1. What is your job title?
Director of Institutional Research at the University of Hawai`i – West O`ahu.
2. Briefly, how would you describe your role in terms of your place in your institution?
I’m the Director of a small, two-person IR office at a regional four-year undergraduate university with an enrolment of just over 3,000 students. Since our student information system and data warehouse are managed centrally by our System Office, my office tends to focus more on analysis opposed to data management and report automation.
My role entails providing decision support to senior leadership, which includes providing analyses that not only provide historical context, but also help decision-makers evaluate possible outcomes and return-on-investment. Examples of data analysis projects we commonly work on are estimating student price response, enrolment prediction analysis, and evaluating program effectiveness for some of our federally funded student programs.
3. From your perspective, what are the emerging areas of interest in institutional research?
With the emergence of ‘big data’ and the power of new predictive tools and techniques, I see more institutional research offices moving beyond their reporting duties towards more analytical and predictive territories. As a result, the traditional IR function is becoming more of a steward and teacher of data, instead of a back-office reporting operation.
4. What do you believe will be the future priorities for institutional research?
There was a time when institutional research was more strongly grounded in empirical research and scholarship. I believe the field has moved away from this. New technology—using machine learning, for example—has made it easier to run explanatory and predictive models at the click of a button. One challenge is that these ‘point and click’ models are often untethered from model fit criteria and path analytical logic (e.g. causality, directionality). The results are not always intuitive to decision makers and often vary from what’s rendered using a traditional stats-informed process. Regardless of methods, I believe a priority for IR should be ensuring that subjective decisions governing what’s included in a model are made and that they are ideally based on empirical cumulative research.
5. Complete this statement: In my role, I can’t operate effectively without …
…my assistant, Christi Palacat, who is an amazing analyst and programmer. She is working hard to develop her statistical and programming skills simultaneously, which is a rare combination that will take her far. I hope she can travel with me to the AAIR forum in 2020! Also, my friend and mentor, Dr Serge Herzog who has taught me more about research and analysis than I could have ever learned on my own.
Would you like to feature in the ‘Institutional Researcher’s Corner’ segment of our newsletter, The Institutional Researcher? Contact our trusty editors with the answers to 5 simple questions, and we’ll feature you in an upcoming issue.
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