Data Culture: Inaugural IC Data Day to Promote Informed Decisions for Student Success

An event like IC Data Day might sound like a simple plunge into the information sets and analyses that shape Ithaca College. But the inaugural event is about more than the quantitative — it’s a cultural celebration of sorts, meant to emphasize the importance of decision-making backed by data, with student success as the ultimate goal.

Such a culture is reflective of the one the Office of Analytics and Institutional Research, which is sponsoring IC Data Day, is pivoting into, said Yuko Mulugetta, IC’s chief analytics officer. The event will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 21 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Clark and Klingenstein lounges of the Campus Center.

In the past, Mulugetta said, the office was mainly a provider of data, and the bulk of work centered on the assembly of information from various disconnected sources. Analysis of that information was typically to discern historic trends.

IC Data Day will be Wednesday, Feb. 21 in the Campus Center. (Photo by monsitj)


The new approach, begun in fall of 2016, will connect the campus’s assorted silos of information to free up time for more in-depth and forward-looking predictive analysis, and allow AIR to become a strategic partner as the college makes decisions around student enrollment, success and retention, as well as overall institutional effectiveness. She likens this operational shift in AIR to the construction of a house.

“So we're creating infrastructure and the main floor,” she said — improved data systems serving as the infrastructure or foundation, and the larger goals being the main floor. “On top of that we need a roof. That’s a data-informed decision-making culture [across the college],” she said.

“And we need an iconic event to show off this ‘House of AIR’,” she added. That’s the function she hopes IC Data Day provides.

Presentations and panel discussions featuring IC faculty, students and staff will cover a variety of topics, including a look at the importance of collecting data on sexual orientation and gender identity, how students can increase their chances of landing dream jobs, and what the educational platform Sakai can elucidate about student engagement.

The full schedule is available on the AIR website.

The day begins with a keynote from neuroscientist Marco Baptista, the director of research at the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. He will discuss an experiment to grow crystals of a key Parkinson’s protein on the International Space Station, why microgravity conditions were crucial to the research, and why crystalized protein samples could help scientists identify new treatments for the disease.

The use of data for such noble pursuits speaks to another reason Mulugetta is excited to introduce IC Data Day to the campus. “I think that we professionals in higher education have a societal responsibility for nurturing and advancing analytical thinking and skills for all students — not just students in STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] fields, but also students in humanities and social sciences,” she said.

“If we can create events like [IC Data Day] to promote the importance of data-informed decision making for student success, that would be a huge contribution to this social responsibility.”

Artist rendering of ones and zeroes.