Tribal College and University Leaders Reflect on the ATD-SAS 2017 Data & Analytics Summit

Achieving the Dream and analytics leader SAS convened nearly 300 representatives from ATD colleges and universities to offer guidance on employing analytics throughout their institutions. The third annual Data & Analytics Summit, themed Analytics Inspires Action, offered attendees opportunities to learn how to use analytics  as a tool for institutional capacity-building and how to integrate analytics into the curriculum to prepare students for in-demand careers  and boost student success overall.

Registrar Lou Hara, a Haskell Indian Nations University (HINU) participant, said Summit presentations helped her think about data differently – and more positively. By attending presentations, she began to see that data could show more ways students were learning and advancing. Rather than narrowing opportunities to capture student success, data can create new opportunities. At the same time, Ms. Hara said she realized it’s “not an overwhelming process to capture” data on student success.

HINU Statistician Duane Reeder said the Summit “opened [his] statistical mind.” He learned more about data collection and cleaning, how to use data visualization and create dashboards for the public. Mr. Reeder also observed that the conference showed “how IR and IT are integral units that NEED to collaborate and serve as allies.”

Echoing her HINU colleagues' observation that data can create new opportunities to capture student success, Anita Gavin, Assistant Director of Institutional Research at the Institute of American Indian Arts, noted Dr. Karen A. Stout’s challenge to Summit attendees to “overcome the traditional metrics” and find other measures that can capture diverse students’ goals. She also found valuable lessons in a session on building data and analytics capacity despite having limited resources. She noted that using a data dictionary isn’t costly but creates a common vocabulary that promotes the use of common variables at the institution. Asking stakeholders to align data requests with strategic design reduces the number of data requests, freeing institutional research staff time to focus on strategic analysis. And focusing on leading indicators that are both predictive and can be influenced, such as Gateway Math/English completion or credit accumulation, helps colleges track high-impact activities that will positively influence student success and completion.

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