By Larrisa Beth Turner
With a front-row table, UIT’s Business Intelligence team members were among the guests of honor at the Student Affairs winter luncheon on December 10, 2019 — although they may not have known it when they first arrived.
The reason, however, became apparent after lunch, as Vice President for Student Affairs Lori McDonald took the stage. She referenced President Ruth Watkins’ vision of one university, noting that Student Affairs could not do its job without partnerships and collaboration across campus — including those with the Business Intelligence (BI) team.
The BI team — Howa, Jawahir Ahamedkasim, Tyler Ford, Bryan Harman, Brian Harris, Dane Luby, Paul Peterson, and Susan Schaefer — transforms raw business data into meaningful and useful information that enables organizations to make informed, fact-based decisions. The group has partnered with Student Affairs for several years to streamline processes and support operational data needs.
“Tom approached this work as a community, much like the way we work within Student Affairs,” McDonald said. “He has worked diligently with many units across campus to truly understand our work and support our ability to work and learn together through data.”
She noted that before partnering with the BI team and Office of Assessment, Evaluation & Research (AER) in Student Affairs, Career & Professional Development Center staff had to manually open, manipulate, and share every data request, which was extremely time-consuming and pulled staff away from serving students. Now, data can be accessed and used in a safe and secure manner across the institution, empowering informed decision-making and providing a more holistic view of students.
“With many new opportunities for Student Affairs and the sensitive data we often have, [the BI team’s] work is often unseen, but is critical, to ensure we can show the impact of our work on the lives of students and while not compromising our values,” McDonald said.
Stacy Ackerlind, AER director and special assistant for Strategic Initiatives in Student Affairs, who sent the group a cryptic invitation to the luncheon, has worked closely with the BI team. She has said it’s been fun learning from each other to improve programs, services, and the student experience.
“We are so grateful for the work Tom and his group has done to make us a more data-informed culture and work with us as a strategic partner,” Ackerlind wrote in an email.
“It’s an incredible, and well-deserved, honor for Tom and the Business Intelligence team to receive the Campus Partner Award from Student Affairs,” Pink said. “The BI team has been instrumental in helping university organizations address their data needs, and I’m thrilled that they’re being recognized for their hard work and collaborative spirit.”
Howa said he and his team were honored to receive the award. The opportunity to work with Student Affairs, he said, has been very rewarding.
“I’ve never met a more genuine group of people who truly care about students. They have made a dedicated effort to become more data-informed, and the progress they have made over the last year is amazing,” Howa said. “I look forward to what we will be able to accomplish as we continue our close partnership.”