Joseph Curtin, a McKay School Alumnus and former BYU administrator, spoke to students from the Educational Inquiry, Measurement and Evaluation (EIME) doctoral program on Tuesday, February 25. Curtin is currently employed as the director of institutional research for the Utah System of Higher Education. During his presentation, “The Value of an EIME Degree in Institutional Research and Assessment,” Curtin outlined the duties of his own job and provided resources to help students further their involvement in the field of institutional research.
Originally from Highland, Utah, Curtin received a bachelor’s degree from BYU in Information Systems and a master’s degree in Public Administration. While working on the master’s degree, Curtin was employed at Utah Valley Community College (now Utah Valley University) as a research assistant. “All I knew at the time was that I liked doing research,” he recalled as he spoke of beginning the job at UVCC. “The degrees I earned have really helped a lot,” he said.
Curtin went on to work for the BYU Office of Institutional Assessment and Analysis for 12 years, and received a PhD in Instructional Psychology and Technology from BYU in 2007. In his current job as director of institutional research, his primary role is to be a general researcher and data consultant for institutions of higher education throughout Utah. Curtin explained that working in this field allows him to truly understand how higher education works because he is involved with people from all aspects of the system, from student services to academics to facilities, etc.
Through gathering and analyzing data and submitting reports, Curtin is able to provide people with unbiased information about colleges in Utah. Because all the state institutions of higher education are funded “from the same bucket of money,” Curtin aims to generate reports and information that are accurate and won’t be misinterpreted. He told his audience that obtaining degrees in EIME is a wonderful way to advance their abilities to work in the data analysis and assessment field. “What you learn in your EIME classes is very useful in learning to evaluate the data you will encounter,” he stated. “Being able to synthesize and interpret these data is very important.”
Toward the end of his presentation, Curtin outlined some of the current educational research being done in Utah. He described the development of a pipeline study of students from kindergarten through college designed to follow students’ educational histories into their career fields. “We want to see what industries they’re going into and their impact on the economy of Utah,” he explained. Another study centers on analyzing concurrent enrollment in high schools. “The big issue is, is it really an equivalent course?” he asked. “Are the students receiving the same level of instruction as on a college campus?”
Curtin also informed the EIME students about opportunities to attend conferences and present research. He directed them to the Association for Institutional Research Web site for information on the upcoming conference for the Rocky Mountain Chapter. “They really appreciate the efforts of students,” he said.
4 May 2009