The data needed to support strategic initiatives and measure a university’s institutional effectiveness come from many places, including faculty. So when the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) set its Top Tier initiative in place, it turned to Digital Measures Activity Insight software for the faculty activity data needed to support its long-term goals, including boosting its Carnegie classification in research from R2 to R1 and achieving the Carnegie Engagement classification. Tondra De, Assistant Director of Faculty Affairs at UNLV, and David Sarnowski, Digital Measures Engagement Consultant, discussed how faculty activity data supports strategic initiatives at UNLV during the recent AIR Forum in Washington, D.C.
In Part 1 of this series, we’ll look at UNLV’s history of faculty activity reporting, Top Tier initiative and partnership with Digital Measures. Next time, we’ll discuss the value of faculty activity data, gaining faculty buy-in and supporting your institution’s big picture decisions.
Founded in 1957 as a branch of the University of Nevada-Reno, UNLV rapidly grew into a comprehensive doctoral research university. Sixty years later, UNLV offers nearly 30,000 students more than 350 degree options taught by 1,600 faculty. The university began using Activity Insight in 2011, piloting the software with the colleges of business, liberal arts and nursing before rolling out campus-wide in 2013. UNLV uses Activity Insight for annual reviews, promotion and tenure and state-mandated reports.
“Our faculty activity data was paper-based or in spreadsheets, and it was localized to colleges, so central administration didn’t have a complete sense of faculty accomplishments, and needed that information for internal and external reporting purposes,” De explained. “There’s a huge demand for faculty data across the university, from chairs and deans to central administration.”
Top Tier Initiative
The university’s push to identify specific strategic goals evolved into the Top Tier initiative after the arrival of Len Jessup as university president in 2015. As a leading researcher in management information systems focused on the use of emerging technology in higher education, Jessup recognized the need for a university-wide system for tracking faculty information and championed use of Activity Insight.
UNLV’s Top Tier initiative identified five goal areas with specific benchmarks of success:
- Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity
- Student Achievement
- Academic Health Center
- Community Partnerships
- Infrastructure and Shared Governance
“Faculty play a key role in each of these goal areas. The university is really focused on how we can help them with their work and help them succeed, so we can achieve our Top Tier vision,” De said.
Recognizing these needs then allowed De to consult with the Digital Measures team to customize data collection and reporting to fulfill the purpose of any database:
- Informing the decisions you make
- Answering the questions you have
Activity Insight’s Evolving Role
The initial goal for Activity Insight at UNLV was to tailor the system for basic reporting requirements, including annual reviews, promotion and tenure, and other regulatory requirements from the State of Nevada. De’s team wanted to develop custom reports to arrive at that information quickly. “The last thing faculty want is to be asked for the same piece of information over and over again,” De said. “So we thought, ‘wouldn’t it be helpful to have it all in one repository and then be able to get the reports when we need them?’” UNLV also wanted to provide deans and chairs with easy ad hoc reporting to meet their specific requirements.
For such a large institution with needs ranging from engineering and dental to fine arts and law, the customizability of Activity Insight was a big advantage. “Someone in Engineering is so different than Humanities, particularly Fine Arts. You don’t want to frustrate Fine Arts faculty because the system doesn’t accommodate the kinds of activities they engage in. We needed a system that can be expanded to collect any information needed,” De said.
“The customer support around the design of that customized database was really important to us,” De shared. “The fact that Digital Measures could help design reports and partner with us is really valuable.”
In our next post, the conversation continues, exploring the value of faculty activity data, gaining faculty buy-in and how UNLV’s faculty data support the university’s strategic decisions.