Getting to know Maria Drake

Maria Drake became the College of Technology’s data manager in January of this year. Her ties to Purdue go back to her time as an undergraduate student. She earned a bachelor’s degree in law and society with minors in psychology and organizational leadership and supervision. She spent another 15 years in other Purdue offices: the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Traffic Safety Research in the School of Civil Engineering, the Division of Financial Aid and the Office for the Vice President for Research. She earned her master’s degree in management from Indiana Wesleyan.

What I do: I provide a lot of data analysis and metrics for the dean’s office and various department heads. I look at research trends, research dollars, enrollment trends. I also assist with projections, such as our student profiles. We look at how we can grow the college and increase our student profile as far as academic rankings. The data helps determine how many students we want to bring in and what our test scores need to be. There’s also the diversity component, looking at minority classifications and the number of females we are bringing in, weekly contact hours for faculty and how that balances out with research dollars they are trying to bring in. If you were at the Dean’s Forum, you got to see some of the types of metrics I am responsible for tracking and reporting (PDF report of CoT data).

On the types of requests she fields: A key issue right now is how the College of Technology compares in our diversity numbers to our peer institutions as well as across Purdue’s campus. I’m working on a request from Texas A&M University looking at our profile for diversity, gender and faculty counts. They are collecting peer data from Engineering and Technology programs to see how their diversity compares. The measures include the number of enrolled students by level, graduation rates, and faculty ranks and how many different staff levels we have, as well.

Where the data is:  I use various tools. Student data is located in Cognos [a University-wide database]. I write queries and reports to filter it in order to drill down and isolate the targeted population. Due to the high level of confidentiality and security surrounding a student’s financial aid data, I have to submit requests to the Division of Financial Aid.  However, budget information is publicly available, you just have to know where on Purdue’s Web site to access it. I also rely on Board of Trustees information, and I have secured access to other data managed by Purdue’s Office of Institutional Research.

What I want to dig into: One of the things I find intriguing is the number of weekly contact hours of our faculty. It is quite a bit higher than other programs on campus. I want to dig into the data and see if it’s the way we are structuring our programs or the way they are being counted. I am working with my counterpart in Engineering to collect data on students who fail out of a course or drop a course. We want to see if there is a notable pattern between particular sections and student success.  The whole goal of this, especially as the college strives to put students first, is to make sure we’re giving all of our students the best opportunities for them to succeed. If we are failing in our methods, then we aren’t fulfilling our mission. Once we get them here, we need to make sure we are doing everything that we can to not only keep them here, but everything we can to help them be successful.

On her work philosophy: My personal philosophy has always been of servant leadership. Even when I’ve been in a management supervisory position, I’ve seen myself as a servant of others. I want to help others succeed in their tasks and missions. I see myself as a worker bee. I love working on challenging problems. Let’s dig into the details and see what’s causing them.

Outside of Purdue: My husband, Brent, works in the Office of Enrollment Management. He did all three of his degrees here, our son is an alum, as is my sister and my niece; so we both basically bleed Black and Gold. We are season ticket holders to football games, we love to go to theatre and a lot music concerts. We love to travel. And we love vacations where we can do nothing.