Spotlight on Strategy with Dr. Leah Ewing Ross • Institute for Effectiveness in Higher Education
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Spotlight on Strategy with Dr. Leah Ewing Ross

Spotlight on Strategy with Dr. Leah Ewing Ross

At the IEHE, we are always excited to have the opportunity to highlight the incredible work being done by our colleagues. As part of the launch of Data Strategy in Colleges and Universities: From Understanding to Implementation, edited by our own Kristina Powers, we’re bringing you a series of profiles of the higher education professionals who share their knowledge and expertise in the book.

Leah Ewing Ross serves as Senior Director for Research and Initiatives at the Association for Institutional Research (AIR). She co-wrote Self-Appraisal of A Data Strategy (Chapter 6) with Jason R. Lewis and Stephan C. Cooley which focuses on several questions, including:

  • Why do we do this work?
  • What do we seek to achieve?
  • Who is involved?
  • How is a self-appraisal accomplished?

Key Chapter Takeaways

“The why always matters,” says Leah. In any data-related pursuit, it’s easy to focus on all things technical and process-related, and to lose sight of the why. She and her co-authors believe that the data strategy itself has to be grounded in the why of higher education – student success. Without that foundation, we risk doing things for the sake of doing. Too many data conversations seem to take place without the word “student” ever being uttered.

Leah Ewing Ross On the Process of Writing

Leah explains that she does some of her best writing on airplanes, saying that there’s something about the enclosed space and the quiet hum of noise-canceling headphones that helps her focus. But often ideas come when she’s working on other projects, cooking, running, or going through the mundane tasks of everyday life. She knows her writing benefits from opportunities to come back several times to find connections that weren’t apparent earlier. On the process of writing, she says:

“I love to write and edit. Even my worst days of writer’s block are better than my days without writing. The most rewarding aspect is the opportunity to gain feedback from others before I finalize a piece. Not only does it ensure clarity of message, but I often gain new perspectives through the comments and advice I receive.”


An Excerpt from Data Strategy in Colleges and Universities:


Want to read more? Order your copy of Data Strategy in Colleges and Universities: From Understanding to Implementation now! You can also read more about the chapter authors and an extended excerpt from the book.

Where and when do you write best? Do you craft your best work when you’re focused on that task alone, or do you sometimes generate ideas more easily when you’re engaged in other things, like Leah? Tell us about it in the comments below.

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