Data Culture Ambassadors

Unpopular ideas are just that . . . unpopular. So, when you have a new idea or way of looking at the data, you often wonder if you should go out on a limb to share it. Wouldn’t it be great if there were others who think like you on your campus? If you could convene a group of data daredevils like yourself, you would have a bit more confidence to present your bold ideas. But where do you find these people . . . these Data Culture Ambassadors? And how can someone become one? 

Laptop, ipad, and woman taking notes with a pencil and notebook. Suggesting that listening and taking notes will help one become a good data culture ambassador.

At IEHE, we share our own expertise often. But we also work hard to find and share sage advice from others on issues related to data. Because so many institutions are trying to expand the use of data, we’ve included our thoughts on this topic and invited a colleague and data expert to share her thoughts. 

Look for Other Data Lovers  

Chances are, the people who spend a lot of time with data know a lot about what the data say and what they don’t say. Befriend and learn from these folks. Everyone wants to find someone who speaks their language. They also may be looking for other Data Culture Ambassadors. 

Who is the Data Lieutenant?  

Nancy Floyd, Director of Institutional Analytics at NC State University coined the term “data lieutenant” to refer to the data guru a senior leader turns to with data questions. At large institutions, data are everywhere. And it can be challenging for leaders to make sense of it all. Most college and university leaders have a Data Lieutenant – the trusted person who provides them the information, reports, and context for the mountains of data they need to process. If you can connect with that person, you have a path to the senior leader. The Data Lieutenant is translating the data to leadership in a meaningful and confident way.  

Share Best-Data-Practices 

You can’t go completely rogue – you still need to follow sensible data rules, methodologies, says Nancy. If you’re going to be a Data Culture Ambassador at your college or university, you need to:

  • value sharing and learning best data practices
  • teach others to effectively use data
  • follow data standards and methodologies that other data culture ambassadors will understand

Two women looking at a laptop screen sharing information to solve a problem and becoming a data culture ambassador.

Help Solve Someone Else’s Problems with Data 

You are probably thinking “I have enough work myself.” And now I’m supposed to solve someone else’s problems? Well – not quite. Learning more about the challenges that others are facing will help you work toward your goals of building a data culture and being seen as a Data Culture Ambassador. Then consider the data that you have available to you and how it might be able to help. This approach flips the script from analyzing data and presenting it at your convenience to preparing analyses that support a leader in advancing their unit’s strategic goals.

Looking for more support or advice on becoming a Data Culture Ambassador at your institution? IEHE can help! Check out our Higher Education Consulting services to learn more about the personalized Data Coaching support we offer. Contact us to get started.




The Institute for Effectiveness in Higher Education (IEHE) innovates and improves higher education standards through our strategic research, publicly available resources, and partnerships with colleges and universities. We provide extensive expertise on data strategy, IPEDS, institutional research and student success to drive institutional effectiveness.