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Ellen Peters

Director of Institutional Research and Retention, University of Puget Sound

Focus Area: Accountability

Tacoma, Washington
Office Representing: Institutional Research

As the director of institutional research and retention at the University of Puget Sound, Ellen Peters leverages institutional data and knowledge toward sound institutional decisions. In addition to the traditional mandated reporting to IPEDS and other external agencies, Peters convenes and leads her university's data governance committee, holds a leadership role on its Strategic Planning Committee, and serves as the functional lead for analytics work. She oversees and conducts research and analysis using data from institutional systems as well as from surveys, focus groups, and interviews. Peters supervises three staff members, and together they provide external data reporting as well as internal reports and analysis on admissions, enrollment, faculty, staff, and assessment. Peters also serves as an assessment leader on campus, advising numerous constituencies on how best to develop and implement assessment plans toward improvement, as well as co-leads accreditation efforts on campus.

How did you first get interested in or involved in higher education issues?

"As a student leader during my undergraduate years, I was invited to participate in institution-wide discussions around several issues that continue to drive my passion regarding higher education," Peters said. "In particular, I became engaged in the issues of equity and access, not only in attending college, but in the experience students have while making their way through higher education. As a possible solution, my undergraduate institution was one of the first to offer a test-optional policy in admission, and while I was not directly involved in that decision, I have been involved in research that investigates the impact of test-optional policies. I believe my interest in that research stems from those undergraduate years and the connection between test optional policies and equity. I've been struck by how the test-optional movement has grown, and how it poses challenges as subjective measures take on greater emphasis. This has driven my research interest in more objective measures that also minimize systemic bias. Over time, other issues have sparked my interest as well – graduation rates as an incomplete measure of post-secondary success, and the challenge of defining measurable outcomes for higher education – but the initial interest in policy came from my undergraduate experiences with equity."

Why did you apply to be a part of the Forward50? What drew you to this opportunity?

"A colleague suggested that I apply, and as I reviewed the materials, I was drawn to the clear focus on access, affordability, accountability, and transparency, taken as a whole," Peters said. "I do not believe these items can stand alone; in order to have access, higher education must be affordable, students must truly understand what they are likely to experience, and we must be accountable to them and to the broader community regarding their investment. While there have been attempts to address each of these issues within our sectors or our institutions, this particular initiative is appealing because of its breadth as well as its emphasis on new ideas and thinking. I relish this unique opportunity to work with colleagues from a wide range of institutions and professions to address the most pressing challenges of higher education, and to do so with the ambitious goal of influencing policy not only in the short term but as a foundation for future decisions."  

Leadership roles with professional associations:

  • Association for Institutional Research (AIR): Current President, Past Vice President, Past Board Member at Large
  • Pacific Northwest Association for Institutional Research and Planners (PNAIRP): Teagle Assessment Scholar
  • North East Association for Institutional Research (NEAIR): Past Board Member at Large, Past Associate Program Chair, Past Chair of Membership Committee, Past Chair of Grants Committee
  • Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium (HEDS): Chair of Grants Committee, Executive Director of Search Committee  

Membership(s) held with other professional associations:

  • Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U)
  • EDUCAUSE
  • Pacific Northwest Association for Institutional Research and Planning (PNAIRP)
  • Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium (HEDS)