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Data Governance Update

October 4, 2018

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,

In recent months, various groups have participated in conversations about improving our practices, policies, and tools for using College data, including faculty members’ access to academic information.

These issues—collectively called “data governance”—are important because proper access to and use of data can yield beneficial results. For example, a recent faculty-led effort to document the impact of grant-funded initiatives on student outcomes highlighted a number of issues concerning how the College collects and saves data needed for research, reporting, and analytics. A current faculty-led initiative to enhance support for students pursuing the sciences is uncovering the need for better data to inform placement decisions, advising, and instructional support. Recent software purchases have also underscored the need to improve institutional coordination, communication, and policies around the data and information systems that support the College.   

To consolidate the College’s efforts, I recently charged a Data Governance Working Group, co-chaired by Chief Information Technology Officer Joel Cooper and Director of Institutional Effectiveness, Research & Assessment Robin Shores, and comprising faculty and staff members, with identifying the improvements necessary to transform College data into useable, accessible information. The group will consider privacy, security, ethical concerns, and regulatory requirements in keeping with Swarthmore’s longstanding commitment to ensuring that College information is secure and managed appropriately. By the end of the academic year, I expect this group to shift its work to an ongoing governance structure that will oversee the College’s current and evolving data and information needs.

As we continue to recognize the importance of data governance and the need for technology solutions in an ever-growing number of campus programs and initiatives, I am also pleased to announce that I have invited Joel Cooper to serve as a member of President’s Staff. Since coming to Swarthmore in 2013, Joel has been a valued and collaborative partner across campus. He will continue to report to the provost, and I am eager for his perspective to be included on my leadership team and to inform College decisions.


Valerie Smith