By The Center for Student Analytics | April 1, 2018

 

 
- Academic & Instructional Services

 
“As we discussed what we needed to ensure we were taking full advantage of our analytics systems, it was clear this highly specified job didn’t exist within the university at that time. We flushed out a job description and then worked with HR to create the data wrangler position to be filled by a graduate student.”

Early in Utah State University’s (USU) adoption of enterprise-wide analytics, an initiative geared towards identifying multiple indicators driving student success, it was clear a new position needed to be created that did not exist within the university. Academic & Instructional Services (AIS) worked with USU’s Human Resource department to design a new job – “Data Wrangler”. The job’s main skillset: analyzing, organizing and interpreting Big Data sets.

“As we discussed what we needed to ensure we were taking full advantage of our analytics systems, it was clear this highly specified job didn’t exist within the university at that time,” said Mitchell Colver, senior data analyst in AIS. ”We flushed out a job description and then worked with HR to create the data wrangler position to be filled by a graduate student.”

Data wranglers, a term coined by the Open University in the United Kingdom, is someone who can quickly take vast amounts of raw data and transform it into decision-making information. AIS hired Amanda Hagman, a sociobehavioral epidemiology Ph.D. student at USU, who had the background and know-how AIS was looking for.

“For the past five years I have been doing program evaluations by uncovering patterns in behavioral data to create innovative solutions,” said Hagman. “Now I am doing it on a much larger scale with Big Data. These analytics tools use computer algorithms to sift through huge datasets to help departments better understand how to help their students.”

The ultimate goal of this analytics initiative and the data wrangling position filled by Hagman is to analyze the mountains of data USU already has, discover factors contributing to student success, and then engage with departments to implement effective initiatives to increase that success. Having a data wrangler is a necessary position within higher education in the 21st century, and USU is leading the charge on its implementation.

So far, Hagman and Colver have helped several USU departments, such as Residence Life, Connections, and USUSA, by interpreting their data and translating it into usable information. The solutions created based on the results have helped hundreds of students have a positive experience.

USU departments are encouraged to reach out to Colver for an in-depth consultation on how it works and how AIS’ analytics services can help with program evaluations.

Contact: Mitchell Colver, 435-797-0623


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