University at Buffalo - The State University of New York
Skip to Content

UB By the Numbers: Making Sense of Institutional Data

By Blake Cooper

Published December 22, 2015

Blake Cooper (UB Student, Class of 2016) is originally from Canandaigua, NY. He is studying Spanish, Linguistics and Comparative Literature, and beginning work on translating an Argentinian novel into English.

From day-to-day operations to strategic planning for UB 2020 and beyond, the constant stream of data flowing into the university is now a crucial part of how our institution works. That’s why a new data governance initiative began in 2015 to determine where our institutional data comes from, who is interpreting it and how it is interpreted.

Getting the numbers right

At the center of the initiative is the Data Governance Council, which includes Vice President and Chief Information Officer J. Brice Bible and other representatives from UB’s executive cabinet, and a diverse cross-section of departments across UB’s campuses.

They’ve already made progress on their initial task: figuring out what counts as institutional data. While this may seem clear, different sources can often yield different numbers when it comes to important information like student population and demographics. The council has examined common sources of data, like financial aid, admissions and other student records, to see what to include in the initiative.

From there, the council appointed data stewards for each of these sources. These stewards meet regularly in committee, co-chaired by Craig Abbey, Associate Vice Provost and Director of Institutional Research, and Gary Pacer, Manager of Application Development for Enterprise Application Services, part of UBIT, to help the council set guidelines and promote consistency in analyzing UB’s important data.

The continuing work of the initiative will focus on best practices at other institutions and creating official definitions for UB’s “fact book” numbers, like number of faculty or student enrollment.

The vision: one-stop data

Eventually, once a process for calculating data has been determined for each area, a central repository will be built to house the official data. This means that departments across UB will have access to the institution’s important data, and every department will have consistent information.

Having accurate and accessible data for the whole institution serves a variety of purposes, from regulatory and accreditation standards to recruitment or new students. It’s all part of leveraging the unprecedented insight we have as a 21st century institution, to make better choices and operate more intelligently into the future.