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In July 2023, New Mexico State University (NMSU) embarked on a transformative journey through the "Building an Academic Data Culture to Support Student Success" pilot program offered by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU). This professional development program aimed to empower faculty, staff, and administrators to enhance student outcomes and build a robust academic data culture within their institution. The expected learning outcomes included improving academic data literacy, assessing institutional data culture, developing action plans for equitable student success, and instilling a continuous improvement mindset.

The Program

@Patrick Turner-NMSU, Associate Vice President for Student Academic Success and the NMSU lead, recognized the importance of bridging the gap between student success professionals and data professionals within a university. NMSU had experienced significant leadership turnover, which motivated Dr. Turner to foster collaboration and unity among various stakeholders. NMSU was actively involved in multiple projects through the APLU Intermediaries for Scale (IFS) initiative, which focused on gateway courses. Their intention was to engage multiple stakeholders in using data in improving success rates.

The data project selected by the NMSU team explored DFW rates for gateway courses. Through data analysis, the team learned that most students who failed these courses were also performing poorly on their mid-term grades. Armed with this information, the team identified two actions. First, they would examine student engagement data during the early weeks of class. Second, they would ask students what challenges they faced in completing the course. Based on the results, the team would identify interventions designed to improve student outcomes.

Feedback and Suggestions for Improvement

Feedback on the program's impact revealed Dr. Turner’s deliberate efforts to break down silos and build connections within the university. However, challenges remained in accessing data. As part of the program, almost 60 individuals within the NMSU community completed the Data Maturity Index (DMI).  The DMI is an assessment designed by the Powered by Public’s Data Integration cluster to assess strengths and weaknesses in the data culture on campus. The purpose of the assessment is to inform campus leaders where to focus efforts to maximize change in the data culture. The results were particularly helpful, guiding NMSU toward increasing data access and training. Dr. Turner emphasized the importance of encouraging everyone to engage with data, even if immediate actions were not taken. He acknowledged the value of the course and having a data coach who sought ways to optimize its impact.

Dr. Turner offered valuable suggestions to enhance the program's effectiveness, including inviting different speakers to increase engagement, promoting more interactive conversations, accommodating varying levels of expertise, and addressing issues related to participation and collaboration. He also highlighted the importance of offering supplementary materials for digital learning.


New Mexico State University's participation in the "Building an Academic Data Culture to Support Student Success" pilot program was marked by collaboration, introspection, and a commitment to fostering an equitable data culture. Dr. Turner and the NMSU team recognized the importance of data-driven decision-making, and their experiences in the program have paved the way for a more inclusive and data-savvy academic community. The program's impact at NMSU was instrumental in exploring existing data and shedding light on previously unknown aspects of data culture. The journey continues, as NMSU and APLU work together to shape a brighter future for their students through the power of data and collaboration.

Tags: New Mexico State University, Academic Data Culture

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