The Art of Possibilities at the first annual OSU Data Day

On April 18, UIT’s Data Team hosted the first annual Data Day at OSU, featuring 18 speakers and panelists from across the university who shared key insights on working with data and unlocking its possibilities. Lizzi Wolfram, member of the Data Team and Data Day planning committee, shares a look back at this year’s Data Day, key takeaways and what might be to come for next year.

Tell me about OSU Data Day — what it was for, who attended, any activities or presentations given, etc.

Data Day was for anyone on campus who either does work with data or wants to learn more about how data can be used to support decision making at all levels of leadership. It was attended primarily by analysts, but also by leadership and even students and faculty!

This year’s theme was The Art of Possibilities, and we tried to choose sessions that fed into that feeling of opportunity and creativity that makes the world of data analysis so much more than “just numbers”. With good data and meaningful analysis, truly anything is possible! To that end, we tried to focus on presentations that would ignite the audience’s curiosity. We were going for “Wow, I never knew that was possible!”

  • Kickoff
    • Andrea Ballinger – Welcome
    • Jon Boeckenstedt – Keynot
    • Chrysanthemum Hayes – OSU Data Roadmap & Overview for the day
  • Sparkle Sessions
    • Several short (7 minute) presentations on a wide range of exciting topics designed to get the audience excited about what data can do.
    • Framework for Success Dashboards – No Stories Without Data, No Data Without Stories – Thomas Arand
    • You Don’t Have to Be an Analyst to Do Cool Things With Data – Chris Gasser and Adam Lenz
    • The Data Needs Calendar – Erik Calbreath
    • Gender Mag and a Surprise! – Tasha Biesinger
    • Preparing Your Data for Success in Tableau Prep –  Logan Bingle
    • SCOUT – Insights in Your Inbox – Bjørn Bulthuis
  • Academic Faculty Panel
    • Panel discussion with Dan Faltesek, College of Liberal Arts, Todd Pugatch, College of Liberal Arts and Xiaohui Chang, College of Business, about a wide range of data-related topics including data visualization pitfalls, the future of data analysis and why data-driven decision making matters.
  • The Current and Future State of Data Security – Marjorie McLagan & Tom Ordeman
  • Data Storytelling for a College Perspective – Karley Lewis
  • Tableau: Beyond Dashboards – Coleman Wagoner from Tableau
  • How to Hire for a Technical Role – Jacob Mastel
  • Data Analyst Community of Practice
    • Collaborative session designed to lay the foundation for an Analyst Community of Practice. This session functioned as a conversation between the Data Day/UIT team and the distributed analysts to determine what a CoP should be in order to truly support the needs of OSU’s analysts.

How was OSU Data Day important to the work the Data Team has been doing to connect the OSU community with the data it needs? How does it play a part in advancing the strategic priorities of the university?

The most important role that Data Day played was fostering wider collaboration not only between UIT and distributed analysts, but also between distributed analysts themselves. We heard again and again how much people appreciated seeing what other people were working on as well as learning more about where people can go for help or questions in the future. Our goal is not to just be the people you go to when you want someone to program a CORE report or build a dashboard. We want to be your partner in data collaboration! We are here to make sure you have access to the data and tools you need to conduct the analysis to support your decisions. We want to provide ideas, support and training, and Data Day was a major step in that direction.

One of the major components of the IT roadmap is “Free the Data”. While Data Day itself didn’t make any data available that wasn’t already, it helped to showcase what having access to good data — and knowing how to use it — can do. It also gave us an opportunity to show off some of the work that not only our team has been doing, but what analysts across campus have been doing.

What were some of the key takeaways from the event? What were you most excited to learn/discover? What will you carry into the next OSU Data Day?

The most practical lesson we learned from Data Day was that putting on an event like this takes a lot of resources. While we did a phenomenal job with the time and people we had, five people planning an event like this over six weeks’ time just isn’t enough. We want to grow the event to be bigger next year with even greater opportunities to learn from others, and that is going to take more time and more people. Our goal is to work closely with the BA office to ensure greater communication earlier in the process as well as to solicit sessions applicable to a wider audience. We want Data Day to truly have something worthwhile for everyone.

Another comment we heard more than once was that people want hands-on training, specifically for Tableau. While this Data Day was focused on looking forward to the future of data at OSU, there is also a clear need for sessions that offer tangible data literacy skills. This is something we want to have more of next year, but also want to find a way to bring to OSU more than during one event. In the example of Tableau, there are many different resources out there already that analysts and leadership alike can use. However, our role needs to be finding a way to make OSU-specific trainings that are tailored toward our users’ specific needs and interests. We don’t want to duplicate effort for what is already out there, but we also need to make sure our community of users feels supported and confident in their ability to use the data we have in order to make good decisions.

Is there anything else you would like to add? Were there any other key takeaways or key university leaders in attendance?

Most Data Day sessions were recorded and can be found here.

We received a lot of encouraging and positive feedback from the event. Participants shared things like:

  • I liked hearing examples of how data is presented and used. It inspired me to think about the data we have and how we could use it better.
  • It was a cool opportunity to bring data enthusiasts together from all around campus. The taco bar was 100% the best catered food I’ve ever had. Excellent choice!
  • Good topics and info for the data community; Learning about tools and resources that have been recently deployed or are under development
  • The academic panel was really interesting and enlightening.  It was great to get a mix of personal assessments (particularly regarding AI) and professional tips regarding data analysis and presentation. 
  • Variety in topics addressed and variety in who those presenters are. I appreciated that not all of the speakers were super technical but shared about all of the different ways and levels folks at the university utilize and interact with data to improve OSU.
  • Conversations with others who I knew and didn’t know about data; exposure to what others on campus are doing; that there was an in-person option.
  • Meeting people interested and excited about data!

We area already planning for next year. Based on the feedback we are also going to make enhancements to next year’s event:

  1. Improving the online experience for participants
  2. Clarifying tracks and audience
  3. Adding an additional day (2-day event) next year
  4. Increasing student participation
  5. Offering trainings in addition to showcase/highlights
  6. Engaging more of OSU Analysts Community in planning and presentations

We are very thankful for all the participants and support! We could not have done this event without these amazing partners and colleagues:

Speakers and Presenters

  • Andrea Ballinger, Vice Provost and CIO
  • Jon Boeckenstedt, Vice Provost, Enrollment Management
  • Chrysanthemum Hayes,  Associate Director, Decision Support
  • Marjorie McLagan, Deputy Chief Info Security Office
  • Tom Ordeman, Govn Risk & Compliance Manager
  • Karley Lewis, Finance & Strategic Op Analyst, College of Liberal Arts
  • Jacob Mastel, Data Modeler, UIT-IAR
  • Coleman Wagoner, Principal Solutions Engineer, Tableau

Sparkle Sessions

  • Thomas Arand, Business Analyst, EEPMO
  •  Chris Gasser, UIA Fellow
  •  Adam Lenz, SI Coordinator
  •  Erik Calbreath, Data Analyst, EEPMO
  •  Tasha Biesinger, LMS Product Manager, UIT-AT
  •  Logan Bingle, Data Services Manager, UIT-IAR
  •  Bjorn Bulthuis, Director of Analytics, OSU Foundation

Academic Panel Faculty

  • Dan Faltesek, College of Liberal Arts
  • Todd Pugatch, College of Liberal Arts
  • Xiaohui Change, College of Business


  • Kayla Campbell
  • Sean McGlothlin
  • David Sorenson
  • Jon Dorbolo
  • Michael McDonald
  • Tom Fenske
  • Brian Lindsley
  • Kristin Benson
  • Lakshmi Srinivasan
  • Lisa Silbernagel
  • Jackie Thorsness
  • Christina Saechao
  • Jamie Bridenstine
  • Maria Davila Ash
  • Nick Martens
  • Kirk Lind
  • Noah Buckley

Planning Committee:

  • Lizzi Wolfram
  • Gina Shellhammer
  • Jacob Mastel
  • Kellie Walker
  • Chrysanthemum Hayes
  • Alisha Brucker
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