By Lindsay Wood

Crawl, walk, run!

These were wise words shared by keynote speaker, Athena Szabo, at the ACE-WIL PD session on November 20th 2019 advising members on how to approach data driven decision making in their organizations. ACE-WIL members representing 18 post-secondary institutions across BC came together in person (and for the first time virtually) to connect with colleagues and hear more about how to crawl, walk, and run their way to making informed data-driven decision.

The half-day session began with lunch and an interactive icebreaker led by the Membership Committee who tested our knowledge of the 9 forms of WIL and encouraged new (and old) connections by mixing up members at tables. As always, the positive energy of the committee helped to set the tone for the afternoon. Following this, ACE-WIL President extraordinaire, Jennie Nilsson, welcomed the group and updated members about strategic planning and government funding including news that part of the BC Gov’t 9 million investment in co-op and WIL will support research into what types of technology is being used across BC.

Athena, a Consultant at Traction on Demand, is a UBC Co-op alumna who holds a Bachelor of Commerce with a specialization in Business Technology Management. She has dedicated her personal and professional life to using technology and data to transform business, non-profits and higher education.

I learned a lot from Athena’s presentation and my outlook on data has changed from this-is-scary-do-I-have-time-to-take this-on to wow, there is tremendous potential for using to data to influence operational decisions (program scoping, distributing resources and identifying gaps, gaining clarity on how time and resources are spent); using data to motivate students (setting expectations about a service or program, maintaining motivation, gamification, and sharing success); using data to attract employers (services used by employers, skills competency of student, benchmarking); and, finally, using data to rally support (sharing data with management, faculty and other stakeholders to promote a culture of evidence use, accountability and transparency).

Further, Meg Thompson from UVIC’s noted “my key takeaways were the infrastructure(s) used, and how data is entered, influences how our diverse WIL and career programs manage data. The range of data management systems is wide, from one CRM that manages all data to using an Excel spreadsheet and everything in between (1 program using multiple systems and the challenges associated with the systems talking to/supporting each other). Data governance and stewardship plays such a key role”.

I encourage you to check out Athena’s full presentation in the member resource section.

We wrapped the day with an energetic and lively Word Café with members sharing best practices and thoughts (notes from the tables will be posted on the ACE website soon). One of the top comments the PD Committee hears from members year after year is how much they appreciate the networking and time to connect with colleagues at PD events and once again, this was a highlight at the November event. Rhianna Nagel from UVIC sums it up best “What a wealth of knowledge and passion in the ACE-WIL group! A lot of us are grappling with similar issues related to data and it was very helpful to learn from one another”.

Thanks to all who participated  – we are looking forward to seeing everyone at the next Spring PD!