SAIR 2020: How Institutions Are “Plotting the Course in the Future” in Light of the Current Challenges

    

The SAIR 2020 Virtual Conference wrapped up October 2, and HelioCampus was delighted to have had the opportunity to be a Gold Sponsor for the event. Despite being virtual, SAIR board members shared that this year posted the highest attendance numbers on record.

“Plotting the Course in to the Future,” was the theme, and sessions were centered around encouraging IR professionals to help “steer” their offices and institutions in a different direction, and suggestions for tools to help them to better support institutional leadership during this time of upheaval, and what is yet to come.

In the Plenary Session, “Here Be Dragons?” Charting a Path Through Higher Education’s Unknown Future, Van Davis, Principal at Foghlam Consulting, shared thoughts on what’s happening in higher ed, where things could be going, and how folks can think about actions to take, to best prepare for what’s ahead.

Megan McCay, Director of Institutional Research at the University of Southern Mississippi (and also a HelioCampus partner), lead a session entitled, “Cultivating a Climate of Data-Informed Decision Making at The University of Southern Mississippi,” and shared about the process she, and other stakeholders, have been following to create a culture around utilizing data to support strategic decision making, and how they’ve been working to maximize effectiveness and efficiency throughout the institution. She answered many thoughtful questions from the audience, and was able to offer experience-based advice on what has been working well, and what she would do differently. It was impressive to see the work they’ve done to leverage data from across the entire student lifecycle, and what is yet to come. If you want additional information on their work, you can read their case study

Craig Rudick, Former Executive Director of IR and Lead Data Scientist at the University of Kentucky, and now Director of Product Strategy and Data Scientist at HelioCampus, led an interesting session on how to build a solid foundation for data analytics, and how critical it is to alter your thinking around data science. He stressed following a prescriptive process and understanding the key attributes, and contributing factors. Finally, he emphasized how important this early work is to understanding outcomes and being able to understand the story that data is telling.

During social sessions, attendees shared positive feedback about the conference, and the value they were able to garner. It seemed like everyone was grateful to have the opportunity to connect with their peers from across the region, to hear how things have been going, and to share thoughts and best practices for what can be done to help “steer” higher education, and individual institutions in the “right” direction.

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