Johns Hopkins scholars study everything from stem
cells and famine to the Silk Road trade and cosmological
dust clouds. But who studies the university?
The answer is the Office of Institutional Research.
Established in January 2001, the office is responsible
for data reporting, information analysis and the creation
of a centralized warehouse of all relevant university facts
and figures, for both internal and external use. Just a few
questions for which the office seeks to have answers are:
What is the faculty-to-student ratio? How many
international students are enrolled in Johns Hopkins
schools? Why do students change majors? Where do graduates
get placed? And, how many students will be enrolled 10
years from now?
In addition to collecting all current demographic data
on Johns Hopkins, the office gathers and analyzes
information such as survey results, multiyear trends and
data on peer institutions.
In June, Cathy Lebo was tapped to serve as the
director of institutional research. Lebo, who until
recently held a similar position at Southern Methodist
University, said that her job, in essence, will be to know
Johns Hopkins inside and out and to be able to put the
university in context among the likes of a Stanford, Duke
"The information people need is out there, in some
form or another; it will be my job to put all the various
pieces together. This office wants to cover all aspects of
Johns Hopkins--students, faculty, staff, facilities,
finance, you name it," said Lebo, who holds a doctorate in
anthropology from Indiana University. "Broadly put, what
institutional research is all about is serving the
information needs of the university--in particular, the
senior administrators--to provide the information they need
to make decisions."
Lebo, who came to Johns Hopkins on June 17, builds
upon the work of her predecessor, Ronni Haertig, the former
director of institutional research, who left in fall
In her position, Lebo will report to
Paula Burger, vice provost for
Burger said that the development of the Office of
Institutional Research arose out of the ever-increasing
reporting requirements on the part of funding sources and
accreditation agencies, and the spiraling need for the
university to promptly provide reliable and analyzed data
to staff, state and federal government agencies and the
Burger said that Johns Hopkins had been somewhat
behind the curve in creating an office of institutional
research, in that nearly all the university's peer
institutions already had similar offices in place.
Prior to the creation in 2001 of the coordinator of
institutional research position, the collection of
universitywide data was done strictly on an ad hoc basis,
according to Burger.
"Ironically, due to the decentralized nature of Johns
Hopkins, it was perhaps even more critical that we have
someone who plays this kind of role, that of being
analytical about the university," she said. "Ronni Haertig
started this effort; now Dr. Lebo will take it one step
further. She brings with her an extremely fine skill set
and a wonderful background in social science methodology.
She understands statistics and how to analyze them and has
a proven track record in both developing sophisticated
surveys and analyzing them in all manner of ways."
Burger said that Johns Hopkins is regularly bombarded
with requests for details about itself. For example,
despite its private status, the university is routinely
called upon by the state to provide information such as
projected enrollment, number of employees and even what
students' plans are postgraduation.
The Office of Institutional Research has a
three-person staff, consisting of Lebo, an analyst and an
Lebo said that her first few months on the job will be
consumed with familiarizing herself with the university and
helping prepare it for the upcoming accreditation review by
the Middle States Association Commission on Higher
"If what I do is study the institution, then certainly
part of my assignment right out of the gate is to learn all
about Johns Hopkins, to know the organization, the
character of it, and to discover what the priorities are
here," she said.
As for the accrediting process, the university will
need to provide documentation that it is in compliance with
a broad range of standards and that a system of
institutional assessment is in place. The Middle States
Association will look for evidence of outcomes, including
retention and graduation rates, job placement and
indications of student satisfaction.
Lebo, who also taught archaeology courses when she was
at SMU, said she plans to spend the coming months gathering
data and meeting with various staff members who themselves
are "the keepers of information."
"Ours will be a team effort," she said. "I'm certainly
not saying that this office will jump in and have the
answers to every question. This is a large, decentralized
and complex university; there are pieces of data scattered
here and there, and I have to uncover them. This is the
archaeology I have to do. Then I have to figure out how to
manage it all."
To help in this regard, the office intends to develop
a managed information system populated with a large data
set. Lebo said preliminary plans are to design an internal
Web site where relevant university information can be
posted to assist offices that frequently find themselves
fielding questions about various aspects of the
"Perhaps a year from now we'll be able to say, If you
need an answer to a Johns Hopkins question, check with the
Office of Institutional Research," she said. "Our first
priority is for the office to be able to put basic,
standardized information in the hands of people who need