Jason Rivera will be taking over as the new director of institutional research, Provost Dukes Love announced in an all-campus email on May 22. Rivera comes from the University of Bridgeport, where he is currently vice president for university systems, effectiveness and planning.
His primary responsibility will be “internal and external reporting and analysis of data about Williams,” as Rivera described it.
According to Rivera, external reporting of data typically takes the form of collecting information that is necessary for the College to receive federal funding, and for the production of important resources such as the Common Data Set, which includes information on the College such as enrollment and financial aid.
Internal reporting and analysis of data supports the creation of College policies and goals. His goal as the new director will be “to figure out why we get the [data] we get and use it to make Williams the best place that we can,” he said.
Rivera has had past experience using internal data analysis to improve the institutions at which he has worked. Love’s email highlighted Rivera’s experience using institutional research to promote institutional diversity and inclusion. Properanalysis of institutional data, Rivera said, can highlight issues faced by groups on campus and help to set the agenda for college efforts to improve student success. “We want to collect data beyond basic things like race or income,” Rivera said. “We want to know about pronoun usage, sexual orientation and gender identity … to address specific issues of students in the College.”
Rivera also said he finds it important to redefine the College’s views on student success. Traditionally, according to Rivera, student success is viewed through hard metrics such as retention rates and grade point averages. Rivera wants to shift that practice by redefining student success so it includes metrics that quantify student happiness and quality of life at the College. These changes, he said, will allow for the administration to make more robust and informed decisions thatimprove student success. “It doesn’t matter if a student graduates if they had a terrible time while they were here,” he said.
Rivera said that the majority of colleges are currently expanding their work in information technology and in quantifying student experiences. With the spread of the pandemic, Rivera thinks that it will be important for the College to both “listen to the data and come up with novel ways to use it.”
As for the lack of knowledge about his field amongst the student body, Rivera is unsurprised. “That’s kind of a byproduct of the field in and of itself,” Rivera said. “There’s a tendency for people to kind of stay behind the scenes.” However, he noted that this lack of knowledge is one of the things that he most wants to change about the office of institutional research when the College can resume in-person classes. “I’m just really looking forward to being able to meet the people… not just faculty and staff, but really the students.”