Elizabeth A. Barlow Appointed Assistant Vice President for Institutional Research and Assessment
Syracuse University Vice Chancellor and Provost Eric F. Spina is pleased to announce the appointment of Elizabeth (Libby) A. Barlow as assistant vice president for institutional research and assessment. Barlow comes to SU from the University of Houston (Texas), where she served as assistant vice president for academic affairs, leading the institutional research office and assessment of academic programs. She begins in her new position Aug. 8.
“Libby brings to SU a deep background in institutional research and broad experience in higher education,” says Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Operations Christopher M. Sedore. “We’re thrilled to have Libby join us at Syracuse—her depth of knowledge in institutional research makes her the ideal person to help guide the University as we tackle bigger challenges in research and analytics to support teaching, learning and student success.”
SU’s Office of Institutional Research and Assessment (OIRA) provides leadership in developing and implementing the University’s institutional research and assessment plan to support institutional planning, policy analysis and program improvement. OIRA conducts and coordinates research and assessment efforts for the University’s academic and administrative units.
Barlow was drawn to Syracuse after speaking with SU administrators and hearing about the University and its people and initiatives. “Syracuse University is confident of its identity, but still interested in moving forward as a university. That impressed me,” Barlow says. “The job description was a good fit for me, but coming to campus to meet people made it clear I wanted to be part of the effort.”
At the University of Houston, Barlow oversaw the university’s office of Institutional Research and Institutional Effectiveness and served as primary institutional research contact. She ensured the integrity of academic data for internal decision making and for accurate reporting to internal and external agencies, and developed a data warehouse environment bringing together multiple data sources. As a member of the provost’s cabinet, she oversaw analyses involving retention and graduation, faculty productivity and other trends and program reviews.
Barlow also facilitated the assessment of academic programs and general education for the university, in support of student learning in more than 150 degree programs. She also led the faculty team on student success, developing more supports for first-year students.
“We’re excited to welcome Libby to Syracuse. Her prior experience and her proven success as a collaborative leader will help support and guide our institutional research, assessment and retention efforts,” says Associate Provost for Academic Programs Andria Costello Staniec. “We’re looking forward to working with Libby in these areas of institutional priority.”
In understanding the valuable work of institutional research, Barlow notes the internal and external challenges facing universities today. Internally, the main challenge is managing the complex infrastructure to harness, store and interpret the information that is being generated.
“The transactions that now take place in digital systems are far ahead of our ability to harvest the data,” Barlow says. “Student records, budget, HR and other data systems are built for transactions, so there is a wealth of information available, but the data have to be reorganized in order for it to be extracted and analyzed effectively for decision making.”
From the outside, the public interest in education is changing dramatically, Barlow says. “It is only recently that higher education has been asked to respond to questions about the value of a degree. We need to figure out how to articulate accurate and effective answers to the external audiences asking these questions,” she says. Online delivery of coursework, including massive open online courses, is raising additional questions.
“I am looking forward to a new set of challenges at SU—building the data analysis infrastructure, understanding the University’s agenda and finding ways to contribute information to decisions and initiatives as the University moves forward,” Barlow says.
Prior to her position as assistant vice president at the University of Houston, Barlow served as executive director of academic and institutional information, registrar and research associate in the Office of Institutional Research at the university.
Barlow has co-authored a number of published pieces, and is currently an associate editor for the Review of Higher Education.
Barlow, who is originally from Ithaca, holds a bachelor of arts degree in comparative religion from Hamilton College, a master of theological studies degree from Harvard Divinity School and a doctor of education in higher education administration and supervision from the University of Houston.