I look forward to each month’s board meeting. Our monthly agendas range from policy to oversight, to determining the direction of the organization. Each discussion brings me new insights into AIR and provides me with the chance to make a significant contribution to our organization. The opportunity to participate, guide, and impact the future of AIR is extremely rewarding. 

Christine: We all review agenda items well in advance of the meetings and submit questions or concerns to President Ellen Peters so that our time during the meetings moves smoothly and efficiently. The Board discussions are always quite robust and, as a newbie to the Board, I listen intently to learn as much as possible, such as what has already transpired on the various topics. I also chime in to share feedback I have received from my IR colleagues.

Shari: I agree that our monthly meetings are well organized, informative, and enriching. It is nice to hear updates from the EO as well, and I have come to appreciate their work in new ways. It is reassuring to know there is a group of people who go to work each day thinking about how they can help our profession and the people in it. We are fortunate!


What we want others to know about the AIR Board

Shari: I would like others to know that the Board culture is one that that invites questions, fosters rich discussion, and welcomes differing opinions. One demonstration of that is the listening sessions we are holding throughout this year to engage with members and others about the issues and needs in our profession. It’s an exciting time to be in IR and to help shape the future of our work.

Christine: I see my role as one of listener/information gatherer/messenger. I try to gather feedback from AIR members regarding issues facing IR as well as what AIR members want from our AIR organization. I can then take what I learn back to the Board for use in planning and decision making so that the AIR Board is positioned to serve our membership, no matter the size of the institution or IR office.

Paige: So true! We don’t just represent ourselves, we represent ALL the members of AIR. The elected members of the AIR Board rely on your input, your opinions, and your willingness to serve and volunteer. If you have something to share, send us an email, participate in a listening session, or stop us in the halls at the next Forum. To best serve the organization, we need to hear from you! I look forward to the next few years and hope that many of you will reach out and get involved.


Paige Borden, Shari Ellertson, and Christine Ross
Members at Large



 December 2017 Comments

To add a comment, Sign In
Total Comments: 1
Cliff posted on 1/12/2018 3:25 PM
For contacting Cliff please use Thanks

Missing Voices, Thanks, and Awards

I hadn’t intended this to be a column about thankfulness. I mean, it’s not that I am not thankful – it’s just that I am usually so focused on the work, the tasks, the projects, the initiatives, and the analysis, that I don’t always make the time to be reflective. I suspect I am not alone. But several recent events have led me to turn away from a column about the work of the Board per se, and to emphasize the way in which we work together as an institutional research community.

While one board member is facing a personal health issue, another has a parent who needs care and attention; as these two take short or lengthy periods of time to attend to health, I miss their contributions, and am grateful to have their voice at our table. That of course leads me to think of other voices for which I am thankful – colleagues who have helped make AIR what it is – and served as examples of strong leadership.

Part of my thanks goes to AIR Presidents for their courage and vision in moving AIR forward. Their leadership has brought AIR closer to NCES and IPEDS, providing needed training to institutional researchers. They contributed to the scholarly literature. They brought ever greater professionalism to AIR, shifting the logistical and practical work of AIR to an Executive Office staff, freeing the Board to think about the future of our field. They brought a series of Executive Directors who built on the work of one another to strengthen the voice of AIR in national conversations about the added value of data and analysis in higher education.

And this Board, along with the Executive Office, has had the privilege of engaging our members in conversations about institutional research, and the work we all do to advance the profession, the work, our institutions, and higher education. As I review your insights, I am inspired by the thoughtfulness and wisdom of my colleagues, and I thank you for being a part of this community.

Another event is the call for nominations for awards. This is when AIR has the opportunity to publicly thank those who contribute to the profession through their scholarly work, their service, or both. We are looking for nominations for:

  • Outstanding Service Award, which recognizes a member for professional leadership and exemplary service to AIR;

  • John Stecklein Distinguished Member Award, which recognizes a member whose professional career has significantly advanced the field of institutional research through scholarship, leadership, and service; and

  • Sidney Suslow Scholar Award, which recognizes an individual who, through scholarly work, has made significant contributions to the field of institutional research and advanced understanding of the profession in a meaningful way.


As I reviewed the list of prior recipients, I was struck by how many of them have been foundational in my work, and I hope yours too. Who has served as a model or mentor for you? Who would you like to thank? I hope you are able to spend a few moments reflecting on our profession, and who you may wish to thank for their contribution to the work we do. 
AIR President



 November 2017 Comments

To add a comment, Sign In
There are no comments.

The Time Is Now

There is no doubt about it. The Association for Institutional Research thrives because of the committed, collaborative contributions of people who are working to make AIR and the profession of institutional research better! AIR members serve in a variety of ways and in an array of committees and groups, along with the resourceful AIR Executive Office staff, and an outstanding Board of Directors. My great appreciation goes to all of these members and groups for their involvement and generous contributions toward keeping AIR strong and for helping AIR to improve for an even brighter future.

Institutional research professionals are poised for successfully navigating new challenges and an evolving role in the higher education enterprise. You can help to advance the future of IR by engaging with a leadership opportunity in the Association.

Now is the time of year to nominate a colleague and/or yourself for a position in two groups that help to provide for leadership in the Association – the Board of Directors and the Nominations and Elections Committee.

Serving currently on the Board of Directors and chairing the Nominations and Elections Committee, I can tell you that my experience in working with outstanding colleagues, staff members, and association members has been a very rewarding and affirming experience. I whole heartedly recommend the experience to you.

Have you worked with a colleague who would be a good fit for a leadership position in AIR? Or are you interested in serving on the Board of Directors or the Nominations and Elections Committee? Please take the initial step of nominating a colleague and/or yourself for a leadership position in AIR.

Nominations are being accepted for the following positions:

  • Vice President

  • Member-At-Large (three positions)

  • Nominations and Elections Committee Member (three positions)

The deadline for submitting nominations is November 2, 2017. Please see the AIR Nominations and Elections web page for more information, and feel free to contact me if you have any questions. Yes, the time is now!

Glenn W. James
Immediate Past President and 
Nominations and Elections Committee Chair

Note: Only AIR members may make nominations.


 October 2017 Comments

To add a comment, Sign In
There are no comments.


No, Really, What do YOU Think?

The world has been making quite a display of itself in recent weeks, with the solar eclipse, and then the devastating hurricanes and wild fires that are impacting lives across our country. While the Board had the joy of being in Tallahassee and sharing eclipse viewing (though not in totality) with the AIR staff, that joy has been replaced by our concern for all who are in the paths of destruction.

As I prepared a list of students who were from areas impacted by Harvey, I noted that the facility with which we in IR can do that work is one of the ways in which IR provides added value to our institutions. Defining that value was a key part of the discussions we had as a Board during our August meeting. As staff in the Executive Office continue to do outreach to communicate our value, the Board continues to think about the future, and the ways in which IR will provide value beyond today. We have established a standing IR Future Committee which will be comprised of four to five Board members, and will report to the Board at each meeting. Current topics are:

  • IR and IT relationships

  • IR training provided by other associations

  • The increasing call for student unit record data and the  impact of ubiquity of unit record data on IR

  • Vendors and consultants, and IR’s role

  • Changing role of IR as data collection and analytics are being done across campus

What else is on the horizon for IR? This AIR Board Corner is intentionally short – our hope is that you will use the comments section, below, to share your thoughts.


AIR President, 2017-2018



 September 2017 Comments

To add a comment, Sign In
There are no comments.

Decisions, Decisions

I am reading Practice for Life, by Lee Cuba, Nancy Jennings, Suzanne Lovett, and Joe

In rea

ding it, I’ve been thinking about both the “big” and the “small” decisions AIR has been making. We embarked on a big decision eight years ago when we moved to a Policy Governance model. It was a huge restart, and it has taken some time to adjust, not only for Association members, but also for the Board and staff. Like many things, in theory, it seems simple and straightforward, but in practice, it’s a bit messy, and now, we are finding that it’s those small decisions in how we continue to refine our implementation of Policy Governance that provide meaningful opportunities.

The 2017-2018 Board has just completed an in-depth, all-day training on Policy Governance – it was my fifth time and still, there is much to learn. One thing that Policy Governance requires is clarity of our expectations and intentions in the form of our Policies. I know that policy work sounds terribly boring, but the Board has authority to modify and rewrite the policies to ensure that AIR is well managed, and that the policies serve as a foundation to advance the profession. The core of this is our Ends policy, which is on the last page of the Policies, and is available through the website. It’s short, and I hope you will read it. It lays out the purpose of AIR and answers the question: Who and what will be different because AIR exists?

It is this responsibility that the Board has to you, the members, and that has led us to begin holding listening sessions with members throughout the fall. Like any good research, we have begun with some pilot sessions to develop a workable process, and we are thankful to TENNAIR and a few smaller groups who have helped us figure out the best way to hold these sessions. So far, we have heard the following themes:

  • Technology: skill building, communication, and collaboration

  • Value of IR: providing not only data but value

  • Data democratization: finding our role in an environment where data is increasingly ubiquitous

  • Outsourcing and consultants: defining where IR fits in this environment

  • Access and affordability: leveraging IR to address concern about sustainability of the current financial model in higher education

  • Emphasis on outcomes: learning how to best demonstrate the impact of higher education

As the Board works to provide clear expectation to the Executive Office, those decisions, both large and small, rely on input from you, our members. If you have the opportunity to attend a listening session, we look forward to hearing your voice. In the meanwhile, we are curious about your reaction to the themes above. Please feel free to comment on this AIR Board Corner to assist us in our decision making.


AIR President, 2017-2018



 August 2017 Comments

To add a comment, Sign In
There are no comments.

"I Went to this Great Session at the Forum..."


As often happens when returning to campus after a conference, we’ve found ourselves talking with campus colleagues about the great things we experienced at the Forum. In addition to the fantastic location in Washington, DC, the ability to meet new colleagues and reconnect with others, and the new tools we saw in the Exhibit Hall, we also got a visit from the awesome “Racing President” mascots of the Washington Nationals! We learned so much in the sessions we attended, we wanted to highlight a few that still have us talking:

From Jessica:

7 Seconds That Can Change Your Life: Presentation & Communications Skills

I am still laughing at pieces of Allison Clarke’s Opening Plenary. Her incredibly effective presentation and communication skills have led to my clear memory of several of her key takeaways (as well as the hilarious spin on the “telephone game” with brave audience participants). Given that our attention spans are typically less than 7 seconds (less than the goldfish on stage!), Allison offered and demonstrated effective ways to communicate our message in ways that will make it stick. Half clap for Allison!

If We Build It, They Will Come -- Or Will They?

I have always found that sessions including a discussion of “lessons learned” are among the most useful to me. In this particular session from Indiana State University, I was grateful for the presenters' willingness to share their recent experience implementing a data warehouse and self-service analytics solution, and not only what made their relaunch a success, but what didn’t work initially. The willingness of AIR members to share these experiences with colleagues is one of the many things that make this community so special and valuable. Learning from each other, AIR members will continue to raise the profession to new heights together.  

From Michelle:

Leveraging Measures of Campus Climate to Predict Retention

I am always looking for “one good idea” I can try to replicate in the things I see at the Forum - and this was mine. I came to the Forum with campus climate on my mind, and so I was excited to hear about how we can use climate data in a new way. This session used climate measures from Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) surveys and National Student Clearinghouse enrollment data to examine the relationship between retention and perceived climate for diversity. We often look at climate data for its intrinsic value - we want our campuses to be welcoming of diversity - but this presentation related climate to our bottom line: student success.

Starving the Beast

Thursday night brought some political-wonk/higher education star power to our midst. The documentary, Starving the Beast, was screened with a follow-up panel that included political strategist and commentator James Carville, former UT President Bill Powers, and Siva Vaidhyanathan, Professor of Media Studies at the University of Virginia. The movie provides a compelling look at the struggle for power and funding at the country’s public flagship universities. I found myself vacillating between excitement, anger, and horrified understanding. And it all happened while Paul Begala (another political commentator) sat within feet of me in the audience. The movie is available on iTunes for those who missed it, but the panel was a magical night, particularly for a politics geek like me.

Relationships Matter: Using Data Informed Decisions to Drive Student Success

Friday’s closing session was an inspirational demonstration of the combined power of relationships and data to make a difference. Talithia Williams, a statistician and mathematician at Harvey Mudd College, delivered a keynote that included a shout-out (and role playing skit) to her own IR director, Laura Palucki Blake. Dr. Williams demonstrated that faculty can connect with our data and exhorted, “If the data doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.”

Digital Pass

For those who weren’t able to attend the Forum, or weren’t able to attend all the sessions they wished they could, the Digital Pass will be available to all members later this month. This is a great way to share what you saw with others or to catch a session you missed. Look for information in your inbox soon!

Michelle Appel 
2017-2018 Board Vice President

Jessica Shedd
2017-2018 Board Secretary

Swingle. Their book is the result of 10 years of research around student decision making in college. One of their findings is that we tend to emphasize the big decisions – majors, study abroad, internships, holding a job while in college – and overlook the impact of the “smaller decisions” that provide opportunity for “restarts” in college, like finding a new friend group or seeking assistance from others. Do we see these decisions as opportunities or obstacles? These smaller decisions provide practice for life beyond college – like finding a mentor or making new friends as careers change or grow.



 July 2017 Comments

To add a comment, Sign In
Total Comments: 1
Shari posted on 7/18/2017 11:53 AM
Your timing is perfect! The Forum isn't so long ago that my memories have faded, but far enough to give me perspective on how to apply what I learned to my daily work life. Your reflections caused me to revisit my session notes and pull out my spidergram from Allison Clarke's keynote. I was also reminded of an idea I wanted to share with my colleagues regarding data documentation; it's something we can consider as we formulate our goals for the year.


The Future Awaits!

Well, the 2017 Forum in Washington, D.C. has come and gone, leaving me both exhilarated and inspired! I hope that the lessons learned from Allison Clark about communication, from Jeff Strohl about data collection, and Talithia Williams about data impact - along with all the other sessions and activities - will carry you through the year with new ideas and renewed energy until we meet again in Orlando. Kudos to all who were involved in making the Forum so successful – the AIR staff, volunteers, presenters and speakers, and of course, all of you who were able to attend.

As the Board looks to the coming year with Dr. Christine Keller at the helm as the AIR Executive Director, we are focusing on two things: the future of our profession and the voice of the membership. Both of these are central principles of our governing structure, Policy Governance.  

The Future of Institutional Research

As a result of input from members, the Board convened an ad hoc committee of the Board (IR Future Committee) to think deeply about the future of our profession. When we met at the Forum, Timothy Chow, who chairs that committee, presented that work. The committee explored the key issues (competition, trends, nature of the work), and how those might impact institutional research both immediately and in the future. They considered issues such as accountability, funding, technology, vendors, and consultants and how those issues impact decision-making, data management, who we serve, and data security and ethics. As the scrutiny under which higher education finds itself continues to increase, institutional research will need to leverage our expertise to be of service to our institutions and our industry. How we do that begins to be addressed in the Duties and Functions of Institutional Research, but we know it will change rapidly. It is clear that this work is on-going, and the Board is considering making the IR Future Committee a standing committee of the Board. We will be discussing this over our next several meetings.  

Voice of the Members

As the Association has transitioned to Policy Governance, the Board has been mindful of our role in gathering the voice of the members to shape the Ends (p.34) for which we hold the Executive Office accountable. While we have done so in a variety of ways – surveys, meetings with Affiliate Organizations at the Forum, we hope to be more intentional in doing so this year. We heard from some members during the Forum regarding both our work as institutional researchers, and the role of AIR in supporting that work. We hope to add to that input by hearing from other members – those who did and did not attend the Forum. We will keep you informed as the Board considers the best ways to do that.

This Board is fortunate to be in a position to work on these two items, and thanks is due to the Boards of prior years who worked so hard to establish and adjust to Policy Governance, and to the Executive Office staff who take on the operational work with such skill and professionalism, leaving the Board the time and space to be visionary. We look forward to a productive year, and to hearing from you!

AIR President, 2017-2018



 June 2017 Comments

To add a comment, Sign In
There are no comments.


A New Chapter

Ah, the wonderful month of May has arrived! This means that very soon, on May 30 through June 2, we will meet in Washington, DC for the 2017 AIR Forum! This is only the second time that the Forum has been convened in Washington, DC. The previous DC Forum was more than 40 years ago, in 1974.  Yes, IR and the tools, networks, and resources that we use have changed enormously since then.

I always enjoy the excitement of the Forum – choosing from a broad array of sessions, reconnecting with and meeting new colleagues and friends, learning from IR professionals in different sectors, regions, and countries, and sharing ideas and solutions with institutional researchers near and far. The Forum is such an energizing experience, and I am so glad to capture additional insights and knowledge from colleagues who share so generously.

The efforts and contributions of the AIR Executive Office staff, as well as many AIR members, volunteers, and sponsors, converge to produce marvelous opportunities for professional development and enhanced understanding. What an incredible opportunity for everyone!

This Forum also will be special in another way. Dr. Christine Keller began her work as AIR Executive Director earlier this month, and this will be her first Forum in her new role. Although she has contributed to and participated in the Forum many times over the years, the 2017 Forum will be a special conference for her, too, as she steps forward to work with the Board of Directors in leading AIR into a new chapter in Association history.

How will IR, institutional effectiveness, assessment, planning, policy analysis, and more be conducted, managed, and shared now and in the coming years? Who will develop what kinds of information and analyses, and how much of a role will collaboration have? What kinds of analytical roles, responsibilities, and tasks will be handled by which higher education professionals? There are a number of important questions to address, and we must move forward into doing exactly that.

So, thank you very much to everyone for your work and contributions in developing the sessions and experiences that we will enjoy very soon. Get ready to capitalize (and “capitolize”) on the AIR Forum in Washington, DC. It is going to be a great Forum! See you there!

Glenn W. James
AIR President, 2016-2017


 May 2017 Comments

To add a comment, Sign In
There are no comments.

Value of Community in AIR

As I come to the last few weeks of my term on the Board of Directors of the Association for Institutional Research (AIR), I am reminiscing fondly about these last three years and the many before that. I am grateful for the opportunities that I have had to work alongside really wonderful, committed people on the Board, at the Executive Office, and beyond. I consider myself fortunate to have partnered with a large number of AIR members throughout the years at the state, regional, and international levels as we worked together to achieve the goals of the various IR organizations. I found not only gifted, dedicated colleagues, I found true friends. I engaged with others and discovered my community.

AIR offers many opportunities for us to engage. Volunteers are always needed in any membership organization and AIR is no exception. I encourage you to respond positively when requests for volunteers come out from the Executive Office. Participating with your fellow IR-types benefits the Association, but it also benefits you. Whether it’s to serve as a reviewer for Forum proposals, to present at the annual conference, to run for a position on the Board of Directors, or any other volunteer opportunity, just say YES! You will find that you, too, will develop your community.

But engaging isn’t just something for your personal benefit, it’s also fundamental to the continued success of AIR. We need to continue the history of engaged community that has existed for more than 50 years. Jump in and do your part to perpetuate and grow this legacy. You will be glad you did.

So now I say thank you, AIR, for giving me the opportunity for outstanding professional development over the years. But most importantly, thanks to all of you, friends and colleagues, for your friendship and encouragement. This community is one that I will cherish always.


2016-2017 AIR Member At Large





 April 2017 Comments

To add a comment, Sign In
There are no comments.

Looking Ahead: AIR and IR

As announced previously, Christine M. Keller has accepted the position of AIR Executive Director and will begin work in her new position in early May. Dr. Keller is an accomplished association leader and institutional research professional who is currently serving as Vice President for Research and Policy Analysis at the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU). The AIR Board of Directors, AIR Executive Office Staff, and many AIR members already have expressed how pleased and excited we are to begin working with Dr. Keller. We can look forward to welcoming her to her new position at the 2017 AIR Forum, May 30 - June 2 in Washington, DC.

As of the release of this edition of eAIR, the Board of Directors will be meeting in Washington, DC with Dr. Keller. The Board is very pleased to have an opportunity to meet with her, connect more extensively, and begin to address the future together. The meeting agenda includes a review, exploration, and discussion of the duties and functions of institutional research, as well as the knowledge and skills needed to perform those duties and functions.

A component in the AIR Ends Policy stipulates that the Association will seek to achieve the following End:

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.

In recent years, in pursuit of the achievement of this Ends statement, the Executive Director has worked with the Executive Office staff, AIR members, and other colleagues in higher education to develop a comprehensive collection of the duties and functions of IR. The Board will review and discuss this collection of duties and functions in order to provide feedback to the Executive Director and also to explore and consider how the current conception of duties and functions integrates with the Board’s conception of the future of institutional research and of AIR. This review and discussion will provide an opportunity not only for examining the current status and progress of this endeavor, but also for possible adjustments and/or for solidifying broader commitment to the collection of duties and functions that have been identified.

Board engagement with this aspect of the future of our profession is both essential and crucial, and it will be a pleasure to have Christine Keller participate with the Board in this exploration very soon!

Glenn W. James
AIR President, 2016-2017


 March 2017 Comments

To add a comment, Sign In
There are no comments.










































Worldwide Connection and Engagement

One of my favorite aspects of membership in AIR is the special connection that AIR members form with one another, across the wide expanse of wherever we are based. AIR members are engaged with institutional research in higher education around the world, and we have excellent opportunities to connect with and learn from each other – to share ideas, solutions, and successes with our IR colleagues around the globe. Currently, there are 51 affiliated organizations that maintain a collaborative professional connection with AIR, and a number of these are based in various countries, regions, and continents. I certainly treasure this amazing network of talented IR colleagues, and I encourage and remind us about this valuable resource for sharing knowledge in our profession.

In addition to our AOs, new IR groups continue to form around the world. A new IR association that has completed its first year and recently convened its second annual conference is the Taiwan Association for Institutional Research. I appreciated being invited by Taiwan AIR President Jong-Tsun Huang to attend the recent conference in Taipei, and I enjoyed having the opportunity to meet with colleagues at the conference and at several universities after the conference. It was an informative exchange and a continuation of relationships with colleagues who have attended the AIR Forum during the past couple of years. It is excellent to see the strong start that our colleagues in Taiwan AIR are making, as they seek to strengthen IR and higher education in Taiwan. Some Taiwan AIR members shared with me that their session proposals were accepted for inclusion in the 2017 AIR Forum and that they are looking forward to the upcoming Forum in Washington, DC.

Registration for the 2017 AIR Forum is open, and the early registration pricing is in effect. So, now is a good time to register and make your plans to join us for an outstanding Forum in Washington, DC, May 30 through June 2!

Another task to be certain to complete is to vote in the AIR Election, which is open now and will close on Friday, March 3. This is your opportunity to contribute to AIR and the IR profession by selecting leaders who will help to develop the direction and shape of the future of IR. Your vote is important, so cast it now!

For more information about AIR affiliated organizations, the 2017 Forum registration, and the 2017 AIR Election, visit the AIR web site. Best wishes!

Glenn W. James
AIR President, 2016-2017


 February 2017 Comments

To add a comment, Sign In
There are no comments.


New Times, New Strides

As we step forward into 2017, the new year brings opportunities for establishing new focus, reaffirming commitments, and considering adjustments and improvements. Here are some items of attention for the beginning of this new year:

  • A Holistic Approach to Institutional Research is a new professional development opportunity for institutional researchers. Launching in Spring 2017, this six-week, online course includes an in-person component. Also, a cohort model, mentor support, and group activities foster networking with IR colleagues.

  • The process of identifying the new Executive Director of the Association is nearing its conclusion. After months of careful consideration and work, the Executive Director Search Committee, in collaboration with the consulting team of AGB Search, has passed its recommendations to the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors met in early January to interview finalists and complete the search process. More information about this important step is forthcoming.

  • The Nominations and Elections Committee, working with the involvement of nominators and the commitment of prospective candidates, developed a strong slate of candidates for the upcoming election, laying groundwork for the future leadership of the Association.

  • The Board of Directors is continuing to explore and study aspects of the future of the profession of IR and of the Association. More about this work is forthcoming.

All of the above items hold plenty of promise for an excellent year in 2017 and beyond. As you look ahead and consider what you plan to accomplish in 2017, I extend to you the very best wishes for a productive year!

Glenn W. James
AIR President, 2016-2017


 January 2017 Comments

To add a comment, Sign In
There are no comments.


Collaborative Achievements in 2016

What a Year! As 2016 draws to a close, I look back at the array of Association endeavors and activities, and I especially appreciate the AIR Executive Office staff, the Board of Directors, the Executive Director Search Committee, and the many AIR members, committees, and teams who have made the past year such a successful one. Collectively, this large, collegial group of committed IR staff, Association members, and other colleagues made extensive efforts and numerous contributions toward achieving the accomplishments of 2016.

Early in 2016, Jason Lewis accepted the responsibility of serving as Interim Executive Director and led the Executive Office team through quite a demanding year in AIR history. The leadership team of the Executive Office and the entire staff worked in collaboration with the Board of Directors and many Association members to address the operational tasks of the Association while also looking to the future.

A few of the notable events of 2016 were:

  • Collaborative AIR Summit in Washington, DC, in March

  • Successful AIR Forum in May/June in New Orleans

  • Relocation of the AIR Executive Office in Tallahassee in June

Despite the challenges and displacement associated with the lightning strike that caused fire damage at the office facility, the Executive Office staff were exemplary in working steadily to minimize disruption to AIR operations and services.

The Board of Directors continued the efforts to focus clearly upon the future of IR and of AIR, while staying abreast of current issues and context.

The Executive Director Search Committee developed a request for proposals, processed the proposals, and selected a search firm with which to launch the search, which is nearing the achievement of the goal of finding an excellent next Executive Director of the association.

The expertise of Ted Marchese of AGB Search was instrumental in the progress of the search. The search process moved forward steadily through the diligent work of Dr. Marchese and the entire search committee. Gina Johnson not only served as a member of the search committee but also worked with H.A. Scott and other AIR staff members in planning and executing logistical support regarding the series of meetings of the committee. Likewise, Nicole LaMar of AGB Search provided crucial support and communications for various aspects of the search. I am grateful for the capable, conscientious, and generous commitments of the members of the search committee: Debbie Dailey, Mardy Eimers, Gina Johnson, Dawn Kenney, Kara Larkan-Skinner, Ellen Peters, Mary Sapp, and Michael Tamada. The combined efforts of everyone brought the search closer to conclusion. In January, the Board of Directors will interview finalists and complete the search.

Finally, efforts to create new professional development opportunities for institutional researchers have been in progress during 2016 and will be introduced in 2017. More information will be forthcoming in the new year, so stay tuned. Meanwhile, best wishes in wrapping up the end of 2016. I hope that 2017 holds plenty of opportunity and promise for you and all our AIR colleagues!

Glenn W. James
AIR President, 2016-2017



 December 2016 Comments

To add a comment, Sign In
There are no comments.

State of the Profession and the IR Function

Over the years, institutional research professionals have faced a persistent challenge in developing information and analyses to help each institution and its decision makers. Institutional researchers seek to help their institutions to see constructs more clearly and to understand constituent parts of the institution more strongly and with greater insight. Another part of the aim is to have requisite information more readily available.

In higher education institutions today, the need for information and analyses is substantial and extends deeply into various aspects of the institution. 

In the culture of modern society, expectations about information and analyses have increased steadily, as the importance of these crucial knowledge resources has continued to grow. Institutions are seeking to make informed decisions and to develop action plans that are well-positioned, timely, and likely to be successful. Unquestionably, IR professionals must be strategic in setting appropriate priorities for the development of information and analyses with limited staffing and resources.

The IR function is broad and has many dimensions and parts. So, how will this large function be addressed? The surging demand for information and analyses is already beyond what the commonly identified IR operation can provide. Therefore, the evolving solution of shared engagement with the larger IR function is a completely realistic condition that must be addressed effectively.

Many of us work in colleges and universities where diverse points of view can be shared, discussed, and debated. I encourage us to apply that approach and to engage fully in the exploration and discussion of the IR function and the various people, structures, and resources that can be brought to bear upon the ever-rising need and demand for information and analyses.

How will institutional researchers collaborate with other informational and analytical partners in addressing the comprehensive institutional needs for information and analyses? Let’s explore and discuss it together!

Glenn W. James
AIR President, 2016-2017











































 November 2016 Comments

To add a comment, Sign In
There are no comments.


Serving AIR - What's in it for you?

Heather Kelly, Director of Institutional Research, University of Delaware

Note from Gary R. Pike, Immediate Past President

One of the benefits of AIR membership is that you have the opportunity to nominate and elect the vice president, members of the Board of Directors, and members of the Nominations and Elections Committee. On October 3, members received an email inviting them to nominate individuals for leadership positions. This is your opportunity to help chart the future of AIR, and I hope you will take advantage of the opportunity by nominating your colleagues. In the article below, Heather Kelly, a former Board member and current member of the Nominations and Elections Committee, talks about the benefits of serving in a leadership role.

“Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.

--Martin Luther King, 1968

Takeaways from serving on the AIR Board and Nominations and Elections Committee​


I already know AIR members are great. Nothing has made me more aware of this fact than being a member of the AIR Board of Directors and the Nominations and Elections Committee. This has given me the opportunity to interact with amazing individuals who are willing to serve their professional association, AIR. In addition to AIR members being great, the Association is great, in large part due to the countless individuals who are willing to volunteer their time and the talents to the Executive Office staff.

Did you know that AIR has played an instrumental role in sponsored initiatives such as the Data and Decisions Academy, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-funded initiative Improving & Transforming Institutional Research in Postsecondary Education, the NCES Data Institute, the Access Group and NSF Research and Dissertation Grant Programs, and the System Office Role in IR?

How about the fact that AIR also conducts research, assessment, and evaluations on a variety of topics of interest to professionals in IR and related fields and is committed to making data and resources available to AIR members and the greater higher education community?

Finally, AIR offers a number of online and face-to-face education opportunities that you may have taken advantage of, such as the Data and Decisions Academy, IPEDS Workshops, the NCES Data Institute, or AIR Forums and Pre-Conference Workshops. All of these valuable resources and educational opportunities better equip us in the IR profession to meet the needs of data-informed decision making at our institutions.

Now the question I want you to ask yourself is: Why does AIR do what they do? The simple answer lies in the Governance Policies established by the AIR Board of Directors, specifically the Ends policy. While the AIR Board does not tell the AIR Executive Office how to do things, the AIR Board has a direct influence on what the AIR Executive Office will do via the Ends policy. Each of the Governance Policies is routinely monitored. The Governance Policies monitor both the CEO of AIR as well as the Board.

Being involved in policy governance and monitoring discussions is extremely powerful and rewarding. You learn to listen as well as consider and value different perspectives, which leads to the AIR Board speaking as one voice in order to advocate for what is good for all AIR members. In order to accomplish this, AIR Board members need to be actively engaged and interact with AIR members to gather the “voice of the members.” These interactions introduced me to great AIR members I did not previously know and has no doubt expanded my professional network.

My time on the AIR Board of Directors and Nominations and Elections Committee has provided a valuable opportunity to work closely with a diverse group of individuals representing various sectors in higher education. While we represented different types of institutions, I think we could all agree that the continuous improvement in higher education and student success is at the core of what we do and why many of us do this thing called institutional research. Consequently, it is critical for higher education leaders to view institutional research as essential. The AIR Board felt this very sentiment is so important that it is included in the Ends policy.

So, how can you make a visible impact on your professional association that could ultimately impact your professional life? Nominate yourself or a colleague to serve on the AIR Board and/or the Nominations and Elections Committee. I look forward to seeing AIR grow due to the service of great individuals such as yourself!


 October 2016 Comments

To add a comment, Sign In
There are no comments.


AIR and IR Moving Forward

The AIR Board met in August with a full agenda of seemingly separate issues, but upon further thought, they are all strongly related:

  1. Monitoring Reports. Those of you who are regular readers of the Board Corner (and even some who are not) will be familiar with the concept of Ends Policies that are part of our governance model (last page of the Governance Policies). It is these Ends that drive the work of AIR, and for which the Executive Office is accountable. What you may not know is that the Executive Office provides Monitoring Reports on a regular basis that inform the Board about how well the Executive Office is fulfilling the Policies. In August, we received the Monitoring Report for the Ends policies. The report lays out a set of proposed measures to help us understand how well we are achieving our Ends; this will be the work of our next CEO, which brings us to the next item we discussed at length – the Executive Director search.

  2. Executive Director Search. The Board has retained Ted Marchese of AGB Search to assist us with the search, and a prospectus for the position is posted on the AIR website. Dr. Marchese has met with the AIR staff, the Board, and the Search Committee to gain an understanding of AIR and our needs. We anticipate a late fall and winter of activity as the search committee reviews candidate materials, and the Board appoints a new CEO in late winter or early spring of 2017. Please share this exciting opportunity with colleagues who might be well suited to the position or who may know someone who is. The next Executive Director of AIR will help us best operate in a world that is more and more dependent on data that is available broadly (as articulated in the Statement of Aspirational Practice for Institutional Research)

  3. Our third significant agenda item had to do with the future of IR. Our new CEO will help guide us regarding where IR fits in the higher education landscape. What role will IR play? Will we be a centralized or decentralized function? Will we be about the data and/or about contextualizing that data for our institutions? What kind of support will AIR members need from our professional organization? Stay tuned!

I cannot sign off wihout acknowledging the absolutely stellar staff we have in Tallahassee. Having withstood a fire in June and an office move, the staff didn’t lose a beat in providing services to AIR members, and they did so with professionalism and grace that is the hallmark of our profession.


AIR Vice President 2016-2017



 September 2016 Comments

To add a comment, Sign In
Total Comments: 1
Gerry posted on 9/15/2016 5:25 PM
There are numerous opportunities and challenges facing our profession and I am very appreciative of the work being done by the Board and the Staff to ensure progress is made in us being a sustainable and viable association. I am also appreciative of the forum as a professional opportunity for developing skills.

I am concerned however that is is beginning to lack the cutting edge scholarship that is necessary to advance our body of knowledge. One step that would seem a positive move to strengthen our body of knowledge is to institute an award for faculty teaching in Institutional Research or an area closely related to IR. This would be comparable to the Suslow award for publication/scholarship.

This type of recognition would celebrate those who choose the path of sharing by teaching. It would allow us to celebrate an essential component of our scholarship. It would allow us to recognize educational leaders such as Marvin Peterson, Joan Stark and Mary Corcoran. If you do not recognize these names - that is evidence that there are aspects of our profession that we need to strengthen.


Contemplating Greatness


A great professional association connects members with content, methods, avenues, and delivery systems through which they gain essential skills, knowledge, and experience. Great associations also facilitate the connection, interaction, and collaboration of members to learn from one another.

What makes a great Executive Director? Is it outstanding management of such a multifaceted organization? Is it knowledgeable leadership and guidance about taking purposeful steps to achieve important goals?

As you are aware, AIR is searching for an Executive Director who will collaborate with members, association leaders, and staff, in propelling the Association to new heights of synergism and service to members.

The Board of Directors seeks your perspective on what qualities and attributes are important in an Executive Director for our Association. I invite you to share your thoughts and ideas with me or any Board member, in our collective commitment to propel AIR to greater heights.

The Board will meet in Indianapolis later this month to address these and other issues and tasks. The Board and the Executive Director Search Committee look forward to working with AGB Search, the firm selected to conduct the search for the next AIR Executive Director.

The pulse of higher education institutions is increasing as we step up with renewed energy to face an exciting new academic year. I hope that yours gets off to a great start!


AIR President, 2016-2017




 August 2016 Comments

To add a comment, Sign In
There are no comments.


Challenges and Opportunities


As mentioned in last month’s Board Corner, there are two important contextual aspects that the Board of Directors, the interim Executive Director, and the Executive Office staff are facing, while also pursuing all of the more expected work of the Association. These two aspects are challenges but also are useful opportunities for assessment, for consideration of new steps, and for exploration of new possibilities.

Specifically, these two important contextual aspects are the search for the new Executive Director of the Association and the decisions regarding the AIR Executive Office following the lightning and fire that hit the building last month.

The Board of Directors and I continue to be very appreciative of the professionalism, commitment, and resourcefulness of interim Executive Director Jason Lewis and the Executive Office staff, as they have diligently worked to ensure minimal disruption to AIR operations and services. As well, we certainly appreciate the affirming expressions of support from AIR members and other colleagues, in support of the entire Executive Office team, as they deal with all of the implications of such a sudden and unexpected challenge. We are very fortunate to have such a versatile and resilient team in place.

The search for the next Executive Director is such an important opportunity for finding and connecting an outstanding professional to this crucial leadership position.

The request for proposals for an executive search firm was launched in June, and proposals were received through early July, with the search committee conducting a thorough review of proposals. We are now working to identify a firm with which to partner for this important search.

The Board is looking ahead to our next meeting in Indianapolis next month, where we will engage with these and other challenges and opportunities regarding the future of institutional research, the needs of IR professionals, and the continuing renewal of the Association as the function and execution of institutional research continues to evolve.

Best wishes to you as you refine your plans for the coming academic year.

Glenn W. James
AIR President, 2016-2017


 July 2016 Comments

To add a comment, Sign In
There are no comments.


Institutional Research Moving Forward 

With this being the first Board Corner after the recent AIR Forum, I would like to share some thoughts about several items.

The Forum. Evaluative feedback and other information is still being compiled from the recent 2016 AIR Forum. Those who participated in the Forum can attest to the strong array of current topics, the extensive opportunities for connecting with and learning from colleagues, and the marvelous participation of sponsors and partners who provide excellent software, products, and services that enable institutional research professionals to excel.

Great appreciation goes to the AIR Executive Office staff, a large contingent of AIR members and volunteers, and a host of wonderful sponsors and partners, all of whose efforts combined to produce an outstanding Forum in New Orleans! Thank you so very much for all of your work and contributions to ensure a great professional development experience for all of us.

The Evolving IR Function. A special aspect of the Forum this year was the exploration of the Statement of Aspirational Practice for Institutional Research, which is available on the AIR website. An Impact Session featured a panel of IR professionals who have been working with the application of Statement ideas at their respective institutions. The exploration of the Statement and how Statement ideas could impact the evolution of IR should continue to be discussed, challenged, and considered.

Executive Director Search. In May, the Board of Directors approved a request for proposals (RFP) for an executive search firm, along with a draft version of the position description for the executive director of the Association for Institutional Research. The RFP was launched earlier in June, and proposals will be received through July 5. I plan to share more about the search in an upcoming edition of Board Corner, but for now, please know that the Executive Director Search Committee is already working diligently and is ready to partner with the selected search firm to find an excellent executive director for the Association.

The AIR Office. As announced previously, the AIR Executive Office building in Tallahassee, Florida, was struck by lightning recently, starting a fire that caused considerable damage to the facility. Despite the challenges and displacement associated with this event, the response of Jason Lewis and the entire Executive Office staff has been remarkable. Their commitment and resolve have been exemplary, as they have worked steadily to minimize disruption to AIR operations and services. Their clear commitment to AIR members and to the Association has been exceptional, and I know that you join the Board of Directors and me in appreciating the professionalism and resourcefulness of our AIR family members in the Executive Office. They certainly know how to apply research, planning skills, and knowledge to any situation, including this one, and I know that the AIR Executive Office is on its way to better horizons. Again, kudos to Jason Lewis and the entire Executive Office staff.

Following the outstanding 2016 Forum, we have special opportunities for consideration: the evolving function of institutional research and how it will be addressed optimally, the search for the next executive director of AIR, and the recovery from the unexpected challenge to the AIR office facility. Valuable attributes of successful institutional research professionals include being strategic, focused, and nimble. And now is a time that seems to make the value of these characteristics especially apparent.

I hope that the weeks of summer will be a time of renewal and encouragement to you, as well as a time to be stirring the plenary ideas of where we are going next, how the new path will be beneficial, and how we can begin to stride forward. There is plenty to contemplate and much that we can address together. I am looking forward to it!

Glenn W. James
AIR President, 2016-2017



 June 2016 Comments

To add a comment, Sign In
There are no comments.


Audit Complete, On to the Forum

The AIR constitution delegates responsibility of AIR’s fiscal controls and annual audit to the Board of Directors (Article V Section 4). The Board engaged the services of a Tallahassee firm to conduct the audit of the association for the calendar year 2015. I am pleased to announce that an unmodified audit was issued on both the association’s financial statements and the Major Federal Awards Programs. There were no reportable instances of significant deficiencies or material weaknesses in internal control and no material instances of noncompliance.


For those who do not speak auditor-ese, what this means is that the association and our federal contracts passed the audit with flying colors. In speaking with the lead auditor, he was very complimentary of our Executive Office staff. The association’s positive audit is due to the efforts of every AIR staff member adhering to our financial policies and procedures. I want to thank them for their diligence and care with the association’s finances. If you are interested in learning more about the audit, please be sure to attend the annual business meeting on Wednesday, June 1 at 2:00 p.m.

Speaking of the Forum, I want to personally welcome you all to Louisiana. There will be lots of great educational and professional development opportunities, plenty of chances to network, and I promise you’ll have a good time. The Executive Office has been hard at work making sure this year’s Forum is an outstanding success. If you have an opportunity, please take a minute to thank the staff for all their hard work and let them know how much you appreciate it.

The Board of Directors will be at the Forum, and we welcome the opportunity to hear from you and get your feedback on the direction of the association. In addition to the business meeting, you can find all of us at the reception on Wednesday, June 1 at 4:00 p.m. You don’t have to wait for those events to talk to us, though. If you see any one of us, please feel free to introduce yourself. I promise none of us bite. (At least I won’t after my first cup of coffee; before that I can’t guarantee anything!)

It’s hard for me to believe that 20 years ago I was attending my first Forum. The fact that I have only missed one since then is a testament to the importance of the Forum for our profession. I look forward to seeing you in New Orleans in a few weeks. 

2015-2016 AIR Board Treasurer



 May 2016 Comments

To add a comment, Sign In
There are no comments.


AIR Election 2016 

It’s an election year, and we’ve all been bombarded by presidential debates, campaign commercials, and election-night news. In an earlier life, I worked in politics, but even I’m getting a little tired of it. However, there is one election in which AIR members can take pride—the 2016 AIR election. First and foremost, I want to thank you all for voting and to encourage all of you to vote in 2017 when I am chairing the Nominations and Elections Committee (NEC). I also want to thank Immediate Past President Gayle Fink and the 2016 NEC for assembling a tremendous slate of candidates, and thank you to all of the candidates for agreeing to run.

AIR members elected seven people who have tremendous leadership experience and skills, and the Association will be in excellent hands as it helps chart a course for our profession. I am pleased to introduce your incoming Board and NEC members.
Vice President:
  • C. Ellen Peters is the Director of Institutional Research and Retention at the University of Puget Sound and the incoming Vice President of AIR. Ellen is a past member of the AIR Board of Directors and served as Board Secretary. She is even a veteran politician, having been elected to her city council. I had the privilege of serving with Ellen when I was Vice President. AIR is in very capable hands. 
Three new Board at Large members:
  • Timothy Chow is the Director of Institutional Research at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. Timothy has also served on the AIR Board of Directors. I remember when Timothy served as the Secretary and chair of the External Relations Committee. (We were both very young back then.) Seriously, Timothy will be a tremendous asset as a Board member.
  • Sara Gravitt is the Assistant Director of Institutional Research at Wake Forest University. Sara has held numerous leadership positions in the Southern Association for Institutional Research (SAIR), including Secretary, Vice President, President, and Immediate Past President. Sara was also the program chair for the 2014 SAIR Conference in Florida. I’m delighted that Sara is bringing her experience to the AIR Board.
  • Michael Tamada is the Director of Institutional Research at Reed College. Michael has served on the Board of CAIR and also served as a board member for the Higher-Education Data Sharing consortium and the Higher Education Data Policy committee. His experience with HEDS and the Data Policy committee will be invaluable as AIR outlines a strategy for meeting its new Ends.
Three new Nominations and Elections Committee members:
  • Eric Atchison is Director of Systems Analysis and Research for the Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning. Eric has served as a Board member for both the Mississippi Association for Institutional Research (MAIR) and the Southern Association for Institutional Research (SAIR).
  • Mimi Johnson is Director of Institutional Research and Advancement at Trenholm State College. Mimi has served as President of the Alabama Association for Institutional Research (ALAIR) and the Traditionally Black Colleges and Universities group, a former AIR Special Interest Group.
  • Heather Kelly is Director of Institutional Research at the University of Delaware. Heather is a former member of the AIR Board of Directors and served as the Board Treasurer. Heather has also held leadership roles in the Northeast Association for Institutional Research (NEAIR).
One of the things you may have noticed about those newly elected is that all have had experience in leadership roles in AIR and its affiliated organizations. Under the Policy Governance model, leadership experience is important, and state and regional IR associations are a great place to get that experience. Plus, it is a lot of fun and a great way to get to know your colleagues. You can also gain leadership experience serving on local boards and committees, so volunteer.  
Ellen and the new Board and NEC members will have important roles at the 2016 AIR Forum. Take a minute to introduce yourself and get to know AIR’s leadership for the future.


Gary R. Pike
2015-2016 AIR President



 April 2016 Comments

To add a comment, Sign In
Total Comments: 1
Gerry posted on 5/16/2016 6:21 PM
Congratulations to the new officers and thanks to all who supported the association by being a candidate for this set of elections.
I think that the leadership experience that Gary mentioned is extreemly important if the association and the profession is to be sustainable.
I also think the challenge is for the association, on behalf of the profession, to attract and strengthen the scholarship that builds our body of knowledge. Historically this was done by the Pub Board and the Professional Development Services committee and the Forum Committee. Also just like learning requires homework these groups provided great places to provide service and to develop leadership skills. Unfortunately they also took quite a bit of time. The crucial challenge to the association is to build the professional infrastructure that provides the input of adjudicated scholarship into our activities, take advantage of the outstanding support from the staff at Tallahassee, and grows the leaders we will need in the next generation of challenges.


Improving and Transforming IR in Postsecondary Education

I begin the Board Corner for March, having just returned from the IR Summit in Washington D.C. Hosted by AIR, the IR Summit was a culminating activity in the Improving and Transforming Institutional Research in Postsecondary Education initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The project includes three deliverables: (1) the National Survey of Institutional Research Offices, which provides baseline data on IR activities and use of data in postsecondary institutions; (2) the Statement of Aspirational Practice for Institutional Research, which highlights the need to increase IR capacity and serve a broader range of decision-makers in higher education; and (3) an Excellence in IR Capacity Survey, which is currently under development.

Today, the focus is on the Statement of Aspirational Practice for Institutional Research. I encourage you to read the statement and the full report, which are available on the AIR website. The Statement of Aspirational Practice is a great start, full of interesting and important ideas, and is a wonderful spur for discussion. I am particularly interested in the emphasis placed on providing data and information to improve student success. This is a discussion for the field, not just individual campuses. It is important, however, that individual campuses weigh in on this discussion, and the full report suggests a process for creating discussions on college campuses. In reading the Statement of Aspirational Practice, it is important to realize that this is a starting point. AIR looks forward to continued conversation with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Lumina Foundation, and other organizations (AASCU, APLU, AACC, etc.) about our shared commitment to driving improvement in institutional research, data-driven decision making, and student success.

The key is to read the Statement of Aspirational Practice, discuss it with your colleagues, and find opportunities to share and review it with decision-makers at your institution.     


2015-2016 AIR President  

 March 2016 Comments

To add a comment, Sign In
There are no comments.

AIR’s First 50 Years

50.JPGWhen I was asked to write a Board Corner about AIR’s 50th anniversary, I realized I needed to do some homework. At other times, I had read both of Joe Saupe’s monographs on (The) Functions of IR (1st & 2nd editions). For this assignment, I reviewed two other documents: The Nature and Role of Institutional Research, written by Joe Saupe and Jim Montgomery, and The Association for Institutional Research: The First 50 Years, edited by Gary Rice and co-edited by Mary Ann Coughlin and Rich Howard. All of these documents are available on the AIR website, and I encourage you to read them.

In reading through the manuscripts, I was struck by how much things have changed in 50 years. I think the characterization of the history of AIR in terms of phases of human development (e.g., early childhood, adolescence, early adulthood, and maturity) is particularly appropriate. Over the 50-year history of the Association, the issues confronting institutional researchers have changed, as have the tools available to us. I’ve been in institutional research for half of its history. When I started at the University of Tennessee Knoxville in 1986, assessment of student learning outcomes was just beginning to take hold. I also remember walking to the computer center to run statistical analyses on 11 ×17 green bar paper. I didn’t have to walk miles through the snow, uphill both ways; I did, however, get to experiment with a newfangled electronic communication medium called “Bitnet.” Today, assessment has evolved into institutional effectiveness and is a staple of many institutional research offices; we have statistical packages and other sophisticated data visualization tools at our fingertips; and the internet has become an indispensable part of our lives. Other changes, such as declining public support for higher education and shrinking IR budgets, with increasing demands for data, are not as positive.

Although a great deal of what we call institutional research has changed, one thing remains the same—its definition. In reading Saupe and Montgomery’s monograph on the nature and role of IR, I was struck by the fact that Paul Dressel’s definition of institutional research from 1966, still rings true today:

Institutional research involves the collection of data or the making of studies useful or necessary in (a) understanding and interpreting the institution; (b) making intelligent decisions about current operations or plans for the future; (c) improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the institution.

The most important way in which I believe historical definitions of institutional research and documents about institutional research practices have become outdated and need to be changed is that they presume institutional research is carried out in institutional research offices. While that may have been the case at one time, it is not necessarily true today. Institutional research is carried out in admissions offices, offices of assessment and institutional effectiveness, registrar’s offices, and offices of student life and student success as well as traditional IR offices. To me, the greatest challenge facing AIR is to broaden our reach to encompass administrators, faculty and staff on college campuses, state coordinating/governing board personnel, and national higher education policy makers and researchers. As always, the goal must be to understand, make intelligent decisions about, and improve higher education.


Dressel, P. L. (1966). The nature of institutional research. Unpublished manuscript, Michigan State University. Cited in Saupe, J. L., & Montgomery, J. R. (1970, November). The nature and role of institutional research—Memo to a college or university. Tallahassee, FL: Association for Institutional Research, p. 2.

Rice, G., Coughlin, M. A., & Howard, R. (eds.) (2011). The Association for Institutional Research: The first 50 years. Tallahassee, FL: Association for Institutional Research.

Saupe, J. L. (1981). The functions of institutional research. Tallahassee, FL: Association for Institutional Research.

Saupe, J. L. (1990). The functions of institutional research (2nd ed.). Tallahassee, FL: Association for Institutional Research.

Saupe, J. L., & Montgomery, J. R. (1970, November). The nature and role of institutional research—Memo to a college or university. Tallahassee, FL: Association for Institutional Research.

Gary R. Pike
2015-2016 AIR President



 February 2016 Comments

To add a comment, Sign In
There are no comments.


Board Announcement

Executive Director Resigns, Interim Named

As president of the Board of Directors for the Association for Institutional Research (AIR), I am writing to inform AIR members that the Board of Directors and Randy Swing were unable to agree on terms for a 2016 contract and that Randy has resigned as executive director of AIR, effective January 4, 2016. The Board of Directors has retained Randy as a consultant through March 31, 2016. Much of Randy’s work will focus on the Improving & Transforming Institutional Research in Postsecondary Education initiative.

I was a member of the Board of Directors in 2007 when Randy was hired as executive director, and I have been able to witness firsthand Randy’s many contributions to AIR.

AIR has grown significantly in size and mission under Randy’s leadership. During this time period, AIR membership has increased almost 8 percent, from 3,810 to 4,105 members. Total assets have grown from approximately $2.1 million to $4.7 million, and net assets have grown from $850,000 to $3.9 million.

Even more important than the growth of the organization is the growth in professional development opportunities. Face-to-face opportunities have included the Association’s annual conference (the AIR Forum), including pre-Forum workshops, in-person IPEDS training workshops, and the National Data Institute. Even more impressive is the growth in online professional development during Randy’s tenure as executive director. Online opportunities include the Data and Decisions® Academy, with approximately 1,500 course completions since 2010, IPEDS video tutorials, IPEDS trainer web conferences, and tutorials for the NSF online data tools.

I know the AIR Board of Directors, Executive Office staff, and AIR members stand ready to assist Randy in whatever ways we can as he completes his duties at AIR, and we all wish him the very best in future endeavors.

AIR Chief Financial Officer Jason Lewis has been named interim executive director effective immediately. The Board has every confidence in Jason’s ability to assume the duties of executive director seamlessly until such time that a new executive director can be named.

Gary R. Pike
2015-2016 AIR President


 January 2016 Comments

To add a comment, Sign In
There are no comments.


2015 a Productive Year for IR   

Published December 8, 2015

As you may have gathered by now, I’m very interested in the section of the AIR Ends Policy that says, “Higher education leaders view institutional research as essential.” I’ve worked in institutions where institutional research was viewed as essential and in institutions where it was not. The former was better than the latter—for me and for the institution.

As 2015 draws to a close, I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect on what has been accomplished vis-à-vis the Ends Policy and to look forward to 2016.

In 2014 and 2015, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, AIR embarked on a project titled Improving and Transforming Institutional Research in Postsecondary Education. The goal of the project is to better understand where IR is today and how it needs to evolve in the future. Information about the initiative is available on the AIR website.
One of the first steps in understanding current IR practice was to contract with Peter Ewell and the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS) to survey senior administrators and institutional research personnel about the use of data in decision making. The results of the survey will serve as a benchmark for assessing the success of AIR’s efforts.
At the same time, AIR began the long process of developing a national survey of institutional research offices. The goal is to gather and disseminate information about the structures, resources, and capacities of IR offices. It is expected that this will become an annual survey that institutions can use for benchmarking against peer institutions, and that AIR can use to explain the importance of institutional research to campus leaders and policy makers. The first version of the survey was pilot-tested and launched in summer 2015.
In 2014 and 2015, AIR also began developing a “Statement of Aspirational Practice for Institutional Research.” In fall 2014, AIR mem
bers responded to a call for aspirational statements and input was sought from six subject-matter experts who were also AIR members. In spring 2015, 10 institutions agreed to pilot-test the aspirational statement by vetting it with colleagues in the institution and developing an action plan for putting the statement into practice. The statement is available on
AIR’s website.
While 2015 has been a very productive year from the perspective of the Ends Policy, 2016 should be even better. In early 2016, two important reports will be issued. The first report will provide the results of the first national survey of IR offices, and the second will provide the results of the pilot study of aspirational practice. As a culmination of the activities being supported by the Gates Foundation, AIR will hold a half-day summit on institutional research in Washington, D.C., in spring 2016. These activities will provide an excellent lead into the AIR Forum in New Orleans, May 31 – June 3, 2016.
Gary R. Pike
2015-2016 AIR President



 December 2015 Comments

To add a comment, Sign In
There are no comments.


Electing AIR’s Leadership 

Published November 6, 2015

By the time you read this Board Corner, nominations for AIR’s leadership positions will have closed, and the Nominations and Elections Committee will have begun the task of reviewing the nominations and producing a slate of candidates for the Board of Directors, Vice President, and the Nominations and Elections Committee. I hope you have taken the time to nominate someone for a leadership position.

These leadership positions are critically important:

  • Board members determine AIR’s mission and goals, develop high-level policies to guide organizational actions and decisions, monitor and assess the performance of the executive director, and have responsibility for AIR’s fiscal controls.
  • The Vice President of the Board of Directors is elected annually by the AIR membership, and serves one year as Vice President, one year as President, and one year as Immediate Past President and Chair of the Nominations and Elections Committee.
  • Members of the Nominations and Elections Committee produce the slate of candidates for AIR leadership positions, ensure that AIR elections are conducted properly, and report election results to the membership.

Our governance policies require that the slate of candidates will (1) be current AIR members and have at least three years prior Association membership, (2) have demonstrated organizational governance experience, (3) have experience with fiduciary oversight, and (4) be able to advocate on behalf of all Association members. The Board added these criteria to communicate to members that AIR leadership is not limited to those of us who have been members for 20 years, and that AIR’s leaders need to have the skills required to govern the Association.

Once the Nominations and Elections Committee has finished its job of producing a slate of candidates, your job begins. As members of AIR, you will elect the people who will lead the Association. Recently, Julie Carpenter-Hubin, former AIR President, wrote an essay for the Board titled Electing Our Leadership. I want to share some of Julie’s thoughts with you as you begin to think about voting in the next AIR election.

Julie notes that “Board members work collaboratively to govern, and professional expertise is less important than the ability to participate in team leadership.” She also identifies several characteristics she believes are important for AIR’s leaders:  

  • Collaborate with colleagues
  • Consider different perspectives
  • Discern commonalities and differences in conflicting perspectives
  • Carefully and objectively listen
  • Advocate for doing what is good for all of the members, and not just their own area of focus

I’m a member of committees and boards at work and in my community, and I try to exemplify the ideals Julie describes whenever I work with others.

Gary R. Pike
2015-2016 AIR President


 November 2015 Comments

To add a comment, Sign In
There are no comments.



 Opportunity is Knocking



Published October 13, 2015  


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. They make a difference by advancing the institutional research, assessment, planning, and related postsecondary education endeavors. Volunteers who serve on the AIR Board of Directors and the Nominations and Elections Committee are critical to the success of the Association. The Board and NEC members build leadership skills that enhance career development, as well as invaluable professional networks, bringing benefits both to the individual volunteer and to his or her institution, association, or agency.

All AIR members may be nominated for leadership positions, except graduate students and members currently serving on the AIR Board of Directors or Nominations and Elections Committee. Visit the AIR website for more information about the AIR Nominations and Elections process. The deadline to submit nominations is November 5, 2015. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Opportunity is yours for the making!

Gayle Fink

AIR 2015-2016 Immediate Past President and
Nominations and Elections Chair



 October 2015 Comments

To add a comment, Sign In
There are no comments.


Establishing Baselines to Evaluate Performance

Published September 8, 2015

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.

  • Higher education leaders view institutional research as essential.
For these Ends statements, what baselines will be established for evaluating performance of the Association? The Board of Directors and Executive Director Randy Swing are engaged in discussing this question, and are seeking to establish baselines for evaluating performance in regard to the Ends.
While the Board develops the Ends Policies, the executive director develops the Ends Monitoring Report, to provide an annual assessment of the attainment of the Ends.
Let’s examine the first bulleted item from the above Ends Policies. In considering the necessary knowledge and skills for institutional researchers, the research literature about institutional research provides considerable description of the roles, duties, and functions of institutional research.  So, the next step is to focus on the knowledge and skills that are needed to fulfill the roles and perform the duties and functions of institutional research.  This focus will be a step toward being able to establish baselines regarding methods and tools, professional and interpersonal skills, and research and scholarship.
Also, the initial paragraph of the Ends Policies indicates that AIR engagement with addressing the Ends must be performed within the resources of the Association. Therefore, some prioritization of knowledge and skills will need to be completed, so that the Association can apply resources toward the needs that are of greater priority.
The second bulleted item from the Ends Policies is regarding higher education leaders viewing institutional research as essential. In addressing this item, for example, an assessment of chief executive officers, chief academic officers, and chief financial officers of colleges and universities could be conducted to determine if these leaders indicate they have an appropriate level of information with which to make important decisions. This assessment could focus on both the importance and the usage of such information for decision making, along with the role and value of institutional researchers in decision support.
So, as you might expect, the Board of Directors and the Association executive director are working to establish baselines for evaluating performance, and we certainly invite and welcome your input and comments. Your ideas can help in guiding the Association toward a stronger future that is characterized by a more direct linkage between Association activity and the development of AIR members’ knowledge, skills, and abilities as institutional researchers.
2015-2016 AIR Vice President

 September 2015 Comments

To add a comment, Sign In
Total Comments: 2
Jennifer posted on 9/10/2015 2:47 PM
Hi Glenn, thanks for the Board Corner update. I am interested in the idea of the board setting 'baselines' and wonder how this is integrated into the monitoring report systems that provides the Board the mechanisms for holding the Executive office accountable for achieving the Ends?
Julie posted on 9/10/2015 2:58 PM
As a former board member, my understanding is that the Monitoring Reports already establish baselines and evaluate performance, and I hope that anyone who provides feedback takes a look at those before responding. The Monitoring Reports provide the evidence that the Executive Office has achieved the Ends, and the Board gets to determine whether what has been provided is sufficient evidence by any reasonable interpretation. So for example, one of the CEO interpretations of the Ends policy cited in the Board Corner is that the Executive Office will produce “at least 18 Pre/Post Forum workshops which teach IR knowledge and skills.” 18 workshops is a baseline. If the Board doesn’t think that it’s an appropriate baseline, then it would tell the Executive Director that his interpretation is not reasonable. And if it is an appropriate baseline, then whether he meets that number or not is how performance is evaluated.
What is the problem the establishment of baselines by the Board and the Executive Director is supposed to address?

Julie Carpenter-Hubin


Serving on the AIR Board of Directors  

Published August 11, 2015

Have you thought about serving on the AIR Board? The role of Board members has changed significantly over the last five years, and those of us who just rotated off the AIR Board thought we would share our reflections on Board service:

  • It allows us to be visionary. AIR operates under a governance model called Policy Governance. This model forces us to focus on the vision and future of AIR, and prevents us from getting caught up in the day-to-day operations of the organization. While that sounds easy, in practice it takes a lot of self-control given that in our “day jobs” we are enmeshed in the day-to-day operations of our offices and institutions.

  • It’s really exciting. Because of the Governance model, the Board consistently needs to ask itself what the future holds for AIR and for our members. We also need to think hard about what the role of institutional research should be, and how we can ensure that AIR is doing a good job of meeting members’ needs as articulated in our Ends statements. (There is actually an Ends policy on page 35 of our Governance Policies.) It is very exciting to spend time talking with other Board members about the future of AIR and the needs of our members.

  • It’s a different way of thinking about leadership. In the Policy Governance model, the Executive Office writes regular Monitoring Reports that allow Board members to see how well the Executive Office is managing the organization, meeting the Ends, and treating members. The Board reviews and discusses each Monitoring Report, pushing us to think about the relevance of the work for AIR members, and keeping us connected to our vision, ensuring that the Executive Office is accountable for realizing the Ends.

  • It’s great professional development. The Policy Governance model is a different leadership approach, and those new ways of thinking can be applied to work back on campus and with other boards and groups, even those that do not follow the Policy Governance model.

  • It’s a great team. In the Policy Governance model, the Board speaks as one voice. That doesn’t mean we all agree, but it does mean that Board members can’t unilaterally direct the Executive Office to do something, or speak for the Board without agreement from all Board members. This means that rich discussions have to happen at the Board meetings, so we can all communicate with members consistently, preventing confusion.
 Each of us have some moments from the past three years that really stand out:
  • Sandi Bramblett: During my time on the Board, we studied and refined the Ends, building on the foundation of those who led before us. I learned a new way of thinking through Policy Governance. Remembering our spirited discussions, my colleagues' collective wisdom continues to make its way into my other leadership roles, and for that, I am grateful!

  • Heather Kelly: I had the good fortune to serve on the AIR Board with an amazing team of IR colleagues, and worked with the talented Executive Office. There was no shortage of enlightening discussions that reinforced the importance of institutional research, as well as the Ends statement. I very much appreciate the unique opportunity to learn and practice policy governance, which has been a great addition to my professional and leadership skill toolbox!

  • Ellen Peters: My favorite moments on the Board were when we discussed the Ends statements (which you really should read if you haven’t), and gathering information from members about the future of IR. There is still work to be done in continuing to gather the voice of the members. I so enjoyed working with and learning from colleagues on the Board and members around the country, and I look forward to learning how future Boards gather and use member input.
Ellen Peters
2014-2015 AIR Board Secretary

 August 2015 Comments

To add a comment, Sign In
Total Comments: 2
Gayle posted on 8/13/2015 2:09 PM
I could not agree more with these thoughts! Ellen, Heather and Sandi - thank you for your commitment and service to AIR!!!

Remember that the call for nominations for Board of Directors and Nominations and Elections Committee will be in October! Give it some serious consideration - great opportunity to give back!
Jennifer posted on 8/13/2015 2:11 PM
Great summary, Ellen! I agree with everything you said. It is such a great experience to be able to strongly disagree about something and still have trust and confidence in the team of which you are a part. We should all have that in our lives!

“Ends” Important for AIR Success

Published July 13, 2015

Over the last week, I’ve been following two conversations on a listserv of which I am a member. The first conversation dealt with the “Administrative IT Summit” that was jointly sponsored by EDUCAUSE and NACUBO.

 The conference focused on the use of analytics and business intelligence in higher education. Mike Tamada, Director of Institutional Research at Reed College, attended the conference and was surprised that IR offices appeared to be underrepresented. It turns out that the conference organizers didn’t contact AIR, or any other IR organizations.
The fact that AIR wasn’t asked to be involved in the summit doesn’t mean the sky is falling, but it does give us an indication of how much work we have ahead of us if we are going to accomplish our “Ends”—that “higher education leaders view institutional research as essential.”
Strategies for accomplishing our Ends will be a major topic during the Board’s face-to-face meeting in August, and the September Board Corner will include a report on our discussions about the Association’s Ends.
The second discussion on the listserv grew out of the first. It focused on difficulties many IR offices face in becoming more involved in analytics and research. The problem is that many IR offices spend their most valuable resource—staff time—on reporting. Reporting isn’t a bad thing, but a focus on reporting means IR offices don’t always have the time to do analytics/research.
During the discussion, Bill Knight mentioned a 2015 AIR presentation by Dr. Hirosuke Honda, Associate Director of Assessment at the University of Maine at Augusta. Dr. Honda has developed a four-quadrant framework that can be used to examine workloads in IR offices. The quadrant provides a starting point for conversations about priorities and can be used to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of IR offices. I encourage all of you to review the presentation.
As I was preparing to write the Board Corner this month, I realized that these two conversations provide an important lesson about accomplishing AIR’s Ends. The Board of Directors and the Executive Office have important roles in accomplishing the Ends of the Association. However, AIR members and institutional researchers have an equally important role to play.
By encouraging conversations within IR offices, and having conversations with senior campus leaders about the contributions that institutional researchers can make to campus research and analytics, AIR members can help college and university leaders better understand why institutional research is essential.

Gary R. Pike
2015-2016 AIR President


 July 2015 Comments

To add a comment, Sign In
Total Comments: 7
Jennifer posted on 7/16/2015 2:10 PM
Thanks, Gary you raise some very important issues. These are a real challenge for many of us individually on our campuses and for us as a profession. Thanks to you and Bill for the great citation. So tough to cover everything at the forum - thank goodness for the capability to check out the presentations later.jb
Vennessa posted on 7/16/2015 2:10 PM
These are great points, Gary, and very timely to some conversations I've been having on my campus. I'm a one-person shop, so time is definitely at a premium. I've been working to streamline and automate as much of the reporting as I can in the past year and a half that I've been here because I recognize that I cannot do the kinds of research/analytics that I want to (and that are necessary!) when I'm spending so much time attending to reporting needs/requests.Thank you, too, for the link to Dr. Honda's work; I think this will be very useful for visualizing how my time is currently allocated.
Jan posted on 7/16/2015 9:35 PM
Gary, it's good to see these serious topics addressed by AIR leadership; IR needs to advance in so many ways, forge new partnerships within and outside our institutions in order to contribute meaningfully to them. If we are relegated (or we put ourselves into that position) to a limited role of only doing after-the-fact reporting, our institutions can't get full value from their most valuable asset: data.
Honda posted on 7/17/2015 10:26 AM
Gary, thank you for mentioning my work.
Colleagues, if you are interested in learning more about the framework, I am more than happy to walk you through the steps. Please do not hesitate to contact me (my email is available at the end of my presentation slides).
Mike posted on 7/19/2015 4:12 AM
Likewise, thanks for the shout out Gary and connecting these conversations and presentations. Plenty of food for thought here.

--Mike Tamada
Bob posted on 7/19/2015 6:53 PM
I have argued and will continue to do so that IR should not be involved in administrative IT. Taking on operational-like duties is not and should not be a primary function of IR. The primary function should be decision-support for senior officers. Way too many IR offices have been trapped by (or voluntarily accepted) operational duties, and for an IR professional those are career dead-ends. If we want college leaders to understand why IR is essential, then we should focus on helping IR professionals do the one task IR can do the best. That is decision support.
Robert Daly, Assistant Vice Chancellor (Emeritus)
University of California, Riverside
Riverside, CA 92521
Dennis posted on 7/19/2015 7:55 PM
I agree entirely with Bob Daly. IR's primarily responsibility should be supporting the planning, analysis, and assessment activities of the organization and less on reporting and data management / data warehouses. Focusing on the latter functions only serve to reinforce the perception that IR are "techies" / "data providers" and not decision support providers. Decision support providers are asked conduct the primary analyses for senior officers. IR should be lead on providing this analysis and not be relegated to just primarily providing data to others and completing the standard reports. Dennis Hengstler


It Takes an Association…

Published June 11, 2015

During the Board of Directors meeting at the Forum on May 25, we made several important changes to the policy on Board Committee Structure—Governance Process (GP) X. I want to take this opportunity to review the changes with those reading this column and explain the rationale behind the changes.

The changes are specific to the Nominations and Elections Committee (NEC) and grew out of a meeting Gayle Fink and I had with past presidents who chaired the NEC (Jim Trainer, Jennifer Brown, Julie Carpenter-Hubin, and Sandi Bramblett). The original governance policy required that the NEC submit to the Board of Directors a slate of candidates that was properly screened. The Board thought it was important to provide some guidance as to what properly screened should mean. To that end, we identified the following characteristics of a candidate for the Board:

  • Current members of AIR with at least three years’ prior membership in the association. We believe it is essential that Board members have some knowledge of and experience with AIR. At the same time, we do not believe that a candidate would need to be a member of AIR for 10 or 20 years. We selected three years to emphasize that newer members can make a contribution to AIR and the Board of Directors.

  • Having demonstrated organizational governance experience in employment, professional associations, or community associations. It is absolutely essential that members of the Board of Directors have experience with governance. At the same time, we recognize that governance experience can be obtained in a variety of ways—at work, with state and regional associations, and with community or neighborhood associations.

  • Having experience with fiduciary oversight. Members of the AIR Board of Directors have responsibility for overseeing the finances of the Association. This is not just the responsibility of the Board Treasurer or members of the Audit Committee. It is the responsibility of every member. Having experience overseeing finances is an essential skill for a Board member.

  • Being an advocate on behalf of all Association members. In Governance, the Board of Directors is the voice of the members. Personally, I believe the Board should be the voice for the members by identifying trends in higher education that can influence institutional research and helping to provide institutional researchers with the knowledge and abilities to cope with those trends.

This last point brings me to something I said at the close of the Forum. It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes an entire association to support a president. We have a new Ends policy for the Association that concludes: “Higher education leaders [will] view institutional research as essential.” I’m looking forward to working with all of you to make this End a reality—not just for people who work in IR offices, but for everyone who conducts research to support decision-making in our colleges and universities.

Gary R. Pike
2015-2016 AIR President


 June 2015 Comments

To add a comment, Sign In
There are no comments.


Collaborative Leading and Moving On

Published May 8, 2015

MayBOD.jpgWhere does the time go?  Weren’t we just together in Orlando talking about new or different approaches to institutional research and growing our professional skills and network?  Orlando was a turning point for me. The transition from Board Vice President to President pushed me to examine the very nature of leadership and how effective leaders lead. Collaborative leadership is the way to go. A belief that power is greatest in the collective group, the value of openly sharing knowledge and the advantages of brainstorming are just three attributes of collaborative leadership.


It’s a good thing that collaborative leadership aligns with AIR Governance Policies. The Board cultivates a sense of group responsibility for monitoring the health of the Association, ensuring accountability, and setting the stage for the future. This year was extremely rewarding because of my Board colleagues – Sandi Bramblett, Gary Pike, Ellen Peters, Heather Kelly, Debbie Dailey, Martha Gray, Michelle Hall, Dawn Kenney, Mauricio Saavedra, Alice Simpkins, and Meihua Zhai. Each of them has contributed to the success of the Board and I owe them all big time!

I hope this past year has been satisfying and that you feel the Board has set the stage for the 2015-16 Board, to be led by Gary Pike.

I also owe a debt of gratitude to Randy Swing and the staff of AIR. The Executive Office works tirelessly on behalf of AIR and its members. Randy - I appreciate the challenges in adjusting to different Board leadership styles each year and am truly grateful for all your support and advice this past year. 

The bottom line is that the Association is here for you! AIR exists so that higher education institutions effectively use institutional research data, information, and analysis for decision support in a rapidly changing environment… (AIR Governance Policies). We want to ensure that you have what you need to practice institutional research and to ensure that the profession remains relevant and essential.

The Board looks forward to seeing you in Denver at the end of the month. The Forum is a great opportunity to learn, connect, and share. 

Safe travels,

Gayle Fink
2014-2015 AIR President


 May 2015 Comments

To add a comment, Sign In
Total Comments: 1
Jennifer posted on 5/14/2015 11:43 AM
One of the best uses of the 'Keep Calm...' meme I have seen! And I could not agree more with your sentiments. Thank you, Gayle, for all the work you have done this year in support of the Association. Great job!
Jennifer B.


Planning for AIR's Future

Published April 7, 2015


On March 20-21, the AIR Board met to review AIR operations and plan for the future. I want to take this opportunity to update you on three outcomes from that meeting. As I mentioned in an earlier Board Corner, the Board has been reviewing the relationship between AIR and Research in Higher Education (RIHE). During the Board meeting we had a very productive telephone conversation with Rob Toutkoushian, former AIR President and editor of RIHE. Based on our conversation with Rob, the Board directed Randy Swing, AIR’s Chief Executive Officer, to draft a new contract between AIR and Springer, the publisher of RIHE. Randy will present the contract to the Board for approval and then enter into negotiations with Springer. The Board is excited to continue its long-standing relationship with RIHE and Springer.

Membership and finances were a second topic discussed during the Board meeting. Randy presented the Board with important historical data on AIR membership, and he discussed possible directions for the future. The Board directed Randy to research and develop a detailed proposal for restructuring and redefining the organizational membership classification, with a focus on institutions and multi-person memberships.

Heather Kelly, the Board Treasurer, provided an update on the audit committee and the audit process. The findings of the audit will be presented to the Board when they are finalized.

Financial planning was a major topic of discussion during the Board meeting. The Executive Office has been busy aligning AIR’s resources with the new “Ends” statement, and Randy presented information showing the process used to align resources with the Association’s “Ends.”

Finally, Sandi Bramblett reported the results of the 2014-2015 elections, and the Board discussed ways in which the nominations and elections process could be improved. A working group, consisting of Gayle Fink and myself, along with past Nominations and Elections Committee Chairs under the Policy Governance model: Sandi Bramblett, Jennifer Brown, Julie Carpenter-Hublin, and Jim Trainer, has been formed to review the nominations and elections process and make recommendations to the Board. The working group will be meeting on May 1 to review data and make recommendations to the Board. Our goal is to increase member engagement in AIR.

Gary R. Pike
2014-2015 AIR Vice President


 April 2015 Comments

To add a comment, Sign In
Total Comments: 1
Gerry posted on 4/9/2015 3:44 PM
Gary and the Board
I am delighted that the Association is intent on continuing the relationship with RIHE as this has become one of the leading scholarly publications on the management of higher education. I hope this also represents a serious consideration of sustaining the development of the body of knowledge of the profession and the professional engagement of the members in activities that build both that knowledge and also grow their professional skills.

Spring Training!

Published March 11, 2015

It is that time of year when thoughts turn toward all things warm, including baseball. Your AIR Board is going to warmer climates (Texas) later in March for its first face-to-face meeting of 2015. Even though we will not be teaming up against other organizations, the Board will be working through an agenda aimed at looking forward.

The Board will focus on reviewing and discussing fiscal planning within the context of Governance Policy – Executive Limitation V Financial Planning. In this Monitoring Report, the Board will evaluate the relationship between budget planning and the established AIR Ends. Other aspects of finance will permeate discussions such as different membership models, the Association audit, and future member needs.

The Board will also model good assessment practices by self-evaluating its effectiveness to date and by examining its practices to determine if the Board is positioned to adequately govern the Association. We will also spend time refining the new Board member Orientation Program.

While these items may not elicit the same thrill of a home run on opening day, they are all vital for the Board to meet its responsibilities as set out in the Association’s constitution.

Speaking of the newest Board members, please be sure to visit the elections section of the AIR website to see your newly elected representatives on the Board. All of our members who ran for office deserve our gratitude for their willingness to step up to the plate. We’re very proud of all of them!

Hope to see and chat with many of you in Denver! Please mark your calendar for Wednesday afternoon during the annual Forum for the Business Meeting. This meeting provides a chance to learn more about the Board and to welcome our newest Board members who take office immediately after the meeting.

Gayle Fink
2014-2015 AIR President


 March 2015 Comments

To add a comment, Sign In
There are no comments.


 Your Vote - Your Voice!

Published February 12, 2015

vote.jpgFor those members who have already voted – Way to Go! For those who have not, there is still time to cast your vote for new 2015-2016 AIR Board and Nominations and Elections Committee members. The election system closes at 11:59 p.m. (EST) on March 2, 2015. To review the slate of candidates, including profiles, and to cast your vote, sign in to the Elections site with your AIR username (your email address) and password.  

While reviewing the candidate profiles, keep in mind that the Board of Directors performs many important functions, including monitoring Association performance of Board-established values and expectations in its governance policies. On an established schedule, the Executive Director shares operational definitions of Board policies and provides interpretation, rationale, and data to support achievement of the interpretation. The Board then critically assesses the report to ensure performance. The assessment is guided by three questions – is the interpretation of policy reasonable, does the measurement provide adequate evidence of compliance with the interpretation, and does the data actually show that the policy is being met. Any time a report is found to not address these three questions, the Board sets a timeframe for correction. 

Monitoring is not an easy task for the Board, and that is a good thing! The policies are not written in an IR dialect – Board members are asked to move out of their comfort zone to understand policies that delegate a range of authority and control to the Executive Director. The Board then uses a reasonable-person test to evaluate reports to ensure accountability. If necessary, the Board then requires additional action when there are questions of compliance.

Serving on the Board of Directors stretches one’s abilities and expands leadership skills. Thank you to those who have put their hat in the ring and answered the call to service! 


2014-2015 AIR President 



 February 2015 Comments

To add a comment, Sign In
There are no comments.




Published January 2015 

Your Vote Matters in Electing 2015 Leadership

Happy New Year, AIR friends! During the first few weeks of the New Year, it’s always exciting to see and hear how people are embracing new opportunities and looking for new challenges. I encouraged the AIR membership in January 2014 to resolve to learn something exciting, starting with AIR.
Many of you took the time to tell me that you renewed your interest in the publications website (as I did) or decided to take the plunge with the Data and Decisions Academy. Others attended the Forum in Orlando where we were encouraged to establish connections with those around us in the field of institutional research.
Some awesome stories emerged about commonalities, not just through institutional research, but also outside of the profession. The possibilities are truly endless!
Speaking of new opportunities, we will see this notion come to life with the next cycle of AIR’s elections later this month. I have the distinct honor of chairing the Nominations and Elections Committee, which consists of six dedicated AIR members: Michelle Appel, Timothy Chow, Jan Lyddon, Soon Merz, Kathy Schmidtke Felts, and Rick Voorhees. The NEC receives outstanding support from Lisa Gwaltney in the AIR Executive Office.
Our work began at the 2014 Forum and culminated in the slate of 14 nominees you will see when our elections take place. In between, we’ve had biweekly discussions on recruiting, reviewed candidate questionnaires, and conducted interviews. Our conversations have been lively, thought-provoking, and focused on the future of AIR, which I find so gratifying.
Here’s something you may not know: We typically have about a 21%-22% response rate for our elections. This means that out of 4,000 members, between 850 and 900 (excluding graduate student members) cast their vote. It seems to be a good time to remind ourselves that AIR is our organization and voting is a very easy way to make sure our voices are heard. With that in mind, please check your inbox on January 27 for the link to your ballot and take the time to choose the leadership for your professional association. We need you! I wish you peace, happiness, and wisdom in 2015. Rock on!

Sandi Bramblett
AIR 2014-2015 Immediate Past President and
Nominations and Elections Committee Chair



Published November 10, 2014

Voice of the Members: You Were Heard

During the summer, members were asked for comments regarding proposed changes to the AIR Bylaws. While most comments supported the suggested editorial change (Section 4), many members raised concerns about removing the specific membership categories from the Bylaws (Section 5). These concerns included a lack of consistency and stability in categories from year to year as well as transparency. Others mentioned the perception of the diminished roles of membership in the Association. Many pointed out that the Board already has the flexibility to add membership categories.
Your voice was heard! The Board is engaging in additional debate on the merits of proposed changes and taking your thoughts into consideration. Thank you for taking the time to provide meaningful and actionable comments. According to AIR Governance Policies, the Board creates the link between the membership and Association operations. Please do not wait for a mid-term election to let us know how we are doing!
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving,
2014-2015 AIR President



Word cloud comments from Proposal to Change Bylaws Section 5 - Membership Categories



Published October 14, 2014

Just Say Yes!

It all began with a phone call from Michelle Hall. I had received the nomination letter stating that someone thought enough of my background to nominate me for a position on the AIR Board. I politely declined because really, I had a new position at Georgia Tech, an active family, and a hundred other reasons why I couldn’t say yes at that point in time.  

Then I thought about it again and came to the conclusion that if not now, then when? Being called to serve your profession is an honor, and the time is now! Lending your expertise to AIR as either a member of the Board of Directors or the Nominations and Elections Committee is a great way to contribute to the field of institutional research as well as to your professional Association.  

Over the past several years, it has been a great privilege for me to work with a wonderful group of colleagues to envision the future of higher education and how best the Association can support the success of IR professionals everywhere. As an international organization, AIR has enabled me to expand my professional network beyond any boundaries, and I fully endorse the experience as one of the most rewarding in my life.  

I wholeheartedly encourage you to nominate 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) 

All AIR members may be nominated for leadership positions, except graduate students and members currently serving on the AIR Board of Directors or Nominations and Elections Committee. 

The Nominations and Elections Committee will develop a slate of candidates from the nominations submitted, which will be presented to members in the general election in January 2015. 

Visit the AIR website for more information about the AIR Nominations and Elections process as well as the talents and attributes we are seeking in potential nominees. The deadline to submit nominations is November 5, 2014, 11:59 EST.

Sandi Bramblett
AIR 2014-2015 Immediate Past President and
Nominations and Elections Chair



Published September 14, 2014

Direction of the Association 

During the August AIR Board of Directors meeting, we unanimously approved a new Ends Policy statement for the Association: 


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.

  • Higher education leaders view institutional research as essential.

The final Ends statement is slightly different than earlier versions the AIR Board shared with members. The key difference is that we included the words “institutional research” in the broad statement that forms the base of the pyramid representing the difference AIR intends to make. The changes in the Ends statement are more than “wordsmithing.” The changes are intended to broaden the focus of the Association. We chose to use a small “i” and a small “r,” rather than capital letters to emphasize that we are interested in everyone who performs research at colleges and universities, not just staff in IR offices. Our End is to have higher education institutions effectively use the research conducted by admissions, financial aid, student affairs, and assessment offices, as well as the IR office.

As the Association moves forward, the executive office and the AIR Board will interpret and assess our progress in meeting our Ends. I believe AIR members have an important role to play as well. AIR members are on the front line in efforts to promote effective research throughout your institutions. Reach out to your colleagues in other areas of your institutions, share your expertise with them, and also learn from them. By working together, we can achieve the End of colleges and universities effectively using institutional research for decision support, improvement, and accountability.

Gary R. Pike
2014-2015 AIR Vice President



Published August 12, 2014

One Door Closes, Another Opens

Earlier this summer, Dr. Hansel Burley announced his resignation from the AIR Board of Directors. In his two years of service on the Board, Hansel has encouraged deep thought and presented a variety of options to issues facing the Board. His thoughtful philosophy on governance, his sense of humor, and his tremendous passion for research and scholarship are traits that his fellow Board members have come to appreciate.  

Prior to the AIR Board, Hansel served the profession as past president of the Traditionally Black College and University (TBCU) special interest group, a presenter at multiple AIR Forums, a member of the AIR Professional Development Services Committee, and an active member of TAIR and SAIR. Hansel is a Professor of Educational Psychology at Texas Tech University (TTU), and in 2012 was the editor for Cases on Institutional Research Systems.

Please join me in thanking Hansel for his commitment to the institutional research profession, AIR, and, especially, the Board. Hansel, you will be missed, but I know you are only a phone call or email away.

As one door closes, another one opens – or in this case, re-opens. I am pleased to announce that Alice Simpkins will be completing Hansel’s term on the Board. Alice served on the Board from 2012 to 2014 and has recently retired from Paine College. The Board appreciates her taking time out of retirement to see us through the next 10 months. Alice’s knowledge and experience are critical to the Board’s progress and we look forward to having her “back on board.”

Over the past two months, the Board encouraged your feedback on the new Ends statement. Thank you for your insights. The Board will be considering your thoughts and suggestions when we meet later this month. We will also begin brainstorming about the future of institutional research and how it will impact AIR. Keep an eye on the Board Corner for updates, and enjoy the rest of your summer!

Gayle Fink
2014-2015 AIR President


Published July 15, 2014

Lazy Days of Summer? Now That’s Just Crazy!


bc_eair July 2014.PNGI recently had lunch with a friend in the accounting profession. She was lamenting the crazy hours and endless days associated with closing out the fiscal year. 

This is always a hectic time for anyone in the finance realm of higher education, and most look forward to June 35 (as they call it), when the previous fiscal year is put to rest and the new fiscal year begins. I could only smile as the memories of a slower time in the summer came flooding back and I realized that I have no idea what downtime is anymore. Sure, there is the requisite vacation, but re-entry after a blissful week at the beach will usually find us furiously making up the 40 hours we missed. There is no such thing as a slow time in academia anymore, and I’m positive you can relate.  

Your AIR Board is busy this summer, too. We met in person at the Forum and have had two teleconferences since then to set the agenda for the coming year. The Board will gather next month in Indianapolis to hammer out the details.  

With a focus on the Ends and ensuring that the Board governs with excellence, we are looking forward to discussions about the future of institutional research and the profession. The impact of analytics, skills needed for the IR professional, and changes in the culture of IR are on docket, as well as the processes for AIR awards and publications.

In the fall, we will initiate a vote on changes to AIR’s bylaws that came about as a result of the great work of the Board’s Policy Review Working Group. These changes will better align the bylaws with our Governance Policies. Watch this space (and your inbox) in the coming months for more information.

If you can’t catch the “lazy days of summer” vibe, know that you are not alone, but also know that there’s a sunbeam outside of your office that might just be a nearly suitable substitute. Go enjoy it! 

By the way... If you haven't done so yet, check out this link and take a short survey regarding AIR’s Ends statement. Your input is very important to us.

Sandi Bramblett
AIR 2014-2015 Immediate Past President


Published June 16, 2014  

2014-2015 Board Ready to Go!

BOD062014.pngI’d like to begin my first Board Corner with a huge shout out to the AIR Executive Office staff, exhibitors and sponsors, presenters, and the many volunteers who made the 2014 Forum such an incredible success. This year’s Forum provided IR professionals with a variety of professional development opportunities and provided ample venues to share, network, learn, inspire, and achieve. My thanks to all of you, the over 2,000 members who made the journey to support AIR.

The 2014-2015 Board begins its year by setting new goals (or “Ends”) for our Association. Once these goals are set, the AIR Executive Office is responsible for determining how to make these goals actionable. It is then the responsibility of the Board of Directors to monitor that the goals are being achieved through a series of reports throughout the year.

Below is the draft goal statement developed from historical member feedback. Please review it and then click on the Provide Feedback link to let us know if we are reflecting your vision of AIR and the value of AIR to institutional research and the higher education community.

AIR exists so that higher education institutions effectively use 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.
  • Higher education leaders view institutional research as essential.

Provide Feedback

On behalf of the Board, I look forward to an active and productive year. Feel free to contact me or any Board member with your thoughts on AIR.

Happy summer, eAIR readers!  

Gayle Fink
2014-2015 AIR President



Published May 13, 2014

 One Great Adventure

BOD052014.jpgHave you planned your trip to the Forum in Orlando yet? The Forum is just over two weeks away. This is an exciting time for the members of AIR. Whether this is your first Forum or your 40th, there’s something very special about gathering a group of 2,000 people together who understand what you do and want to help you get better at doing it. We don’t always see the makings of the Forum, but trust me, there is a lot of work being done by the Executive Office to make it a memorable and meaningful experience for all of us. CEO Randy Swing and his staff are the epitome of competence, efficiency, and professionalism. If you see any of them while you’re at the Forum, give them a big “Thank You!”

Speaking of “Thank You,” this is my last Board Corner as Board president. It seems like just yesterday we were in Long Beach and I was taking up the gavel for the first time with AIR. Now, I sit here and think how quickly time flies. This year would not have been the adventure it was without my colleagues on the AIR Board of Directors. I owe a debt of gratitude (that I will spend a lifetime paying) to Julie Carpenter-Hubin, Gayle Fink, Hansel Burley, Marne Einarson, Martha Gray, Heather Kelly, Dawn Kenney, Ellen Peters, Mauricio Saavedra, Alice Simpkins, and Elizabeth Stanley. This group works tirelessly on behalf of AIR and its members, and we are fortunate that they’ve answered the call to lead. Gayle Fink will pick up the torch next and lead us to even greater heights.

Finally, as you think about the future of institutional research as a profession, please know that the Association for Institutional Research is here for you. AIR exists so that higher education effectively uses data, information, and analysis for decision support in a rapidly changing environment. We want to ensure that you have what you need to practice institutional research and to ensure that the profession remains relevant and essential. What better place to find that than your Association for Institutional Research. Thank you for allowing me to serve you!

Sandi Bramblett
AIR 2013-2014 President


Published April 10, 2014         

Let's Do This!

BODApr2014.pngHappy spring from the AIR Board! I’ve been inspired by Home Depot’s latest round of commercials that have everything to do with turning a drab backyard into a beautiful spring garden. When I hear the voice say, “Let’s do this,” I’m ready to get to work.

In last month’s Board Corner, I wrote about the Board’s meeting in Atlanta. I’m happy to report that the Board, as usual, had the “Let’s do this” approach. You will soon be seeing the results of our discussion around the Ends. First of all though, I need to give a shout-out! In addition to my husband and my editor, four other people read last month’s Board corner. Bill, Jennifer, Gerry, and Kimberly….thank you so much for your thoughtful comments! We value your feedback and I hope that you’ll be pleased with the final result of the Board’s Ends discussion.

Secondly, our work on the Ends stretched out over two days in which the conversations were inquisitive, lively, and enlightening. At the conclusion of the two-day marathon, we began crafting a statement on the Ends that acknowledges AIR’s role in decision support and our desire to ensure that you have the knowledge and skills needed to navigate that role on your campus and beyond. We understand that practitioners require knowledge about methods and tools as well as professional and interpersonal skills. The duties and functions of institutional research include effectiveness, accountability, and research and scholarship. Leaders in higher education, whether they are presidents, provosts, agency heads, or foundation boards, should view institutional research as essential - and AIR will play a role in ensuring that we can do this.  

Finally, I’ve had the great fortune to work with, and for, some really wonderful people over my career. One of them was my provost here at Georgia Tech who used to routinely advise our team that we shouldn’t be afraid to take risks because there are very few things that we do that can’t be undone. That advice has worked very well for us over the years, and, in this case, I think it’s appropriate to explain a Board action last month that changes the way AIR handles the Best Paper Award.

In an effort to encourage more people to submit and present their scholarly work at AIR’s annual Forum, the Board voted to allow all papers accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal to be named a 2014 Charles F. Elton Best Paper. Management of the award was delegated to the AIR Executive Office, which will appoint an award committee comprised of AIR members who have final authority over the award. Our goal is to honor our members’ publishable papers and to highlight that the scholarship of institutional research is featured in a wide range of peer-reviewed journals from student affairs to engineering education to statistics.

This change may not have the desired effect, so please know that we can always go back and look at this through a different lens. However, if we’re right, we should see more people stepping up to the plate saying, “I’m ready for my turn!” As the new generation of practitioners comes along, we hope this will encourage them to further the profession in a way that honors the faculty and veteran members who built this foundation. It’s a risk, yes, but we think the reward will be worth it.

Sandi Bramblett
AIR 2013-2014 President


Published March 12, 2014

Time for a Check-Up

Greetings from the AIR Board! As I write this Board Corner, your AIR Board of Directors is preparing to meet in Atlanta where I’m hoping that my colleagues will be treated to the beauty of an early spring. So, let’s review. AIR exists to provide current and relevant resources for institutional research, sufficient to justify the expenditure of available revenues.

In order of priority:

  1. AIR members have the knowledge and skills necessary to perform the duties and functions of institutional research.

  2. AIR members have tools that simplify and streamline IR reporting and/or office management processes.

  3. AIR members have knowledge about the profession of institutional research.

  4. Non-AIR members have the knowledge and skills necessary to produce high quality higher education data and to use such data appropriately and effectively. Resources for the accomplishment of Ends for non-members will not be used to the detriment of meeting the Ends for AIR members.

The statement above represents the Ends as stated in our Governance Policies. During this Board meeting, we’ll spend a good bit of our time studying the Ends of the Association and ensuring that we are getting this right. We also rely on you, our members, to provide us with feedback. We call this gathering the voice of the members. Many of our members take full advantage of this by letting Board members know individually when things are going well and when things aren’t. Spending much time on the Ends is no small feat, but we want to set things up solidly for our newest Board members who take office after the Business Meeting on Wednesday afternoon at the annual Forum in Orlando.

Speaking of the newest Board members, please make sure that you are aware of the outcomes of the election. Visit the elections section of the AIR website to see your new representatives on the Board. All of our members who ran for office deserve our gratitude for their willingness to step up to the plate. We’re very proud of all of them!

Sandi Bramblett
AIR 2013-2014 President


Published February 12, 2014

Members Rock the Vote

If you’re a fan of the game show “Jeopardy,” you are no doubt familiar with the common category “Before and After.” Answers such as “Nursery rhyme waterspout crawler who’s a Marvel crime fighter” will prompt questions like “Who is Spiderman?” Fair warning: The title of this month’s Board Corner is a little bit like that Jeopardy category. 

Let’s start with the answer: “Members of the Association for Institutional Research who were selected for the Postsecondary Institution Rating System (PIRS) Symposium panel slate of candidates.”  Naturally, the question is “What is ‘you rock the vote’?” 

Starting with the words “You rock,” I never cease to be amazed at the accomplishments of our colleagues. This was no more evident than in Washington, D.C., on February 6 when the following AIR members were selected to present at the PIRS technical symposium:  Braden Hosch, State University of New York at Stony Brook; Former AIR Board member Christine Keller, Association of Public and Land-grant Universities; Don Hossler, Indiana University;  Hans L’Orange, State Higher Education Executive Officers Association; John Pryor, Gallup; Patrick Perry, California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office; Robert Kelchen, Seton Hall University; Robert Morse, U.S. News & World Report; Russell Poulin, Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education’s Cooperative for Educational Technologies; and Tod Massa, State Council of Higher Education for Virginia. 

Of the 19 people selected for presentations, 10 are (or are about to become) AIR members. What a great testimony to the qualifications of our members! Their expertise shows that AIR members are (and will always be) in great demand. Well done! 

Now for the last three words of the answer, “rock the vote.” As AIR elections are currently underway, we can now see the results of the work of Immediate Past President Julie Carpenter-Hubin and the Nominations and Elections Committee (NEC). They have developed a fine slate of candidates for next year’s Board of Directors and the Nominations and Elections Committee.  To those who are running for office, thank you! It’s the willingness to serve your profession that makes your colleagues proud. If you haven’t cast your vote yet, please do so by March 3. Your vote is your voice. You rock the vote!

Sandi Bramblett
AIR 2013-2014 President

Published January 14, 2014

I Resolve to… Learn Something Exciting


"Never be tired of learning or teaching others."

Happy New Year, AIR friends! I hope that 2014 brings you peace, happiness, and wisdom to embrace opportunities and face the challenges you will encounter this year. 

I find the idea of New Year’s resolutions to be fascinating. One of my friends says that she doesn’t do resolutions, but she does set goals. (To which I usually reply, “Tomato, tomahto.”) According to a list on the “Statistic Brain” website, losing weight is the No. 1 resolution that people make in the New Year. The list also has the other usual suspects (get organized, stop smoking, etc.), but the one I thought held the most promise was: “learn something exciting.” So let’s expand this to “learn something exciting about institutional research and AIR.” After all, according to our Ends policy, “AIR exists to provide current and relevant resources for institutional research….”  

One can spend a lot of time on the AIR website, but in my case, it’s usually only in one area. Imagine my surprise when I took a deeper look into the “Education and Events” section and found that opportunities abound for us to learn more about our profession. There are offerings for Online Education, Face-to-Face Education, Publications, the Annual Conference, and IPEDS Training. There is also a handy calendar of events for our affiliated organizations and other events of interest. 

I’ve decided to take some time each month and delve further into the Publications section. How about you? How can we ensure that you have the knowledge and skills necessary to perform institutional research? Your Board of Directors would love to hear more about your ideas for how we can best educate our members. Take some time and let us know! 

Since I mentioned events of interest, please know that Immediate Past President Julie Carpenter-Hubin and the Nominations and Elections Committee (NEC) are hard at work developing a slate of nominees for our upcoming election. This is not an easy job and we are grateful for Julie’s leadership as well as the work of the entire NEC including Rachel Boon, Timothy Chow, Fred Lillibridge, Jan Lyddon, Soon Merz, and Allison Walters. They are supported by Lisa Gwaltney in AIR’s Executive Office.  

You will see the results of their great efforts later this month when elections are open and you can cast your vote for our organization’s leadership. Get ready to Rock the Vote! 


AIR 2013-2014 President


Published December 11, 2013

An Attitude of Gratitude….the Big Thank You

My family and I participated in a recent drive, sponsored by a local radio station, called “The Big Thank You.” Our goal was to provide handwritten letters to every man and woman in military service overseas on Thanksgiving. It was an easy thing to do and hopefully brought a little bit of joy to our service personnel who are away from families and friends for the holidays.   As we move into the holiday season, it’s hard not to get caught up in practicing gratitude. I am grateful for the group of volunteers called the AIR Board of Directors. These 12 people define professionalism and have a passion for our Association. You may not realize how dedicated these folks are and what they are doing behind the scenes to ensure that your Association is moving forward under Policy Governance. Currently, there are three groups studying various aspects of Board operations. They include: 

wordcloud.jpgData Analysis Working Group (DAWG):
Led by Julie Carpenter-Hubin, the DAWG includes Marnie Einarson, Hansel Burley, Heather Kelly, Dawn Kenney, and myself. This group is studying data about institutional research to determine trends in higher education and to ensure that AIR’s Ends are aligned with addressing the future needs of practitioners in institutional research. The group has studied attendance at Forum sessions and pre-Forum Workshops, AIR Institutes, job titles, the Knowledge Matrix, and a host of other data to see what our members value. Jason Sullivan at The Ohio State University did a semantic analysis that produced this word cloud (to the left) to support our efforts. The group continues to work “DAWGedly” on your behalf.   

Policy Review Working Group: Elizabeth Stanley is facilitating this group that also includes and Gayle Fink, Martha Gray, Ellen Peters, Mauricio Saavedra, and Alice Simpkins. They are taking a deep dive into the documents that govern AIR, and their efforts will ensure that our Governance Policies are in alignment with our Constitution and Bylaws. The importance of their work cannot be overstated in that we cannot expect Policy Governance to work well if it is contrary to the very core of our tenets. This requires a keen eye and an appreciation for the subtleties of governance language.  

Ends Working Group: Gayle Fink is leading this group that includes Hansel Burley, Ellen Peters, and Dawn Kenney. The challenge before the Board as a whole is to consider whether to broaden or tighten the organizational outcomes/mission. The Ends Working Group will help the Board propose a framework (series of leading questions) for a face-to-face discussion on this challenge. In addition, the group will propose a similar framework for an Ends Advisory Committee whose membership would include current Board members, AIR members, and individuals who are external to the organization but who have a vested interest in our work.  

On top of all of this, they have day jobs, too! The author Elizabeth Berg said, “There is incredible value in being of service to others.” Your AIR Board exemplifies this, expecting nothing in return but an organization that will be better off for their good work. Again, I am grateful for each of them and their service.  

Sandi Bramblett

AIR 2013-2014 President  


Published November 12, 2013

Opportunity Knocks…What’s Your Answer? Just Say “Yes” 

My 8-year old son has caught the “Knock-Knock” joke bug, which means that life in the Bramblett household has become one big question, followed by a series of more questions. Our exchanges go something like this: 


He then collapses with giggles because I have once again been caught “falling for it.” This has been quite entertaining and has brought back some great memories. How often do we, as institutional researchers, answer a question with another question?

One of the things that binds higher education professionals together is curiosity. As practitioners, we have access to a lot of data and yet we don’t always put that data to work for us. That natural desire to answer questions is part of the fabric that makes IR appealing to so many people. 

We should take that curiosity a step further. Rather than just asking and answering questions, we should use the data to tell a story, maybe even before the questions are asked. Rather than just putting a nice spreadsheet together, perhaps we could explore the possibilities of what the data are telling us. This may constitute a different way of doing business on your campus, but why not? 

One of the first executives I worked for when I was new to IR encouraged me to look at problems and find solutions by asking more questions. It was OK to make a mistake as long as it was understood that a) I would fix it, and b) I promised that the same mistake wouldn’t be repeated. 

This was the launching point to craft our institution’s story. It wasn’t always easy and it wasn’t always pretty, but this simple act of turning data into information was powerful and enabled decision-support to evolve. What does this look like in your world? Opportunity knocks! 

Speaking of opportunity knocking, our wonderful AIR volunteers deserve a shout-out for just saying “yes.” With more than 500 proposals for concurrent sessions, panels, posters, and discussion groups for the 2014 Forum, a lot of folks said “yes,” and we thank you. 

Additionally, nearly 400 volunteers said “yes” to the opportunity to review and rate those proposals. The Forum is definitely shaping up nicely. Nominations for AIR’s leadership positions were made and will, no doubt, yield dozens of people who are willing to step up to the plate to lead this organization. Again, many thanks.

There are many volunteers who followed Past President Julie Carpenter-Hubin’s advice to “Just say yes” and we, as AIR’s Board of Directors, are grateful. 


2013-2014 AIR President



Published October 8, 2013

Prepositions, Evaluations, and the Joy of Yes

Have you ever really thought about the difference between the words “for” and “of?” They’re both prepositions and they both originated before 900 A.D. Recent discussions with a colleague caused me to pull out a dictionary (yes, the old-fashioned Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary) and look up the two words. The word “of” is used as a “function word to indicate cause, motive, or reason.” The word “for” is also a “function word,” but in this case, it is used “to indicate purpose.” 

When I first joined AIR in 1994, I referred to it as the “Association of Institutional Research” until I was (gently) corrected at the Foundations Institute. The faculty during that Institute at Northern Kentucky University made sure the participants knew not only that we are the “Association for Institutional Research,” but also that institutional research is indeed a profession. 

I often reflect on that conversation (and the many that followed) with Rich Howard, Gerry McLaughlin, Michael Middaugh, and Karen Webber, especially now that the Board is looking at strategic directions for AIR and for the profession. The Board doesn’t have all the answers, and that is probably a good thing. We can turn to you, the members, to bring your voice to the table. 

What should the Association for Institutional Research focus on? IPEDS training? Big Data? Scholarly publications? Preparing the next group of IR leaders, and for what? Let us know your thoughts on what the goals for AIR should be for the next three to five years. 

In case you missed it, the AIR Executive Office released the results of the 2013 Forum evaluation. For those of us who like this sort of thing, 56.2% of the Forum participants responded to the survey with a whopping 97% reporting they were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their Forum experience! Wouldn’t we love that type of high satisfaction rating in our own worlds?

Other areas that were evaluated include contributions to professional knowledge/skill, accommodations, value, and concurrent session quality. For additional information, check out the website.

It would appear that the professional development opportunities at the annual Forum continue to be the driving force behind our membership’s needs. The other driving force is our volunteers, and I will cover that in next month’s column to be titled “Just Say Yes.” In the meantime, get out from behind your desk, take a walk around your campus, and enjoy the fall weather! 

Sandi Bramblett
2013-2014 AIR President


Published September 10, 2013


Seeing the Light: The Board, Cool Bikes, and the Lumina Foundation

lumina.jpgLumina is a “unit equal to the amount of light given out through a solid angle by a source of one candle intensity radiating equally in all directions” ( Besides a lot of pictures of Chevrolets and nail polish, a Google search for “lumina” produces images like the one to the left.

My own interpretation of lumina is the glow that surrounds the flame of a candle, lighting a pathway. Since last month’s eAIR, the AIR Board gathered in Indianapolis for a two-day meeting. We spent one day at Lumina™ Foundation and were privileged to meet with Jamie Merisotis, President and CEO; Holiday (Holly) Hart McKieman, Chief of Staff and General Counsel; and Courtney Brown, Director of Organizational Performance and Evaluation. They very generously shared their views about the future of higher education and where institutional research fits in the big picture.

Lumina’s day-to-day existence revolves around Goal 2025, its strategic plan that calls for mobilization “at the local, state, and national levels to reach the goal of 60 percent higher education attainment.” Lumina is data-driven and is a huge fan of the IR profession. Lumina leaders encouraged us to determine if AIR serves individuals, organizations, or both, and to then develop our strategic plan from there. Lumina partners with organizations that can help advance its initiatives, and is willing to take calculated risks to ensure that those partnerships lead to the advancement of Goal 2025. 

Our time with Lumina was informative, motivating, and inspiring! Thank you to Randy Swing for making this visit happen. His connections to the world of higher education are unparalleled, and AIR benefits greatly because of them. Christopher Coogan also provided the Board with tremendous support in Indy, and we are grateful for his presence.  

While in Indy, we were smack in the middle of an annual event called “Motorcycles on Meridian.” We saw thousands of bikes, bikers, and gamers. (The latter group was likely there for Gen Con, a huge gaming convention.) Several of your Board members left the city with a dream to someday ride the open road on a Harley, but for now we’re going to concentrate on Policy Governance and whether or not we’re getting the Ends right. Stayed tuned for more information.  

Shifting gears, it’s time to think about our colleagues who are so deserving of our AIR Member Awards. Please consider submitting a nomination for one of AIR’s three distinctive awards:  

  • Outstanding Service Award recognizes a member for professional leadership and exemplary service to AIR, and may be bestowed posthumously. 
  • Sidney Suslow Scholar Award recognizes an individual who, through scholarly work, has made significant contributions to the field of institutional research and advanced understanding of the profession in a meaningful way. The candidate may or may not be an AIR member or past member.
  • John Stecklein Distinguished Member Award recognizes an individual whose professional career has significantly advanced the field of institutional research through extraordinary scholarship, leadership, and service. 

Nominations for the 2014 member awards will close on January 13, 2014. For more information about the criteria for each award and the nomination process, visit the Awards page. 

As always, please feel free to contact me or any member of your Board of Directors with your ideas, suggestions, or questions.  

Sandi Bramblett
2013-2014 AIR President



Published August 13, 2013  

Looking into the Crystal Ball... 
When my institution wrote our most recent strategic plan we did something that was out of the ordinary. We wrote the plan for 25 years out, taking us to the year 2035. Now, this might seem counter-intuitive to those of us who are used to thinking about strategic plans as our guiding light for five to seven years. However, this worked beautifully. The reason? When you are planning that far out, you can think freely, without limitations around human, financial, and capital resources. The process energized the faculty, staff, alumni, and our other stakeholders, allowing creativity and innovative disruption to take place. We initially had no idea that MOOCs were about to invade higher education, but we were able to respond because we had the right folks around the table saying, “Let’s try this!” 

What about higher education? What does the future hold? We don’t even need to think 25 years out. Five years will be sufficient. For example, in the U.S., what will the Higher Education Act look like? Will IPEDS still be in existence? What about the issues facing our institutions in Europe, Asia, South America, and Africa? What does your campus leadership think? Are you asking the questions locally so we can respond globally? AIR’s Board of Directors ponders these questions a great deal, and we try to reach out to those who can help us formulate some answers. Last year, we visited with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Next week, we will be gathering at Lumina™ Foundation. These interactions are important as are those with our members. We’ll keep you posted about what we find while we’re in Indianapolis.  

In addition to the visit with Lumina Foundation, your Board will be hard at work evaluating our governance policies and procedures. We now have Policy Governance fully in place so we’re in the fine-tuning stage. As stated on the AIR website, “most of the important decisions made on campuses regarding an institution's most vital programs and responsibilities are based on analytics produced by institutional research professionals. AIR makes sure these professionals are fully equipped to perform their jobs at the highest levels.” Please help us help you. 

Tell us what AIR can do to ensure that you have what you need to address the future of higher education at home and around the world! 


2013-2014 AIR President  


Published July 11, 2013

A Week at the Beach with Big Data  

Summer is here and I hope that with it, you find some time to relax and unwind! My husband, our sons, and I spent a week at the beach with my husband’s family. (It’s an annual trip with 20 people who get along famously well with each other. The worst drama we deal with happens among those under 14.

While I was there, I had some time to read for pleasure, so one of the books I worked my way through was titled Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger and Kenneth Cukier. The authors define big data as “the ability of society to harness information in novel ways to produce useful insights or goods and services of significant value.” Released in March of this year, the book is a fascinating read, especially for those of us who are data wonks, and even for those who aren’t. 

I had never really thought about data as an “ability,” but sure enough, that description is fitting when one realizes that decision support is dependent upon accessing data and knowing what to do with it. One of the really big ideas in the book is the notion that because of the vast amounts of data that are now available on anything and everything (where “N=all”), we can stop looking for causality and begin to get comfortable with correlation, especially since we can compile, validate, analyze and store data with relative ease. This may seem counterintuitive to researchers who want to go beyond knowing “what” so they can help us understand “why.”  So, why is this important?

At the recent Forum in Long Beach, I saw a lot of folks who chose the “Big Data” sticker to personalize their nametags, and I’m using the Board Corner to get additional feedback. By the way, what a great overhaul of the name tags! Not only could I read my colleagues’ names clearly, but I could see what folks were really interested in…it made for some really good conversations about business intelligence, benchmarking, Orlando 2014, and other relevant topics.

So what are your thoughts on big data? What are the opportunities for higher education and AIR? Use the comments section below to get the conversation going.  

Speaking of the Forum, the Association’s financial statement was a topic of great interest during the Annual Business Meeting. You can find it on the AIR website

As always, please feel free to contact me or any member of your Board of Directors with your ideas, concerns, or just to check in. We want to hear from you!  


2013-2014 AIR President




Published June 11, 2013 

Board and Policy Governance Work for Members 

Hello, AIR members! I have three things on my mind as I author my first Board Corner, and, fair warning, none of them are seemingly related to each other. Perhaps, though, I can tie a big bow on this and make it work. irst of all, you may have heard that Georgia Tech announced it will offer an Online Master of Science in Computer Science using a MOOC platform for somewhere in the neighborhood of $6,000-$7,000, which is a fraction of our traditional on-campus degree program. Revolutionary? Most definitely. Scary? Maybe a little. But in the long run, we see a real potential to do a grand experiment by trying something new.  

Two years ago, the AIR membership voted to implement a system of policy governance. It was a new way of doing business in an Association that had lived without policy governance for some 50 years. Now we can see that the grand experiment is working. The Board of Directors has the honor of representing our members as we set priorities for the profession, and the AIR Executive Office is tasked with achieving the Ends that make our priorities come to fruition.   is not always easy, nor is it the most intuitive concept, but seeing how the hard work of the two previous Boards has made an impact makes me believe that this outcome will indeed be successful for you, our AIR members.  Second, speaking of members, this seems like a good place to remind you that your AIR Board of Directors works for you. If there is anything we can do for you, please know that we are here to listen. We spend a great deal of time gathering the voice of the members, so feel free to reach out to us. Our contact information can be found on the AIR website, and we fully expect that we will hear from you. Remember, you voted to put us in these roles (thank you very much)…now, keep us on our toes!  

Finally, “thank you” doesn’t quite begin to express the profound gratitude of the Board to the AIR Executive Office staff, wonderful sponsors, and an army of AIR volunteers for a fabulous Forum in Long Beach, Calif. Whether you reviewed proposals, presented at a concurrent or poster session, set up a booth in the Exhibit Hall, spent your AIR bucks, or handled some of the hundreds of small details that make the Forum work, we couldn’t have done this without you. As Immediate Past President Julie Carpenter-Hubin so eloquently put it at the closing brunch, hundreds of you were willing to “just say yes” to make AIR the amazing organization that it is. Kudos! 

Sandi Bramblett
2013-2014 AIR President 


Published May 6, 2013

Change in Governance has been Worthwhile Journey 

I hope you are as excited about the upcoming Forum as I am! One of the highlights this year is the screening of the film “First Generation,” the story of four high school students – an inner-city athlete, a small-town waitress, a Samoan warrior dancer, and the daughter of migrant field workers – who set out to break the cycle of poverty and bring hope to their families and communities by pursuing a college education. Following the screening, viewers are invited to join the filmmakers and students from the film for discussion and a question-and-answer period. Proceeds from the screening benefit AIR scholarships, so this is a great opportunity to contribute to our Association while doing something really fun.  

This is my last Board Corner as Board President. We have made significant progress in our move to policy governance, a governance model that clarifies the roles for both the Board and for the AIR Executive Office. Under this model, the Board determines the Ends for the Association – the results we want, for whom we want those results, and at what cost. It is then up to the Executive Office to achieve those Ends, and they must do so while avoiding any circumstances or actions deemed unacceptable by the Board.

I think my fellow Board members will agree with me that the transition to the role of governor rather than doer has not been easy. We are, after all, analysts and problem solvers. We have discovered, though, through our conversations over the past year, that governing rather than doing simply requires us to refocus our analytical skills. Our analysis is focused now on understanding the skills and knowledge our members need today and will need tomorrow, so that we can make sure the Executive Office is providing appropriate educational content.

We no longer engage in developing a budget for the Association, but we engage our problem-solving skills in monitoring the Association’s activities to assure that we remain fiscally responsible and sound. This journey has been challenging, and I am grateful to my Board colleagues for their wisdom and insights over the past year.

Best wishes to you all for a wonderful summer, 


2012-2013 AIR President 



Published April 8, 2013 

Board Considers AIR's Role in Universal IR Issues

As you have seen in previous Board Corners, we have been working to fulfill our role in gathering the voice of the members to help the Board assess the current Association Ends and make adjustments if needed. The Ends policies developed by the Board are what set the direction and activities of the CEO and staff. They are an important component of the performance evaluation by the Board, on your behalf. 

All this is to say that we have received the results from McKinley Advisors who interviewed AIR members who are early-career professionals and directors of early-career professionals. Thanks to all who participated.  

We gained more evidence that most of us did indeed enter this profession by accident, that most IR offices are small, and that professionals need both technical and "soft" skills as so much of our work is about relationships. We also received further evidence that many of us enter the profession with strong sets of skills, but not always the same skills. It is this mixture of information that makes meeting the End that "AIR members have the knowledge and skills necessary to perform the duties and functions of institutional research" a continuing challenge for the Association, given such a wide variety of needs and constantly evolving technologies, statistical techniques and policy questions.  

One of the Ends with which the Board has wrestled concerns non-AIR members. It is stated as follows: Non AIR members have the knowledge and skills necessary to produce high quality higher education data and to use such data appropriately and effectively. Resources for the accomplishment of ends for non-members will not be used to the detriment of meeting the ends for AIR members. 

McKinley Advisors gave the following summary on the topic: 

“AIR’s performance in this area is difficult to gauge because every research participant was a member. However, this objective speaks to AIR’s interest in advancing the overall field of institutional research. The question is whether an End should be written in a way that differentiates members from non-members. AIR enjoys strong brand awareness and can certainly leverage its equity to advance an education platform that leads the overall field. An End that speaks more globally about adding to the knowledge base in institutional research could help direct the organization and its operations toward a goal of leading the field overall.“ 

The IPEDS training, funded though non-membership dollars, is one example of what the Board was articulating in this End, making the assumption that higher quality data is directly linked to higher quality research and policy recommendations. 

What do you think about an End that addresses the issues McKinley Advisors suggests in the passage italicized above? Is this something the Board should address? 

We look forward to hearing from you, and seeing many of you in Long Beach next month! 


AIR Immediate Past President 


Published March 12, 2013 
The Practice of IR Touches Many Areas

Greetings, colleagues!  

I have been trying unsuccessfully to come up with an antonym for "pigeonhole" that might describe a way to classify institutional researchers. We are not easy to sort into tidy bins. Our colleagues who focus primarily on assessment are often involved in survey administration and reporting, and institutional researchers with responsibility for strategic planning may also develop metrics to assure that there is accountability for the plans. 

Faculty who focus on institutional research as an academic study inform the work of practitioners – no IR practitioner would think of conducting a faculty salary study or measuring student success without reviewing the work of our faculty IR colleagues.  Offices charged with data reporting help others use those data to understand trends and comparative data from other institutions. And when it comes to types of positions, we hold a range that covers everything from entry-level analysts to institution president!  

My thinking about our diverse responsibilities has to do with the Board’s mission to represent the voice of the members. I had something of an epiphany at our February Board meeting. We are reviewing the Ends policies we created for our Association, and are considering whether and how we might narrow the Ends so the Board takes greater responsibility for determining the types of knowledge and skills the Association will provide to our members. 

I had prepared to discuss how we might go about collecting insights from each of the various groups that make up institutional research. Then, it occurred to me that that was really the wrong way to go about the Board’s job, for we are not a multitude of associations that happen to meet at the same time in the same location. So, as good institutional researchers, we have started to collect data that will tell us what our members have found valuable in the past and what work they are engaged in the present.  

We are looking at Forum workshops and presentations, at article titles from NDIR and RIHE, at websites from other IR-related organizations, and at reports on relevant topics done for the Association in the past. If there are materials you think we should review, please let me know. And if you have a great antonym for "pigeonhole," send me that as well. 

If you haven’t done so already, please do visit the AIR website to check out our newly elected officers for Vice President, Board At-Large, and the Nominations and Elections Committee. These folks will take office at the annual business meeting during the AIR Forum in Long Beach, Calif.

Julie Carpenter-Hubin
2012-2013 AIR President


Published February 11, 2013 

Visionary Candidates Shape the Future of the Association  

As you go to the online polls to vote for your AIR Board At-Large Members, Vice President, and Nominations and Elections Committee members, I hope you’ll keep in mind the policy governance system under which we now operate. Policy governance calls for the AIR Board of Directors to be the voice of AIR membership. While Board members have always represented their colleagues, our new governance system means that this is our entire focus. No longer do we engage in the day-to-day operations of our Association – today, the Board is responsible for establishing our vision for the future, delegating the fulfillment of that vision to the Association’s CEO, and holding the CEO responsible for fulfilling that vision. While the Board was previously made up of officers and chairs, each responsible for a particular set of responsibilities or a committee, the Board now governs as a whole and “speaks with one voice.”

Why should this affect your vote? Candidates for office were chosen precisely because they are thoughtful and concerned with the future of the Association and, more generally, our profession. But elections mean choices. As you mark your ballot, vote for the individuals you consider visionary and capable of communicating that vision. Vote for those who can and will vigorously debate the issues, but are respectful enough of their colleagues to support decisions of the whole, even when they may disagree personally.
For more information on policy governance, a brief description can be found at the website. You may find the Governance Coach example helpful as well.  

Julie Carpenter-Hubin
2012-2013 AIR President

Published January 14, 2013

Board Strives to Meet Varied Member Needs  

Our February Board of Directors meeting will focus on what we have learned this year about the current and future needs of our members. One major source of information we now have is the report commissioned by our Voice of the Members Ad Hoc Committee, which looks at the needs of the early career professional (ECP) in institutional research. Based on telephone interviews with ECPs  and supervisors of professionals at this level, the report provides insights about their past experience and future career path,  perceptions of “go to” resources for information and professional development,  vision for the future of IR, and their perceived needs for certain skills to adapt to the changing field or institutional environment.

Additionally, Tina Leimer and Bill Knight discussed their respective research related to institutional research professionals with us during teleconferences. Tina’s work is on multi-function offices –  offices with responsibilities in addition to the traditional work of institutional research such as assessment or strategic planning. Bill’s latest research is focused on leadership and management of institutional research.  We are grateful to both Tina and Bill for their wisdom and insight.

The interdisciplinary nature of our work, the membership of both scholars and practitioners, and the range of structures and duties of our offices create both opportunities and challenges for our association as we seek to assure that we are meeting the varied needs of our members. The Board embraces these opportunities – and we couldn’t be institutional researchers if we didn’t love a challenge. This is a test


2012-2013 AIR President 



Published: December 11, 2012 

Opportunities to Recognize Excellence 

Thanksgiving is past, but I remain ever thankful for my wonderful institutional research colleagues. I heard from several of you about partnerships between IR and IT on your campus following my last Board Corner – thank you for sharing. We are truly fortunate to work in a milieu that promotes collaborations and the sharing of ideas so that we can all move toward excellence.   

You now have the opportunity to recognize excellence by nominating a colleague for one of the 2013 AIR member awards: 

  • Outstanding Service Award recognizes a member for professional leadership and exemplary service to AIR, and may be bestowed posthumously.
  • Sidney Suslow Scholar Award recognizes an individual who, through scholarly work, has made significant contributions to the field of institutional research and advanced understanding of the profession in a meaningful way.  The candidate may or may not be an AIR member or past member.
  • John Stecklein Distinguished Member Award recognizes an individual whose professional career has significantly advanced the field of institutional research through extraordinary scholarship, leadership, and service. 

You should have received an email on December 11 announcing the nomination process.  For more information, visit the AIR website.  Nominations are due by January 11, 2013. I hope you’ll take the time to think about colleagues who fit the descriptions provided and nominate those most qualified. 


Best wishes,
2012-2013 AIR President   



Published: November12, 2012

IT and IR: The Dynamic Duo of Campus Analytics

The political campaigning is finally over, and as someone from the great swing state of Ohio, I am delighted that the phone calls and negative advertisements have stopped! On the other hand, it’s been really interesting to see the attention paid to statistical analyses of polling data. New York Times blogger Nate Silver has emerged as the star political statistician; his accurate predictions demonstrating that data are more reliable than even very well-informed intuitions. Silver and a host of other political analysts are creating models that can be tested over time, improved, and perhaps applied in other arenas.   

Predictive models, of course, are not new to institutional researchers. But the power of big data is attracting a lot of attention from our Information Technology colleagues now as well, with EDUCAUSE devoting publications, conferences, and workshops to the topic. One of my wonderful colleagues from IT participated in an EDUCAUSE workshop yesterday. He emailed from the workshop to say that much of the material presented emphasized a recent theme of our own discussions, which is that IT and IR need to partner in the development and use of analytics on our campuses. The AIR Board is exploring these connections as well, as we work to collect the voice of the member. 

Earlier this month, AIR Past President Jennifer Brown and Executive Director Randy Swing attended the EDUCAUSE Summit, “Empowering Students in the Age of Big Data Summit,” and were interested to see examples of analytics that support student success at the campus level, and at the course level. The opportunities for IR and IT to combine their skills to benefit students, faculty, staff, and campus leaders are ripe. 

I’m interested in hearing about your experiences collaborating with IT on your campus. The Board would love to know if there are organizational structures that facilitate these collaborations especially well, or if there are particular projects that have involved IR and IT on your campus in a particularly productive way. We hope to hear from you! 


2012-2013 AIR President    



Published: October 15, 2012

Nominations Process Important to Future of AIR

There is less than a month until the deadline to submit nominations for the AIR Board of Directors, and I sincerely hope that you are considering nominating yourself or one of your colleagues. My own service has been one of the most rewarding professional experiences of my career. In part, that is because of the tremendous education board members receive in regard to policy governance, and in part, because the privilege of being on the Board has allowed me to work with exceptional colleagues and contribute to the field of institutional research.   

Policy governance has dramatically changed the work of the Board; we have gone from being the AIR labor force to being the governors of the association. We’re constantly reviewing the tenets of policy governance and working to assure that we’re focusing on determining the ends of the organization, rather than the means to those ends. The AIR Board of Directors is a learning organization, and it has been exciting to participate in this transition. 

As Board members in this new structure, our learning happens both individually and collectively – thus my gratitude for my outstanding colleagues. I’ve built professional relationships and friendships that I prize, and I know they will endure long after I have stepped down from the Board. 

Please check out the suggested qualities for AIR Board nominees online. Nominations are sought for the following positions:  

  • Vice-President (one position)

  • At-Large Members of the Board (three positions)

  • Nominations and Elections Committee Members (three positions) 

We need great people to carry on the work of the Board. I look forward to receiving your nominations.


Immediate Past President and
Chair of the Nominations and Elections Committee



Published: September 21, 2012

Visit with Gates Foundation Staff Inspires

Greetings from the Board.  I mentioned in my last column that we were holding our fall Board meeting in Seattle, and that we would have the opportunity to visit with staff from the Gates Foundation as part of that meeting.  We had a terrific experience. The Gates staff were incredibly generous with their time, and we learned much about their strategic planning processes that we can apply to our planning for AIR. 

They reminded us of Stephen Covey’s admonition to “begin with the end in mind,” which can be so easy to forget when we get caught up in the day-to-day processes and tasks at hand.  We had a great conversation about actionable measurement, and of course we couldn’t agree more with their foundational theory that if you bring together the right people, the right data, and the right analysis, the quality of decisions made will be significantly improved. 

I’m very grateful to Randy Swing and to our great colleague at the Gates Foundation, Elise Miller, for arranging this opportunity.  Additionally, I’m thankful that Laura Saunders, past-President of AIR and current Interim President of Bellevue College, joined us for the meeting. Her perspective as a community college president and institutional researcher added a great deal to the conversation.   

The Board continues to explore the future of institutional research so that AIR can provide the training and support to keep us on the cutting edge.  Board members are taking turns doing environmental scans and reporting out during our monthly conference calls. We’re inviting members who have conducted research on the future of the profession to participate in our calls, and we have plans to meet with leaders of other higher education professional organizations.  We’ll share what we’re learning in upcoming Board Corners, and we hope you’ll provide us with your feedback. 

Have a wonderful fall term, 

Julie Carpenter-Hubin
2012-2013 AIR President

P.S.  In case you’re wondering, I didn’t personally see him, but several of the Board members did spy Bill Gates in the hallway at the Foundation!


Published: August 18, 2012


Excitement High About Gates Foundation Talks

I mentioned in my last Board Corner that I was planning to read Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow while on vacation. I can’t recommend it highly enough! He explains the two systems that drive the way we think – one that is fast, intuitive, and emotional, and the other that is slower, deliberative, and more logical. It was both interesting and easy for me to connect his explanations of how we think and make choices to the work of institutional researchers and how we understand our data results. If anyone else has read it or plans to, let me know – I’d love to have a discussion about what it means for our field. 

As of this writing, the AIR Board of Directors is traveling to Seattle for the fall Board Meeting, and we’re looking forward to discussions with staff of the Gates Foundation. We hope to learn much about how they develop foci for the Foundation, and how they simultaneously encourage creativity and accountability. And, of course, we hope to inform them about the wonderful resource that AIR and our members can be for the Foundation. Many thanks are due to Randy Swing, our Chief Executive Officer, for arranging this opportunity. We will share outcomes of some of these conversations in a future edition of eAIR. 

Lastly, let me follow in Jennifer Brown’s path by asking you to please contact me and/or other board members with your wisdom about how the Association can best support you through professional development and networking. We are anxious to hear the voice of our members, so please speak up! 


2012-2013 AIR President   



Published: July 26, 2012 

Add Board Report to Summer Reading List 

Greetings! I hope that you are able to find some time this summer to relax and recharge. I’m looking forward to a couple of weeks on the beach with Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking, Fast and Slow (he won the Nobel in economic science in 2002), followed by as many mystery novels as I can devour.

Before you get to your summer reading list, though, I hope you’ll take a look at the AIR Annual Board of Directors Report to the Membership for 2011-12. While the report lacks the suspense and drama of most of my beach reading, it does provide very good news for AIR members. Our organization is financially healthy, with a clean audit and the largest annual net reserve in the history of the Association. And there’s more good news – visit the AIR website to read more.

With our July Board teleconference, we begin the process of assuring that the good work of the previous Board in developing Ends and Means policies continues and that policy governance is institutionalized within the Association. We will be reviewing our policies according to the schedule outlined in the Governance Policy Process, as well as the Monitoring Reports provided by the Executive Office. Beyond these reviews, we will continue to collect the Voice of the Member, and hope you will all make yours loud and clear!


2012-13 AIR President


July Comments:


Published: June 26, 2012


Member Feedback Will Help Guide Association

It was wonderful to see so many friends and colleagues at the Forum in New Orleans! I hope that those of you who attended were able to take a break from the rich array of presentations and enjoy the amazing food and hospitality of our host city. Thank you to the hundreds of AIR members who volunteered behind the scenes to make the Forum happen, and thank you to everyone who presented their work or led a discussion. Last, but not least, kudos to Randy Swing and all of the staff at the AIR Executive Office for orchestrating the Forum so beautifully!

Last year, the Board spent much of our time crafting the Ends Policies that are the foundation of our governance structure. This year, we will be soliciting information from you about what you need now and what you expect to need in the future from our Association. The Voice of the Members Ad Hoc Committee has already done much to solicit this feedback from members who are fairly new to the field of institutional research. We look forward to expanding this work to experienced IR professionals, and I plan to build on related work done by Tina Leimer through focus groups at the Forum.

I hope you’ll take time to review the Governance Policies as well as the Monitoring Reports submitted by the Executive Office, which can be found on the AIR website. These documents are extremely helpful for understanding how AIR is governed and how the Executive Office is held accountable for achieving the Association’s ends.

Have a wonderful summer!


2012-2013 AIR President




Published: May 22, 2012


New Governance Policies Were Important Change 

This is my last Board Update as Board President and the end of our first year with our new Board governance system. I know for most of you, the new governance system is not in the forefront of your daily concerns, but in the context of our Association’s life, it is a significant change. 
I have mentioned in my notes over the past months that the Board has been working on AIR governing policies and monitoring reports. Monitoring reports are prepared by the Chief Executive Officer for each relevant policy. They are the method by which CEO accountability for implementing the policies is demonstrated to the Board, and thereby to you. There is a reporting schedule contained in the policies, and not one deadline has been missed. 
After a year of working all this through, a year which has required a lot of new thinking, organizing, and work for the Association CEO and staff, as well as for the Board, we want to share the materials with you. Visit the AIR website to view the policies and monitoring reports. 
We have focused heavily this year on the two sets of policies directed at AIR Executive Office action: Executive Limitations and Ends. However, the other sets of policies, Governance Process and Board-Management Delegation, are equally important. These four sets of policies together establish clear lines of responsibility and authority for the Board and CEO. The policies form a system for making sure the Board speaks clearly about what it wants, as a whole, and that the CEO responds to those priorities. I am absolutely sure that we are a stronger, better-organized and focused Association now than we have ever been.  
In the year ahead, we also have a schedule for the Board to systematically review its own processes to make sure we are doing business in ways that meet our governance commitment to, "…see to it that the Association for Institutional Research a) achieves appropriate results for appropriate persons at an appropriate cost…, and b) avoids unacceptable actions and situations…" 
It is critical for the next 50 years of the Association that we continue to adapt to change.  I am sure you have noticed the increasing concern about the strength and sustainability of many higher education associations in articles in the Chronicle of Higher Education. I am really proud of the AIR membership for having taken action that increases the likelihood that we will continue to serve member needs and add value to higher education more broadly for at least another 50 years. 
I hope you have at least some time to play this summer, that graduation ceremonies are wonderful, and that those of you who cannot make it to the Forum this year will be in Long Beach next year! 

Jennifer Brown
2011-2012 AIR President




Board Members' Commitment Makes Service a Pleasure - April 2012


Time sure flies when you're having fun. 

The Board met for its monthly teleconference on April 3, with a full slate of business. Some days before the meeting, we received three monitoring reports. These are the mechanisms through which the Board is able to hold the CEO accountable for adhering to the Board’s policies. This time, we looked at the biannual reports on the Treatment of Staff and the Treatment of Members as well as the quarterly report on the Financial Conditions and Activities. These reports, which are read carefully by each Board member before discussion, enable the Board to ensure that the CEO’s interpretation of the relevant policy is reasonable or to make policy adjustments if further clarification is required.  

We will soon be completing a full year of the monitoring reports, and we look forward to making them available to you by the end of this membership year. 

We also accepted the recommendations of Board Treasurer Paul Duby and RFP reviewers Joseph Hoey, Glenn James, and Alice Simpkins, on a new audit firm to undertake a three-year contract. We thanked the CEO for the excellent job in getting the Board’s RFP out to a good range of firms and collecting the RFP responses for the Board’s consideration. A similar process is underway for the selection of a firm to undertake some research on members’ future needs on behalf of the Board. In addition, Paul Duby was authorized by the Board to contract a CEO compensation study on behalf of the Board. 

I also want to mention that Board members are extraordinarily responsible in their preparation for and attendance of meetings, both face-to-face and in teleconference. Calls have been made from a wide variety of airports, hotel lobbies, parental kitchens in the UK, and (our favorite) from Timbuktu (there are several spellings!). In the latter instance, Elizabeth Stanley, the Board Secretary, did not want to miss the meeting. While she does not have to write the minutes, she does review and approve the release of them – hard to do if you are not at the meeting.  It is this level of responsibility and commitment by the Board members to the Association that makes service to AIR such a pleasure.  I think this is a trait that past, present, and future AIR Boards share! 



AIR President 





Forum is Still Forum, Covering our Assets - March 2012


The 2012 AIR Forum (June 2-6) is just a few months away. While the primary hotel is already sold out, there is another fine hotel across the street for your convenience and comfort. I am looking forward to a great Forum in a great city, and I hope you are planning to be there.

One thing you might have noticed on the home page of the AIR website is the addition of the words "annual conference" in reference to Forum. This is to help new members or other interested visitors find the event more easily. The term "Forum" is not always recognizable to those searching for our annual meeting. We certainly do not want to give up our “AIR Forum” brand, but we do want people to find the event on our site with ease.

Following our face-to-face meeting in Orlando, the Board met for our usual monthly teleconference on March 6. We received the next of the scheduled monitoring reports on our policies, this time covering asset protection. This policy gives specific and clear direction to the Chief Executive Officer of the Association about the proper protection of assets, including the overall direction that “The CEO will not cause or allow corporate assets to be unprotected, inadequately maintained, or unnecessarily risked.” Within the policy, nine specific areas are listed, and each must be addressed in the annual CEO report to the Board. It is in this way that the operation of the Executive Office is more clearly and explicitly accountable to the members, through the elected Board, than it has ever been.

While this information may not be as exciting as a good Technical Review Panel report, or a list of IPEDS finance definitions, it is important to the Association and its members. As we have moved through this first year of work as a Board, I am very glad that we have in place clear directions and strong accountability.

Thank you to members who voted during the election, and congratulations to our new officers. AIR is very fortunate to have so many members willing to step up and participate in association governance. It is something few of us get the opportunity to do in our day jobs, and it is (among other things) a very good learning experience.

 Many thanks to Julie Carpenter-Hubin for taking the chair at our March 6 teleconference whilst I visited my dad in Suffolk, England. (No, it did not rain all the time!)

Jennifer Brown, AIR President




Member Input Key to New Board Initiatives - February 2012 


First, thanks to a very hard working Nominations and Elections Committee for their great work this year under the leadership of Jim Trainer (immediate past president). Along with Jim, members Michelle Hall, Qing Lin Mack, Gary Pike, Phyllis Edamatsu, and Karen Webber reviewed a large number of nominations. They were happy to have so many eager to serve and had to make tough decisions about this year’s candidates. We are very grateful to all nominees and hope those of you who were not finalists this year will consider putting your name in again another year.

The Board meets face-to-face three times a year – at the annual Forum, in the fall, and in the spring. These meetings have full agendas, and our recent February meeting was no exception. We received training in the new AIR SharePoint software, which will provide better ways for us to collaborate by more easily sharing documents and discussions.

We also spent a considerable amount of time talking about the Board’s role at the Forum and the role of the Nominations and Elections Committee at the Forum. This will be the first Forum under the new governance system, and the "traditional" timetable and meetings are no longer necessary. There will, however, be an annual business meeting as required in the Constitution and Bylaws, as well as an Annual Report to the members that will include AIR financial information. As not all members attend the Forum, the Board is developing an Annual Report that can be shared more broadly. Any ideas you have on these topics would be appreciated.

As I have reported before, we have two hard working ad hoc Board committees that are primarily comprised of AIR members. One is the Awards Committee. This group is reviewing all the AIR awards and is developing a set of recommendations for the Board to make the awards more coherent, consistent, and focused on AIR’s core values. The other committee is examining the Code of Ethics. They will be gathering information from you at the Forum as part of their work, and will be making recommendations to the Board on updates and changes to the Code.

We are underway with our first project to gather the "voice of the members." This task is a new one for the AIR Board, which is enabled by the change in governance structure. In this effort, we are not focused on the present, but on the future. We will be asking members who have been in the profession for two to five years to talk about needs for their professional development over the next five years. We also will be talking to members who have spent more time in the profession and are in a position to hire incoming members and ask them for a "gap analysis" in their hiring experience. All this information will help the Board develop the Ends to be set for the work of the AIR Executive Director and his staff.

As always, we look forward to hearing from you and hope you are making plans to meet in New Orleans June 2 - 6 for our annual Forum.

Don’t forget to vote!






Board of Directors Update – January 2012  

It is hard to believe, but we have already completed the first six months under the new AIR Board structure, and progress is being made! This experience is testing all of us on the Board in our ability to think outside systems we are used to and ways of thinking we are used to. I am really pleased with what we are accomplishing and how we are learning to work with each other. We have moved our focus from  a particular committee’s tasks to the Association’s work as a whole, and that has been a very positive change. 

We are also delighted with the many improvements to our infrastructure taking place at the AIR executive offices. If you have not already checked out the new website – please do so. It is a great new look with easier navigation. Even more important for the long term is the investment in updated technology systems for managing the Association’s work. We are most grateful to AIR staff who spent time over the holidays working on this project. 

As we launch the new e-AIR, we want to express our thanks to Gayle Fink, e-AIR editor for 2010-2011. Gayle ensured that articles were obtained and organized in a timely fashion, and her Tech Tips have been useful to many e-AIR readers. From what I understand, Gayle will continue to play a role in coordinating Tech
Tips for e-AIR, so stay tuned. AIR would not be such a dynamic professional association without the time and talents of volunteers like Gayle. Thank you, Gayle, for continuing the tradition of the
oldest, continuous email newsletter in existence. 
As you can see, there are a lot of good things happening with your Association. However, there is one thing that has been troubling me. In every e-Air Board of Directors Update, I have asked you to contact me and/or other Board members with comments, questions, ideas


To add a comment, Sign In
There are no comments.
etc. However, I have only been contacted twice thus far! I know that there must be some shy AIR members who refrain from expressing their opinions, but I have not met many!  Please do contact me at at any time, and I’ll respond as quickly as I can.
Happy New Year, Happy Chinese New Year, Happy Lunar New Year, and Happy spring semester!