lunch invitations for 2016

In several conversations over the past week I’ve been struck that we need to bring together people we seldom do.  This post is for me to read a while from now, when (I hope) our data capability in the CSU will be further along than it is today.  It’s a list of people I want to invite to a meeting then.

  • Beth Ambos:  runs research partnerships for the CSU — not just the kind that identify sponsoring organizations, but also those that bring teaching and learning into the field.  Of the people on this list, Beth is the one I talk to the most about this topic, and I think she sees the same urgency I do.
  • Judy Bothelho:  runs civic engagement for the CSU, and got a flag added to systemwide enrollment data for course sections that involve service learning.  If we ever prove that high-impact practices really boost persistence and completion, it will be from techniques like this.
  • Richard R. Burnette III:  directs Institutional Research (IR) for Florida State University.  I’ve never met or communicated with him, but Larry Gilbert, IT whiz at Sacramento State University, tells me I should.  He says he saw Richard give a talk on the use of “business intelligence” in higher ed that reminded him of what we’re trying to do.
  • Marsha Hirano-Nakanishi:  runs IR for the whole CSU, and holds the keys to the kingdom.

I picture ordering appetizers and wine, as a signal it won’t be a brief lunch, and then asking them to figure out how we can prove that quality education pays — that putting in better, more engaging experiences actually saves money, because we’re no longer watching half our students drop out.  Can we do that?  Can we flag every cool thing we do, like learning communities and field work and collaboration on research?  And not just yes/no we did it, but how well — something like low, medium, and high intensity?  And then aggregate the results across the whole unwieldy CSU, all 400,000 plus students, across a range of institutional sizes and environments?

That’s the long-term part of the aspiration, the pipe dream.  In the central office we don’t even know yet what courses they all take, or how many more they might need to graduate.  For over a decade we’ve been hemoragging tax money trying to get a consistent data structure in place, and accomplishing nothing except full employment for programmers.

When I think of how hard we’ve been trying to move forward, and for how long, I wonder if 2016 is too soon for our lunch.  The hell with wine; make it cocktails and a round of golf.


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