When it comes to elevating Butler University’s national reputation, it’s best to follow the data. That’s according to Amia Foston, the University’s new Director of the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment (OIRA).
Foston, who served as Butler’s Assistant Director for OIRA from 2014 to 2017, returns at a pivotal time. He and his team are tasked with making sense of thousands of data points to help inform strategic decisions in monitoring enrollment trends, funding programs, or creating new sections for popular classes.
“We want to make sure any sort of analysis this office provides has insights that are very digestible that people can run with,” Foston says. “Because our work in institutional research and assessment consistently requires us to work with colleagues across the entire campus, we can sometimes notice things and connect dots others might not.”
Foston adds that universities nationwide are relying more on internal data to guide operational, tactical, and strategic decision-making. Foston and his team will be working closely with Butler leadership for every upcoming initiative.
Through computer programs like Tableau, he wants users to see the numbers dance with more interactivity and customization. Instead of static PDFs, OIRA is working to make Butler’s traditional Fact Book information available through data visualizations and dashboards. Staff, faculty, students, and alumni who wish to access Butler’s data are busy, and Foston says users don’t have time to scan massive tables. Organizing the data in clear, concise graphics will help users be able to quickly manipulate enrollment data, for example, by gender, ethnicity, home state, and many other options.
Foston says OIRA will soon launch an online process for submitting data requests, similar to services provided by Human Resources and Information Technology. Another step in making Butler’s data more accessible will be establishing a frequently asked questions feature of the most common data requests.
Provost Kathryn Morris says the University will only benefit from Foston’s return as he works to conduct research and distill findings into actionable insights. His analytical, project management, and leadership skills come at a pivotal time.
“OIRA plays a key role in collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data that are directly relevant to the decisions people need to make at Butler,” Morris says, “and to demonstrating our value to current and prospective students, their families, and our alumni, donors, and friends.”
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