Purdue Profiles: Jacque Frost

February 14, 2012

Jacque Frost, director of the Office of Institutional Research. (Purdue University Photo/Mark Simons)

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As director for the Office of Institutional Research (OIR), Jacque Frost leads the office that serves as the go-to resource for information about Purdue students, faculty, staff and resources. Recall of these facts and figures would require an almost superhuman memory, but the six-person OIR team has networks of resources capable of drawing University data from campus and beyond.

What does the Office of Institutional Research do?

OIR was established in 2001 as a resource for essential institutional data and analysis. We handle the metrics of data that are collected about Purdue and use it for internal purposes, such as the Data Digest, or external purposes, such as U.S. News rankings. Our office is responsible for a wide variety of projects that range from all-encompassing strategic plans to shorter ad hoc projects requested by executive offices. We also handle federal reporting for surveys, provide data for collaborative data sharing among universities and compile governance reports for the Board of Trustees.

Recently, we started releasing OIR Monthly Reports. These reports, which are posted on our website, encompass a variety of topics about Purdue.  For example, this January the report focused on Purdue firsts. February's report is on WorkLife Programs and March's will be on international students. They provide us with a quick, inexpensive way to disseminate interesting and useful data about the University.

How do you receive and coordinate data for so many different projects?

Sometimes we handle data collection, especially for internal institutional surveys and other surveys of that nature. For most of our projects, we have key contacts in areas across the University that collect and report data. These data experts are integral to the collection and reporting of institutional statistics. We coordinate the data they provide and integrate it for reporting and analysis. These days, a lot of Purdue's colleges have their own institutional research staff because data has become such an integral part of university business.

How have your previous positions prepared you for your position as director of OIR?

When I was in college, there was no institutional research concentration, so many people just fell into this area, myself included. My undergraduate degree was in psychology and I have my master's in educational research. During my master's work at the University of Pittsburgh, I began to really understand and embrace my interest in compiling data and participating in research and analytical work. I finished my doctorate at Oregon State University, where I was also director of institutional research.
When my husband, who is on the faculty, and I moved to West Lafayette, I had already developed a strong background in institutional research. Unfortunately, at that time Purdue did not have an office dedicated solely to that area. Instead, I started in 1995 as the associate registrar for research in the Office of the Registrar. That role mostly focused on student data instead of the broad spectrum of institutional data I had experienced in my previous positions at Oregon State University and Indiana State University.  In hindsight, my time in the Registrar's Office was a very valuable introduction for me. I was able to learn about the University, the setup of the regional campuses and other very important aspects of the Purdue system. That background proved quite valuable when OIR was organized and I was named director in 2001.

What personality traits would you say make you successful in your job?

The aspect I appreciate most is that I get to use my technical and people skills all of the time. We handle data but we also coordinate how to receive that data. That frequently includes knowing the appropriate contacts in various departments on campus and beyond. We rely on these essential internal and external networks and I enjoy building and fostering those relationships. I particularly enjoy being part of such a wonderful team of colleagues. They make coming to work so much fun.

I also enjoy how unpredictable any given day is in this office. I may come to work expecting to continue work on a long-term project when an ad hoc project suddenly comes up. Coordinating these projects is always a challenge and keeps me on my feet. 

You've been at Purdue since 1995. What changes have you seen over time?

Our office has been an integral part of a change in Purdue that I've seen over the past 10 to 12 years. Purdue has truly embraced a culture of assessment by using data for decision making. When President Jischke and Rab Mukerjea [executive director of strategic planning and assessment] came in, it was apparent that Purdue wanted to begin using data more broadly and purposefully, and President Córdova continues down that same path.  I'm pleased that we've been able to contribute to that. It has been exciting to be a part of this transition from the very beginning.