Stats Stat: Meet Melissa Bolyard

Melissa Bolyard is a self-described "data geek." That's good for Emory, where Bolyard serves as director of institutional research (IR) in the provost's office.

Bolyard's team collects and analyzes data for internal and external uses. For example, they supply statistics to national organizations such as the Association of American Universities Data Exchange (AAUDE) and the National Center for Education Statistics. They compile the annual President's Dashboard, which assembles 50 metrics from 1,000 data points into a single report, and respond to data requests from Emory administrators, faculty, and staff. Even as some projects are predictable and regular, other requests come with shorter deadlines as administrators and faculty explore new strategies in areas such as admission, course scheduling, and new forms of course-content delivery.

The work goes far beyond crunching numbers. The analyses place Emory in the context of its peers and help our institutional planners make the best decisions founded on strong data.

Two challenging recent projects involved collection and submission of data about graduate school time-to-degree and retention/graduation. After identifying problems with existing data, the IR team built new databases and designed a process allowing Emory to submit this information to the AAUDE for the first time.

Bolyard, who has a PhD in sociology, enjoys helping the Emory community use data to solve problems or answer questions. "Without Melissa and her staff, we wouldn't have a clear understanding of ourselves, where we are, and what we want and are able to do," says Provost Sterk.