On March 28, more than 120 trustees, presidents, and staff attended the Statewide Trustees Conference focused on achieving equity and using data intentionally in higher education.
The challenge of creating greater equity on every public campus—and the need to measure progress in doing so—took center stage at the Department of Higher Education’s March 28th conference for campus trustees hosted by BHE Chairman Chris Gabrieli and Commissioner Carlos Santiago.
More than 120 trustees, presidents, and institutional staff heard opening remarks from Commissioner Santiago and Chair Gabrieli outlining the state Board of Higher Education’s vision and rationale for making equity the new strategic focus for policy work in public higher education. Chair Gabrieli introduced the topic by showing the evolution of Board priorities from the original seven goals of the Vision Project to “The Big 3” goals and now to the singular goal of achieving greater equity for all students. Commissioner Santiago made the case for this agenda by sharing a detailed data analysis of gaps in college enrollment, degree attainment, median earnings and other indicators by race/ethnicity, gender and region.
The conference continued with a live demonstration of the new Performance Measurement Reporting System powered by Tableau. The new tool, complete with interactive data visualizations, will allow institutions to compare their performance with the overall performance for their segment (community colleges or state universities), as well as peer institutions in other states. The session took a unique approach, eschewing a traditional software demo and instead using a scripted skit to show the tool’s analytic capabilities to guide trustees in many aspects of performance evaluation. Commissioner Santiago stepped into the role of the president of “Apple Lake Community College,” a fictional higher education institution in Massachusetts, while Chair Gabrieli took on the part of Apple Lake’s board chair, and DHE’s Jonathan Keller acted as Apple Lake’s Director of Institutional Research. The three thespians reviewed outcomes for the College in areas including first-year student retention, six-year student success, and timely completion of gateway courses. Using the Performance Measurement Reporting System, trustees were able to see how Apple Lake stacked up against other community colleges in the system and how well this specific college appeared to be serving various racial and ethnic groups. (A copy of the script used during the session is available for review along with video of this and other sessions. Please contact Matt Noyes at 617-994-6934 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.)
Over lunch, trustees heard from Dr. James Lyons from the Association of Governing Boards. Dr. Lyons has served as president of five higher education institutions, including both a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) and a historically black college (HBCU). Crediting the BHE and the Massachusetts public higher education system for taking on a goal as important and daunting as equity, Dr. Lyons shared his experiences as a student, college president, and trustee.
The conference closed with breakout sessions covering five areas chosen by trustees as being of particular interest to them: enterprise risk management, comprehensive presidential evaluations, data dashboards, board self assessment, and higher education policy initiatives in Massachusetts.