The University of Memphis’ Office of Institutional Research hosted the first of a series of seminars Wednesday to both raise staff awareness about what college-related statistics the department collects and how faculty can use them.

One of the lesser known groups on campus at the UofM, the OIR is a department that gathers massive amounts of data on college statistics such as class sizes, enrollment rates and graduation rates. Essentially, every statistic that administration, staff and faculty at the UofM needs to know can be found on the OIR website. The director of OIR, Bridgette Decent, organized the seminars to explain to staff how to access and use the data they collect.

“It’s crucial that staff members, regardless of their job at the UofM have access to the right information in order to make the best decisions for students,” Decent said.

During Wednesday’s seminar, Decent stressed the importance of faculty adapting their decision-making based on the data OIR provides.

“Doing what they have always done in the past is not always the best decision or helpful,” Decent said. “Knowing what needs to change and how to innovate, is what we use the data for.”

The idea to host the OIR seminars came from Decent herself. Decent attended several campus meetings and received complaints about the inability to get data needed to make decisions. The seminars also allow feedback from faculty on the type of data provided on the website.

“There is not always awareness that the information is out there, so this is a drive to increase awareness of what is already available,” Decent said. “It is also for our office to find out what we might not be offering that people need to know.”

Erica Boyce, an administrative associate in the civil engineering department, attended the first seminar in order to better understand the information that she deals with on a daily basis.

“Most of the data that our chair asks us to get is for students and for longitudinal data, to answer questions for receiving additional class sections,” Boyce said. “It was really important for me to see how that data worked.”

Although Boyce deals with data every day, she said she was unaware of just how much information OIR offered.

Yolanda Dillard, the associate director for employer partnerships at the UofM, also attended the seminars and said she is a firm believer in the importance of data, as well as the power it holds in the decision making process.

“The data will help me continue to help myself do a better job in my role,” Dillard said. “The data will help my staff and our students as well.”

Decent said when staff and faculty use the data correctly and often, a number of benefits will follow.

“It helps us try to reach towards the goals of student success, graduation rates, better career opportunities, the drive to become a Carnegie One Research Institution and more,” Decent said.

As the seminar series continues, Decent hopes to see more staff and faculty in attendance. Although she is unsure about the topic of the next seminar, Decent said she intends to reach out to staff members through a survey to see what data they are interested in learning about.

“I’m hoping for momentum to build as the series continues, as more people become aware of learning about their data,” Decent said.

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