HAHAHAHA. It’s funny, but it’s not. I’m actually serious. We embraced and everything! I literally hugged women that I had only met seconds before like wow we really do exist. Anytime I’ve gone to professional conferences related to Institutional research I would be lucky if I saw a handful of other women of color. It’s rare. And every time it saddens me. I’m not sure that feeling will ever change.
I’m using funny language but our presence is crucial. When we aren’t in these analytical roles in education neither are our voices. For example, when a room of administrators are looking at racial identity data and trying to provide context to whatever the numbers are showing they develop from their perspective and experiences. If everyone at the table has similar racial identities then the story they’re telling is missing some layers. Offices of Institutional Research (IR) provide a great deal of information to the decision makers of an institution. In many ways, IR uses institutional data to tell a story. Often times story tellers speak from their perspective and personal experiences. Whether we want to admit it or not the stories we tell are subjective, even when they include objective information. It’s important that we are present to tell our side of the story. This is one of the main reasons that keeps me going as an Institutional Researcher in higher education. I want to tell our story. I need to tell our story. I refuse to allow other people to continue to have the power to tell our story simply because we aren’t present.
In addition to telling our stories, we are visuals on the college campus. While it may be indirect, our presence matters. Students see us. They see women of color that aren’t faculty members. Representation throughout the institution is just as crucial because I know from experience that it’s a nice feeling to see other people who you identify with in some way. Students have told me how much my presence in the administrative building I work in has improved how they felt about that particular building. They’ve expressed how nice it is just to see me walking the halls, even if they aren’t coming to the building to see IR they know I’m there and accessible if needed. And that provides some form of relief.
So… if you like telling stories or know someone who does and you aren’t sure what career path you may want, consider IR. Contrary to popular belief, institutional research isn’t all about numbers. IR truly tells stories using a wide range of information. Interested? Reach out to me here to chat :-).
I spent this post talking about why our presence is necessary but didn't address the stresses that come when you're the only one at the table. If tokenism is something you can relate to or are just interested check out this post!
P.S. - In celebration of the title of this post please don’t forget to relive 702’s Where My Girls At?