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Meet the Office of University Effectiveness

MSU Denver’s professional decision-support teams want to make your job easier through the power of data.

By Lindsey Coulter

August 15, 2018

MSU Denver campus full of studentsSay your office or department has a problem it needs to solve. You might need a more streamlined, cost-efficient process for an existing task; or perhaps you need to develop a campuswide survey that nets high-quality insight; or maybe you need to verify publicly reported data about the University. In scenarios such as these, the Office of University Effectiveness can help.

The Office of University Effectiveness provides a set of services in helping faculty and staff make great organizational decisions at every level. With customer-driven business intelligence, process transformation and institutional research, every department, office, program or initiative on campus can benefit from understanding and partnering with University Effectiveness.

If you’re not sure where your question, idea or conundrum fits within the University Effectiveness service menu, start by learning the services.

Business Intelligence

The Business Intelligence team focuses on answering client questions using operational and other data. Operational data are facts and figures that the university collects and uses for its own purposes, such as academic data and administrative data. Other data sources might include public databases or survey responses.

“From all across campus, staff and faculty have asked Business Intelligence to pull data seeking answers to many unique questions,” said Sarah Harman, executive director of University Effectiveness. “Even straightforward questions yield meaningful insight that can inform University decision-making.”

Some recent insights include the Fall 2017 Campus Climate Survey results, which showed that students of Hispanic or Latino origin feel more connected to Metropolitan State University of Denver than other demographic groups. And an English program student-retention inquiry showed that students who take and pass first-year English have higher retention rates than those who don’t.

Institutional Research

This branch of University Effectiveness deals with compliance data to ensure that the University continues to meet federal and state reporting guidelines. Institutional Research also participates with external partners in shared data-collection projects. These efforts require consistent adherence to fixed data definitions, so even common words such as “enrollment” can cause some head-scratching when compliance data are compared with operational data.

“State and federal reporting asks specific questions that rely on specific definitions, but Business Intelligence can answer more nuanced questions that may want to define key terms differently,” Harman said.

You can find Institutional Research’s compliance data online in the Data Book.

Process Transformation

Process Transformation facilitates collaborative conversations to increase efficiency and maximize value. “It asks, ‘How do we do things as efficiently as possible in support of great student outcomes?’” Harman said. “If we have redundant, multilayered processes, we’re probably overconsuming resources like time, money and supplies that could better serve students in another way.”

Optimizing processes — and creating a culture in which faculty and staff feel empowered to make continuous improvement — requires input from many points of view, Harman said. Cross-functional conversations are key to process improvement.

“For example, a staff member requested Process Transformation to address unique and confusing aspects of master’s degree budgeting that set (the process) apart from undergraduate budgeting,” Harman said. “Collaborative work by budget and academic fiscal managers resulted in students and staff benefiting from the efficiency and reliability of a newly standardized portion of the master’s program budgeting process.”

The bigger picture

Looking through the lens of CADRE, Harman notes that University Effectiveness embodies two particular values in unique ways.

“Our customer-service orientation and cross-functional approach focuses on community and diversity of community” she said. “In some cases, the data we pull also builds the University’s relationship with other important communities on and off campus. For instance, working together with ITS and MSU Denver’s veterans programs, we were able to strengthen relationships and increase service to veterans using data-informed analysis.”

When it comes to entrepreneurship, Harman believes University Effectiveness puts a new spin on the concept. “We’re intra-preneurial,” she said. “We’re nimble and creative in this toolbox of decision-making support and services offered from within the University.”

Do you have an idea of how these teams can help your department? Request services from the Office of University Effectiveness through its website.

Want to learn more about the University Effectiveness-facilitated Center for Advanced Visualization and Experiential Analysis? Stay tuned for a closer look at this immersive multimedia theatre and decision-making venue in a future edition of the Early Bird.

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