How the registrar is integral to institutional reporting

June 20, 2019
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With campuses and centers across the globe, the University of Chicago is the very picture of a decentralized institution. Decision-makers, however,  still require accurate, integrated, drillable data -- and they can’t wait for offices in other time zones to respond. Additionally, and by design, the University of Chicago doesn’t have an institutional research arm to produce that kind of integrated data report.

Never fear; the Registrar is here

To fill this need, The Registrar’s Office along with other data stewards have designed an online, interactive reporting tool a la the traditional institutional "Fact Book." The tool integrates data from the central students information  system, as well as the systems that support admissions, human resources, housing, scholarships, fellowships, study abroad, student discipline, career advancement, and alumni-giving.

“This kind of reporting is not unique among institutions,” said Scott Campbell, Assistant Vice President and University Registrar. “What makes our project unique is that we are working on automating the entire process, and incorporating the data from ancillary systems into our student data warehouse to make it easily accessible to anyone who should have access.”

They’ve spent about six months pulling together the University’s vital statistics. Upon roll-out, the administrators will have an automated, real-time window into the student life cycle with over 100 visualized data reports.

“For many institutions, Fact Books are produced by a centralized Institutional Research Office,” said Andrew Hannah, Senior Associate University Registrar. “In our case, the University Registrar is stepping up and providing the work for this project.”

As in most schools, the registrar is the lead data steward regarding data related to students -- matriculation, graduation, and other major milestones of the student lifecycle.

“It makes sense for the Registrar to steward this project because we’re in a much better position to know where data lives and which data to use,” Hannah said.


Telling the student lifecycle story

Getting this project up and running meant getting all of the systems’ owners onboard. Data is distributed in pockets across campus, and bringing it together is how the university administration can tell the story of the student lifecycle.

“The dean has tasked the leadership team to try to pull together all of these reports into a data visualization tool to share across the University, and ‘give everyone a password,’ meaning give everyone access to the data they need in a protected environment with a systematic process, rather than spending weeks and months trying to pull data together manually,” Campbell said.

“As we proceed, we expect a lot of feedback, emails, and phone calls asking for more details,” Hannah added. “We’re structuring the new project to allow for that by using common data elements and accurately defining and sourcing all data in reports, which will make it much easier to do this kind of follow-up drill down.”

A “source of truth”

“Registrars understand data governance and stewardship,” Campbell added. “We understand how to make significant headway into uncovering all the data across campus through very frank and honest conversations about stewardship with the data owners.”

“Reporting doesn’t have to live in Institutional Research,” Hannah said. “Really, the people who understand the data best -- registrars -- can be in a position to produce these reports and to be a source of truth to the university community for these statistics.”

The University of Chicago’s Registrar’s Office will bring more details about this project to the 2019 AACRAO Technology and Transfer Conference in their Sunday afternoon session “Just the Facts, Nothing but the Facts.” Learn more and register now.


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