Elizabeth “Libby” Barlow joins the Dartmouth community next week as associate provost for institutional research.
In the role, Barlow will help Dartmouth’s senior leadership do data-driven analyses and make decisions about policies, programs, and strategic planning.
“Libby understands that strategic decision-making depends as much on having good data as on knowing what kinds of questions the data lets us ask and how to answer them,” says Interim Provost David Kotz ’86. “I’m delighted to welcome her to Dartmouth.”
Barlow—who earned her doctorate in higher education administration from the University of Houston—has had a long career in academic institutional research and data management in both public and private institutions. At the University of Houston, she began as a research associate in the Office of Institutional Research in 2002 and served as registrar, executive director of institutional research, and ultimately assistant vice president of academic affairs. She left Houston for upstate New York in 2013, serving five years as assistant vice president of institutional research and assessment at the University of Syracuse. Most recently, she was director of institutional research at St. Paul’s School in Concord, N.H.
“I think what has made me successful in this line of work is that I focus on the people,” Barlow says. “My approach is to listen, to develop relationships, to be in the conversations that I need to be in to really understand the organization and what we’re trying to do, and where there’s room for institutional research to contribute. And then it’s a matter of matching those needs up with what’s happening with the data. It takes a different form in every place I’ve been, and to me that’s the fun of it.”
Barlow’s approach to institutional research grows out of her first academic passion: religious studies, specifically Hindu and Buddhist traditions of Asia. She holds a master’s of theological studies in South Asian philosophy from Harvard Divinity School, and taught Asian and comparative religion at Northfield Mount Hermon School and as adjunct faculty at the University of Houston.
“The connection for me is about assembling the big picture from the little pieces,” she says. “Buddhism is all about the big picture—the little pieces are tools that you can take or leave to get to that big picture.”
Likewise, she says, “Data is about finding evidence—and finding what story emerges from the little bits of evidence. There’s a satisfaction in working with a spreadsheet and getting the data clean and everything working right. When an important piece of information emerges, when we can work with the data to get to where the story is self-evident, that’s really satisfying, especially when that story makes a difference in the big picture.”
Asked what she looks forward to in coming to Dartmouth, she talks about scale. “It’s not so big administratively that I can’t meet the people that have useful insight and feedback,” she says. “I can walk around the Green and get a visual on what student culture is like and put that information to use. And one of the core values is teaching, which means students are valued. That speaks to me.”