Data Governance, Management and Protection in Higher Education

We are bombarded with data. Higher education institutions have no shortages of data and experience daily influxes from diverse streams. From confidential student and institutional information to sensitive research data sets, it becomes increasingly crucial that higher education institutions enforce and regulate stringent data protocols and practices to ensure proper data control, data management, data protection and data privacy. As pressure increase for higher education institutions to do more with the resources they have at hand, paying attention to these issues are imperative for their sustainability and continued success.

With the increasing power and capability of data, there is so much that can be done using data-driven initiatives to enable improved outcomes and effective decision making in higher education. Data can be used strategically to achieve greater impact in higher ed. decision-making that better meet the goals and outcomes of the institution, departments and student affairs. The key remains in properly controlling and leveraging the data to achieve these desired outcomes. EDUCAUSE [1] recommends that for higher education institutions to implement effective “data management and governance practices” they should:

    • Learn: Read about higher education data management and governance topics and find proven practices that helped other institutions implement data management and governance.
    • Plan: Benchmark their current data capabilities and lay the groundwork for their data management and governance strategic direction.
    • Do: Implement data management and governance practices and validate their forward progress.[1]

Furthermore, there exists many data quality problems from the vast array of data sources, but higher education can utilize data governance to help continuously mitigate this problem in order to ensure quality data for strategizing and planning initiatives such as those that help to drive student success.[2] Hayhurst claims [2], “The success of any data-driven initiative depends on that data being relevant and trustworthy.” Universities can ensure high-quality data by ensuring these “key attributes” that include:


      • Completeness: Related data must be linked from all possible sources.
      • Accuracy: Data must be correct and consistent, with no misspellings, for example.
      • Availability: Data must be available upon demand.
      • Timeliness: Current data must be available. [2]

Most recently, my colleagues and I, have been receiving many spam and phishing emails from administration in my department. This calls into question the issue of data protection and the necessity for heightened data protection measures. The ability for cyber-criminals to manipulate email accounts and transcend network security protocols poses a serious threat to higher education operations and trust. Cyber experts emphasize that, “It is critical university leaders consider whether their cyber protection governance is sufficiently robust.” [3] University officials must work intently to ensure that their valuable data is protected with the highest level of protection. Some critical questions that higher education providers need to ask include:

    • Who has access to data?
    • Are regular vulnerability scans performed as part of vulnerability management?
    • Do attack monitoring and mitigation systems cover the right cyber-attacks?
    • Are staff and students trained in information security awareness to spot fraudulent attacks?[3]



All about Intersectionality

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Intersectionality Background

Intersectionality was first coined and popularized by scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989 to portray the intersection of different classification factors and how they interplay, compound and magnify different stereotypes and oppressions that significantly impact a person’s life.  Specifically,

 “Intersectionality refers to the simultaneous experience of categorical and hierarchical classifications including but not limited to race, class, gender, sexuality, and nationality. It also refers to the fact that what is often perceived as disparate forms of oppression, like racism, classism, sexism, and xenophobia, are actually mutually dependent and intersecting in nature, and together they compose a unified system of oppression.’ [1]

Furthermore, sociologist Patricia Hill Collins further expounded and sensationalized the concept of intersectionality in her 1990 book, Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness and the Politics of Empowerment. She studied black women and other multifaceted individuals from an Intersectional Approach to better understand their unique experiences. Through this thought, it is considered that an individual’s disposition is influenced strongly by multiple attributes and collectively these inform how they are perceived and treated. Intersectionality provides a reference frame to view an individual holistically rather than through siloed lens. Indeed, looking at an individual in totality offers a better picture of their circumstances. Click for the 101 on intersectionality: What is Intersectionality?

Unique Experience

My unique experience with intersectionality was through an experience that I witnessed about a close family acquaintance. Jane Doe was a female, Hispanic, educated individual who worked in a white male dominant supervisory role. Because of her unique classifiers, she repeatedly experienced quasi-racist, sexist and condescending remarks about her inherent characteristics and strong-willed determined work ethic. As a result, she always felt pressured to work harder to prove herself and perform successfully to impress her peers and upper level managers. This significantly impacted her mental health and stress-levels. Due to her specific intersecting factors, her work oppression was compounded to a seriously threatening level.

Intersectionality best practices in the workplace

Some key strategies and considerations that can address intersectionality in the workplace include [2]:

  1. Acquire and provide proper training, education and awareness on the issue
  2. Clear unambiguous policies on discrimination in the workplace
  3. Represent and support employees at all levels and locations
  4. Establish networks to support the development and opportunity available to minority groups
  5. Proclaim/ Promote it, advocate it and fully support it in the workplace


A person should never be defined or perceived on the basis of a singular attribute but society including myself should consider appreciating and understanding the multitude of factors that can make up an individual’s identity and use that to inform our perception in an unbiased and reasoned way. We must be sensitive to the histories and realities that people are influenced by and live within. An individual is the sum-total of their identities and experiences, and we can no longer try to understand or relate to them from a narrow or hollow viewpoint. More specifically, in the workplace, employees are significant assets that should always be valued, respected and supported to the highest level.



Together we achieve more

We are all in this together. Endless opportunities and possibilities surround us, yet we continue to choose to limit ourselves to the sidewalk of familiarity. The time is up for playing it safe on the sidelines, we must intentionally ascend the bridge of opportunity and leverage the lanes of success to achieve more together.

The field of engineering continues to lag in diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I). Although, much work has been done to bridge the gap, more is still needed to compound greater opportunities in order to achieve a sustainable representation of DE&I in the field. Men continue to outnumber women in engineering degree programs and within academic and research positions. Women of color continue to lag behind their counterparts in achieving STEM degrees. Furthermore, opportunities diverge widely among other factors such as age, socioeconomic status and disability. We can no longer allow missed opportunities for (DE&I)  because the biggest hurting entity from the disparities in (DE&I) is the engineering field itself.  Like the popular proverb acknowledges, “Nothing is more expensive than a missed opportunity.”

Engineering benefits from a plethora of diverse people who bring to the table different and unique ideas, skills and experiences to create the future. Ultimately, the field is enriched through the collaboration of versatile, creative and innovative minds who push the boundaries to achieve better and to do more. DE&I ensures excellence within in the field and supports sustainable academic and research outcomes.

As an engineer, I am thankful for the programs, opportunities and peers that supported me to where I am today. I continue to see the need for (DE&I) in the field and even in my own department. I can’t begin to tell you how many times the thought of me feeling like the “ONLY ONE” has occupied my mind. It is really discouraging but I hope that very soon this will not be a memory for  generations to come. I too have a responsibility to take an active role in bridging the gap for minorities in the field. As a result, I commit my time and efforts to doing outreach and working with minoritized groups to stimulate their interest in STEM. I know the power and strength in DE&I and I want to see it in full force for a richer academic and research environment, a stronger society and for a better world.