August 25, 2019

Debra Schleef: Unlimited Data

Debra Schleef, associate provost of Institutional Analysis and Effectiveness

Debra Schleef, associate provost of Institutional Analysis and Effectiveness

“I’ll tell you where to look. I won’t tell you what to see.” Those are words that Debra Schleef lived by as a professor. These days, UMW’s associate provost of Institutional Analysis and Effectiveness spends much of her days analyzing data. But now she does tell her colleagues what to see in those numbers.

Schleef’s office is central to research on students, faculty and staff at Mary Washington, and she uses those statistics to advise senior administration so they can make data-informed decisions.

“If there’s a data element, it usually touches my office,” said Schleef, explaining that universities are required to share statistical information with federal and state governments.

Enter the new cloud-based framework Schleef and her team are beginning to work on this month. Aided by educational best practices firm EAB, the hub will unite a dizzying array of data environments from across the University and put UMW among the first to use an implementation of this type.

Schleef first came to Mary Washington two decades ago to teach sociology and says her background primed her for her current position, which is responsible for areas of internal and external reporting as well as assessment.

“Being a sociologist offers a unique insight into organizational dynamics, communication and change, which is so relevant in this job,” Schleef said. “And while I don’t teach as often, I understand inside and out what it’s like to be a UMW professor and department chair, so I love having the opportunity to help people in those roles.”

 

Q: What first piqued your interest in sociology?
A: I wanted to be a lawyer – sociology was recommended by my freshman advisor. I’d never heard of it, but I took my first class – a lecture with 500 students – and I was completely hooked.

Q: Why did you decide to make the leap to Institutional Analysis and Effectiveness?
A: I was looking for an administrative opportunity and love data collection, analysis and reporting. I’d been teaching it for 25 years, so it was a perfect fit.

Q: You constantly work with numbers. What about that appeals to you?
A: It can be exhausting because details have to be right, and you might have to run an analysis several times. But I love the challenge of puzzling out the best way to get at the data and the excitement of figuring out a conceptually tricky data analysis.

Q: What can you tell us about the EAB hub?
A: It will address systems integration, and data management and accessibility, with a single solution. We are also hiring a director of business intelligence who will be central to that process and will support the more enhanced data visualization and reporting that will follow.

Q: What’s the one thing in your office that means the most to you?
A: I have a shuttle from the Starship Enterprise, which is the pepper half of a salt and pepper shaker set. I got it when I first joined the enterprise scheduling committee in 2012. Plus, I like Star Trek.

Q: What do you like to do to relax?
A: Standup paddle boarding, running and hiking, board games and just walking around Fredericksburg enjoying small town life.