Keynote Presentations

2017 HEDS Annual Conference Keynote Presentations 


Means, Bias, and Trends: What We All Bring to the Conversation

Date: June 19
Time: 9:00-10:00 am

Erika Farfan, Director of the Office of Institutional Research at Kenyon College

Institutional research offices have made their name by offering accurate, replicable, and understandable data. As technology has allowed us to grow more efficient with these tasks and business intelligence makes data more accessible to everyone on campus, IR staff is increasingly called upon not to just run a report or produce models but to “make sense” of the data in deep and resonant ways. As we collectively move from being purveyors of data and information toward storytellers with knowledge and wisdom we have to add new non-technical skills to our repertoire that help us to include different perspectives without diminishing the clarity of the story. In smaller IR offices including diverse perspectives can be a particular challenge but one that IR professionals are uniquely placed to meet. In this conversation, we’ll talk about how IR professionals are becoming the narrators of their campuses’ stories and supporting difficult conversations while staying true to the data and stretching their own professional skills.  We’ll also discuss the opportunities these challenges open up for the IR profession.


Scrutiny of Higher Education: Are the Right Questions Being Asked?

Date: June 19
Time: 2:45-3:45 pm

Scott Jaschik, Editor and cofounder of Inside Higher Ed

A review of the landscape of discussion of higher education—in the press, Washington, statehouses and elsewhere—and suggestions on how colleges are trying (and sometimes failing) to make the case for their institutions.


Practice for Life: Making Decisions in College

Date: June 20
Time: 11:00 am-12:00pm

Lee Cuba, Professor of Sociology at Wellesley College; Nancy Jennings, Associate Professor of Education Emerita at Bowdoin College; Suzanne Lovett, Associate Professor of Psychology at Bowdoin College

College offers practice at making decisions that build foundational skills, habits, and values associated with liberal education: openness to new ideas, appreciation of difference, ability to make connections, problem-solving. But rather than focus on the aspirational outcomes of a liberal arts education, we claim that how students respond to the many decisions they must make in college is essential to understanding the process that can lead to these outcomes. Drawing on college and post-college interviews of over 200 students who attended seven liberal arts institutions, we’ll discuss five areas of decision-making in college that offer practice at becoming liberally educated: managing time and balancing commitments in a new setting, developing personal support networks, establishing a sense of home in an unfamiliar place, asking for advice, and becoming a lifelong-learner. The decisions students make in college are important practice for becoming liberally educated, yet they are also important practice for creating a meaningful adult life. We’ll conclude by discussing the benefits and challenges of this collaborative project, the findings that surprised us the most, and the ways our colleges have used data from this project to implement changes to their practices and policies.


Institutional effectiveness, student success, data-informed decision-making culture:  Ask not what your institution can do, ask what you can do?

Date: June 20,
Time: 3:30-4:30 pm,

Mary Ann Coughlin, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs at Springfield College

Demands for accountability and transparency in higher education continue to grow and abound.  The demand for data to inform decisions in higher education is greater than ever before.  Yet in all these calls for data and information, we often lose sight of the important questions.  Yes, establishing the effectiveness of our institutions is important.  And of course, each of our institutions has a unique mission, yet at the core of each of our missions is student success.  Ultimately, we cannot provide evidence that our institutions are effective, if we cannot document the success of our students. Providing evidence of institutional effectiveness, promoting student-success, and creating a data-informed decision making culture are all key elements of the work of institutional researchers and assessment professionals.  Many of these professionals work in smaller offices and may work in isolation.  Accomplishing these tasks can then become overwhelming and be viewed as tasks for others or tasks that cannot be accomplished without greater institutional support.  This session will explore how each professional can contribute and can make a difference to all of these key outcomes.