For more than 10 years, SUNY Oswego's Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management has used a data-driven approach to continually improving the performance of its departments -- Admissions, New Student Orientation, Residence Life and Housing, Career Services and others -- to enhance the student experience. The division now has a national award to prove it.

Campus Labs, a company that works with institutions to transform higher education through data and analytics, made its annual All-Star Award to Oswego for innovations and performance improvements utilizing the company's Baseline software platform. Campus Labs has more than 1,400 member campuses eligible for its awards.

Dr. Kathleen Evans, assistant vice president for student development, said staff members are proud of the award. Employing the software since 2007, the division has been able to produce actionable data that "helps us set a very high bar for all our departments," she said. 

"We want continuous improvement of our practice -- the work that we do," Evans said. "We use these data points as a regular part of our work."

The Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management conducts regular listening sessions, often in the form of surveys or focus groups, to learn from students and others what they think about events, programs and quality-of-life issues. The data help inform the trajectory of the division's efforts going forward.

Two years ago, a promotional campaign titled "We Heard Your Voice" publicized some of the results:

  • "You said (about the Admissions Office), 'Later Open House hours are more convenient for those traveling long distances to Oswego.' As a result, we pushed back our fall programs to begin 2 hours later; we also added in Sunday programs, to accommodate those unable to attend the Saturday events."
  • "You said (about the Career Services Office), '70% of students rated the Career Services office Very Helpful in spring 2015.' We redesigned our office into our new 'industry-centric' model and 95% of students now rate us as Very Helpful."
  • "You said (about Disability Support Services, now named Accessibility Resources), 'Sometimes the testing rooms are loud.' We purchased 7 white noise machines for the testing rooms and noise reduction equipment is now available on request."
  • "You said (about Student Health Services), 'It's difficult to get in to be seen.' (We) expanded walk-in appointments; as of early November (2016)Walker Health Center has seen 200 more students during walk-in hours compared to last semester."

'Outstanding work'

Evans said the college also uses Baseline to develop rubrics for assessing the performance of employees such as resident assistants and recycling technicians, providing feedback and tracking progress on goals.

"A huge component of this effort is training," Evans said, pointing out that Campus Labs provides a consultant and regularly scheduled webinars.

The Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management is most proud of creating "a culture of assessment," Evans said, where data-driven performance measures have become part of the routine. The division hosts bi-annual Assessment Showcase/Retreat workshops to discuss results from focus groups, student learning outcomes and so on.

Residence Life and Housing has surveyed all students each fall since 2007, exploring their perceptions of residential living, experiences with staff and intent to return the following year. The department has also deployed surveys to measure satisfaction with custodians and desk attendants, perceptions of safety, and to assess overall program satisfaction.

Data developed from parents' and recent graduates' responses to surveys also have added perspective for such departments as New Student Orientation and Career Services.

In an application for the Campus Labs award, Evans wrote, "As we began our efforts, we adopted a mantra of 'Manageable & Meaningful' (often distributing M&Ms at meetings and presentations). We were very aware that staff were fearful, and resistant to, assessment work, and set out together to create a culture of assessment on campus."

She pointed out that by 2017, the results had been so positive that in the college's Middle States periodic review "our division was recognized for outstanding work in the area of assessment."

For more information about Student Affairs and Enrollment Management at SUNY Oswego, visit their website or call 315-312-3214.