Profile of a Campus Project

My landmark 2006 study on the state of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus garnered signficant attention when the University was organizing its Strategic Planning initiative and offers a model for how to understand institutions of higher education through a variety of data-driven dimensions.

As a doctoral student, I created the Profile of a Campus Project, which explored the use of non-traditional data sources to generate a holistic view into the total functioning of a higher education institution. The crux of the project was that most research universities have large numbers of independent data repositories and operational data warehouses scattered across the institution, each designed to support very specific tasks. Combining the holdings of each of these together, non-traditional metrics can be extracted. For example, campus human resources databases, which list the departmental affiliations of all staff and faculty, can be used to calculate which departments tend to have the highest levels of co-appointments (faculty are often given appointments in other departments they work closely with) and discover networks of collaboration across disciplines. Thesis advising databases can similarly expose co-advising patterns across departments. Graduation data from the US Department of Education can be combined with on-campus data for peer comparison. Finally, the websites of all university units can be downloaded and data mined to generate a master topical network that connects departments based on the themes and projects discussed on their websites and recommend potential collaboration points.