Data is a tool. Student Engagement is the work. Can I get an Amen?

Can we just start saying this over and over as our mantra:

Data is a tool.

Student Engagement is the work.

I was talking to a friend recently who works in the world of higher ed data.  He is a master of providing data to help schools identify which students are likely to struggle.

I asked him what support and intervention is provided for the identified at-risk students. He looked surprised and said,  “Oh, you know!” as he wiggled his fingers dismissively. I frowned and he continued, “but once they do all the whatever (here the finger wiggle again), we can capture the retention of those students.”

He went on, but I stopped listening because I was really unhappy about his finger wiggle! Did he just “yada, yada, yada” all the weighty work I know student engagement and support entails?!

It’s easy to recognize that data is a powerful tool, but hard to grasp the true nature of the transformative work of student development.

You know the finger wiggle is a great way to indicate: “This is Something I Don’t Understand.”

For those working outside of student success, the relationships you cultivate with students are a black box. It’s easy to recognize that data is a powerful tool, but hard to grasp the true nature of the transformative work of student development.

Please be certain: the work you do is complex and meaningful.

You shape a student’s experience everyday and make a significant difference for them.

Here is what you do:

  • Listen to students

  • Walk with them.

  • Tell them the hard truth.

  • Advocate for them.

  • Connect them with other helpers.

  • Cry with them… and laugh with them.

  • Make a life difference for them.

Every Student. Every Day.

Please, say it with me:

Data is a tool.

Student Engagement is the work.

 

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About Rachel Phillips-Buck

Rachel Phillips-Buck is the Vice President and a Senior Consultant at Pharos Resources. She works closely with clients to create and coordinate best retention practices on their campuses. She has worked with Pharos 360 since 2006, helping to develop and implement this early alert system on campuses throughout the United States. Prior to her work with Pharos Resources, she worked as a career counselor at Abilene Christian University. She taught the Career and Life Planning Class, and created and delivered the “D!scovery for Deciding” program, a five-week program that helps students choose, confirm and focus his/her major. Rachel is a Licensed Professional Counselor, and approaches all of her work with Pharos Resources with a perspective informed by her training in Systems Theory. Rachel received a BS in Psychology and a Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy from ACU.

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