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In celebration of ATD’s 10th annual Data and Analytics Summit: A look back and a peek at what’s to come

| Shara Davis

News & Updates
July 2, 2024

As Achieving the Dream prepares to host its tenth annual Data and Analytics Summit on September 25–27, it is a fitting time to reflect on the origins of this very important event in ATD’s yearly calendar — as well as to gear up for what promises to be an enlightening, valuable, and timely learning event in the fall. 

The summit’s beginnings 

The “use of evidence to improve institutional programs and services” was one of five principles upon which ATD was founded and remains, today, core to our institutional improvement model. More than 10 years ago, a vision came to Laurie Heacock, a seasoned employee of ATD, who has served in many capacities (including a vice president position and as a coach of more than 15 years.) Amidst a swirl of activity that started with a successful Learner Analytics Convening co-led by ATD and the University of Maryland University College (now University of Maryland Global Campus), she envisioned something even more impactful. 

At the same time, ATD was designing its first Institutional Capacity Assessment Tool (ICAT), which emphasized, among other areas, capacity-building in data and technology as a prerequisite for successful institutional transformation. These two developments — the Learner Analytics Convening and the emergence of the data-focused ICAT Tool — led to ATD’s Inaugural Data and Analytics Summit in September 2015.  

Having steered the work toward the creation of such an event, Heacock recalls her intentions. “I envisioned the summit as a way to support community colleges in building their data and analytics capacity and culture of evidence through a focused, in-depth learning event,” she said. 

A preview of the upcoming summit 

Continuing the tradition established a decade ago, this year’s Data and Analytics Summit will emphasize programming for a variety of college constituents in a range of topic areas that are relevant to the dynamic environment within which institutions of higher education are operating. Titled “Charting a New Data Frontier: AI Innovation and Next Generation Metrics,” the 2024 summit will engage participants in dialog on generative artificial intelligence (AI), the importance of post completion outcomes, and linking institutional transformation to community outcomes.  

As chief research, data, and analytics officer at ATD and the organizer of this year’s event, it is my goal for the summit to respond to the numerous opportunities and challenges confronting colleges today. That entails engaging Network colleges and the broader higher education community in dialogue to explore topics that have the potential to expand our limits while simultaneously strengthening our ability to make data-informed decisions in the face of unprecedented change and pressures on higher education.  

To kick off this year’s summit, Dr. Paul J. LeBlanc, outgoing president of Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), will join ATD’s President and CEO Dr. Karen A. Stout for a fireside chat to discuss the promise and perils of generative AI — a conversation that is likely to stretch institutional thinking and action for years to come. Concurrent sessions will also offer participants a chance to learn how peers are addressing the opportunities and challenges presented by AI.  

In addition to technological innovation, today’s institutions are facing increased demand for efficiency, accountability, and transparency, particularly related to program cost and post-completion outcomes. The Financial Value Transparency Act, new Gainful Employment regulations, multiple definitions of social and economic mobility, and lack of affordable access to quality workforce outcomes data in some states are creating new complexities for colleges.  

Joining us to discuss next-generation metrics will be Diane Cheng, vice president of research and policy at the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP). This discussion promises to reveal new ways of defining and measuring post-completion outcomes, including economic mobility, social mobility, debt-to-income ratios, and return on education. Participants will also be exposed to state initiatives like Prosperity for Ohio, which is developing a dashboard prototype linking government education and employment data systems to enhance the quality of educational programs and credentials across the state.  

As in past years, the one-and-a-half-day in-person learning event will provide opportunity for peer learning through a series of concurrent sessions on a variety of topics suited for both first-time and returning conference participants. Topics will emphasize data capacity-building in areas like equity-minded data visualization techniques, data democratization strategies, and collaborative data literacy programs. As Dr. Stout reminds us, “The ATD Data & Analytics Summit has become a signature learning event for Network colleges. It was the first event I attended as I stepped into the role of President and CEO for ATD ten years ago. This year’s Summit will offer something for all colleges, no matter where they are in their student success journey or participation in the ATD Network.”  

Also, the summit will offer a panel discussion with ATD data coaches to glean their field-driven insights about how and what Network colleges are doing to build a culture of evidence and inquiry, organize the increasing array of data resources, and engage constituents in data sense-making and data application.   

Virtual pre-conference sessions will be held on Monday, September 23, 2024, and will open later this month for registration. 

Learn more about ATD’s 2024 Data & Analytics Summit and register to attend. 

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