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“Data” is an intimidating word for some people. It’s often associated with a notion of complex processes -- and technologies. But this week, the Third Annual ASU Data Conference brought staff from across the University together to learn more about using data in their everyday work, shedding light on how “data” is not so scary a word. The focus of our work here at ASU is to enable student success, so it’s fitting that many of the big takeaways from the event came from the perspectives freshly offered by student panelists.
Journalism student Michelle Ailport, Marketing and Communications student Allyson Caballero, Industrial Design student Nipuni Siyambalapitiya, Computer Information Systems student Zack Walker, and Computer Science student Brandon Wu were invited for a conversation on the role of data in learning and career development. The panel discussed the importance of equity in providing access to data and professional opportunities and the necessity for data to be used ethically and fairly.
In that same vein, Ailport surfaced the use of data in news coverage, stressing the importance of journalistic standards to interpret the data faithfully and accurately. Caballero and Wu agreed that STEM and data analytics need to be brought to primary and secondary education institutions even before the college years, while Walker made the point that balancing the tracking of useful data and disclosing that such data is being tracked will be an important part of our digital future. Siyambalapitiya, who uses data to figure out attractive and sustainable product design, voiced her opinion that such a process wasn’t built entirely on profit-making measures as in traditional design models; it’s about producing the right quantity and quality of products to keep waste as minimal as possible.
When attendees shared their key takeaways at the event, a dominant theme emerged: the value of these student perspectives in centering and contextualizing staff members’ work with data every day. This openness continued with a number of conversations about the importance of cross-department and -college collaboration, using centralized, shared data to avoid reinventing the wheel. Leveraging ASU’s suite of tools, including Alteryx, with which the University just announced a large-scale partnership, to create understandable and interesting data visualizations was also a surfaced topic.
These takeaways were shared only after hundreds of attendees worked together over the course of the day across 27 working sessions, building relationships with staff members university-wide who educated and learned together during the Data Conference.
Six ASU Data Awards were also handed out before the day got underway. Postdoctoral research scholar at the School of Earth and Space Exploration Travis Gabriel received the Data Research Award for his standout use of data for his work, while Alecia Radatz, research analyst at Educational Outreach & Student Services, was awarded the Data Passion Award for her ability to elevate her work with data.
Charles Hechel, financial aid customer service supervisor, received the Data Perseverance Award in celebration of his long-term commitment to improving the customer experience, and Director of Data Science and Analytics at ASU Libraries Michael Simeone took home the Data Instructional Award for bringing data into the classroom.
Finally, two team awards were handed out: the University Registrar’s Office tech group received the Data Perseverance Team Award, and the Knowledge Exchange for Resilience received the Data Passion Team Award.
All of these awards were given out to acknowledge the valuable work with data happening at the University, a recognition of the boundary-pushing technology, analytics and processes that improve the experience of ASU community members and enable student success. As one attendee said, “I’m so proud of our students at ASU.” With the input of students at this year’s ASU Data Conference, this vital work has become a multidisciplinary and intergeneral pursuit.