"Using Data to Improve Processes in Academic Units"

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May 2004

John Floros: Head of the Department of Food Science
Lisa Squire: Senior Director of Planning, Administration, and Information Technology, in the Commonwealth College

At the May meeting of the Quality Advocates’ Network, nearly 40 people heard representatives from two academic units share their experiences in moving toward more databased approaches for strategic planning and process improvement.

John Floros, Head of the Department of Food Science, described how his department identifies data needs, collects the data, and determinesimage of speakers policy and procedural changes based on what the data reveal. Flores cautioned that it is difficult, however, to tie data outcomes back to specific department activities unless there are long-term, consistent tracking efforts. The Food Sciences Department has revised its strategic plan to include performance indicators related to its goals for 2003 – 2007. A Measures Task Force created a master database of key measures for a variety of purposes, including strategic planning. However, Flores finds that resource constraints hinder improvements toward a centralized data system.

A CQI team in the Food Sciences Department developed a summary master budget report and a database for tracking graduate student information that assist Flores in assessing the status of current year funds, projecting the availability of the next fiscal year funds, providing resources to assist faculty in recruiting additional graduatestudents, and supporting existing students.

Lisa Squire, Senior Director of Planning, Administration, and Information Technology in the Commonwealth College, provided an overview of the Commonwealth College (CWC), a relatively new entity created in 1997 to incorporate 12 Penn State campuses. The College is committed to three goals: to increase cohesiveness across campuses, faculty, staff, students, and advisory boards; to improve communications in all directions, internally and externally; and to expand the capacity of the College and its constituents by increasing diversity of faculty, staff and students. “Everything that we do as a College is directed toward meeting one or more of these three goals,” said Squire.

In order to support and assess the accomplishment of its goals, the College regularly distributes reports and data files within the College and to the Campuses. Among these reports are:

  • The continuing education end-of-the-fiscal-year report that provides credit and non-credit section and enrollment counts;

  • Calculations for the Equity Process report that provide credit figures for certain cohorts, such as adults, provisionals, upper division students;

  • Reports that list certain categories of baccalaureate students at each CWC campus– for example, those on the Dean’s List; those who have not confirmed their major preferences; who have not enrolled in a First-Year Seminar course; who have not filed their tuition bill; or who started at a CWC campus and have received approval to graduate from UP, Behrend or Capitol.

Squire also distributed a sample page from the College’s Intranet; a description of the 360-degree profile (evaluation) that all staff complete; and a month-by-month flowchart of the College’s recruitment schedule.

Lisa Squire:

John Floros:

The Quality Advocates Network meets several times each semester to share ideas and examples of improvement and change. To join the Quality Advocates Network mailing list or to learn more about the meetings scheduled, contact the staff at psupia@psu.edu.

The Quality Advocates Network is open to all Penn State faculty, staff, administrators, and students.