Embracing Data to Give Thanks: A Thanksgiving Reflection


On this Thanksgiving morning, it is a time not only for pumpkin pies and family gatherings but also for reflection and gratitude. In the world of institutional research and data, where numbers and analyses reign supreme, it is easy to overlook the human aspect of our work. This Thanksgiving, I want to take a moment to appreciate the unique contributions and insights this field offers to education and beyond.

The Gift of Data in Education

Data is the unsung hero of educational advancement. By meticulously tracking and analyzing student performance, demographic trends, and resource allocation, institutional research provides the backbone for informed decision-making. This Thanksgiving, we are thankful for the data that allows us to understand our students better and craft educational experiences that are both impactful and inclusive.

Collaboration and Community

Behind every dataset and analysis lies a team of dedicated professionals. The collaborative nature of our work brings together diverse minds – statisticians, administrators, faculty, and more. This synergy not only enriches our professional experience but also leads to more nuanced and comprehensive research outcomes. This Thanksgiving, let us be grateful for our colleagues and the sense of community we share at the greatest university there is.

The field of institutional research is ever-evolving, presenting new technologies and methodologies. This constant innovation keeps us on our toes and ensures that our work remains relevant and effective. While these changes can be challenging, they also provide opportunities for growth and learning. I have learned more in four months than I had in the last 10 years regarding advanced SQL, PowerBI, and a thought process for processing data and turning that data into true information.  This season, I want to say how much I appreciate even more than ever the dynamic nature of our field and the resilience it fosters within those that work within it.

Impact Beyond Numbers

Our work in institutional research and planning extends beyond campuses. It influences policy, shapes educational trends, and, most importantly, impacts the lives of students, that work on our campuses, and the cities and towns that count on survival through a university that thrives. The data we analyze and the reports we generate contribute to shaping the future of education and in many cases, shaping our hometowns. This Thanksgiving, we are thankful for the opportunity to make a difference in the world through our work.

Finally, amidst the hustle of deadlines and data analyses, Thanksgiving reminds us to pause and cherish our personal lives. Whether it is spending quality time with family, pursuing hobbies like yard work or baseball cards, or engaging in DIY projects, these moments enrich our lives outside work, and it’s some of these things that get shoved aside in the busy times.

While our work in institutional research might seem worlds apart from the traditional Thanksgiving themes, the holiday provides a perfect opportunity to reflect on our profession for which we can be thankful. As we gather around the Thanksgiving table, carry a sense of gratitude for the unique and impactful role each of us plays in the vast world of education.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my colleagues in institutional research and beyond! May this holiday season fill your hearts with gratitude and joy, and may all your seasons bring happiness, with data!

Brian M. Morgan
Chief Data Officer, Marshall University

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