Interview with Dr. Cody Decker, New Director of the UALR Office of Institutional Research

The Information Quality Graduate Program has graduated many excellent students. With the support of its internationally recognized faculty, the Program continues to serve the growing Information Quality job market with well-prepared graduates, many of whom now hold key positions in nationally and internationally recognized companies and state and federal agencies.

One of the IQ Graduates is Dr. Cody Decker, the new Director of the Office of Institutional Research (OIR) at UALR who started his job July 1, 2015.  Dr. Decker previously worked at the Arkansas Department of Education as Assistant Commissioner and CIO.

We chatted with Dr. Decker about his new position and his experience with the Information Quality Graduate Program.

Cody DeckerIQ Program: Dr. Decker, thank you so much for accepting to do this interview with us.

Dr. Decker: Thank you for the chance to share.  I’m an advocate for the IQ program at UALR and I am eager to contribute back to the program.

IQ Program: Could you please tell us some information about you? Who is Dr. Decker?

Dr. Decker:  Sure.  First, please call me Cody.  I’m originally from Hope Arkansas. My family moved to Mena, Arkansas, when I was 13.  In ninth grade, I wanted to take a vocational agriculture class but was unable to attend because the class was full and seniors got preference.  Instead, I was placed into a new class, known as the EASTLAB.  This was my first introduction to technology.  I became active in EAST, participated on the national travel team, and became hooked on the concept of using cutting-edge technology to solve real-world community problems.  I graduated high school in 2002 and attended UALR as an EAST Scholar.  UALR became my home away from home. I enrolled in Information Science and was more or less adopted by Drs. Russell Bruhn and Ningning Wu.  Information Science equipped me with knowledge in information systems, networking, and security that I continue to use to this day.   Outside of work and school, you can usually find me working in the yard, playing on a tractor, or hanging out with my amazing wife, Brooke.

IQ Program: You are one of the first students to be enrolled in the IQ Program in fall 2006. What was the motive for this move since at that time the IQ discipline was still emerging and not many people knew about it?

Dr.  Decker:  I should admit that I was young, naïve, and interested in learning about something new.  I wish I had more of an “academic” motive I could share.  The IQ program was just getting off its feet—and the association with MIT didn’t hurt.  Once I started the program, the potential value of the program became apparent.  The technology we used in class was cool; the teachers were practitioners with industry experience; and most importantly, I got to apply the theory to real problems and generate viable solutions.

IQ Program: You have earned a PhD in Information Quality. How did this degree affect your job search and selection?

Dr. Decker:  I wasn’t actively seeking employment after earning the PhD—it’s hard to say how it might affect future job searches and selection. However, the dissertation process gave me a new appreciation for my professors at UALR.  The collaborative process gave me a closer peek into their work, their commitment to pushing the envelope so to speak for research.  I was fortunate—as I suspect many students are at UALR—and I hope to someday return the favor.

IQ Program: As the new Director of UALR’s Office of Institutional Research, and based on your studies in IQ, how would your degree affect your job?

Dr. Decker:  It sounds kind of cheesy but I like the practice of “using data as a flashlight, not as a hammer” to drive evidence-based decision-making. The IQ program equipped me with knowledge and tools to succeed.  I envision pairing what was taught in the IQ program with guidance from the leadership team at UALR to help facilitate a culture of high-quality data use at UALR.

IQ Program: The UALR Office of Institutional Research’s main responsibility is to provide supporting information as requested by the University’s administrators for campus decision-making and planning. How can Information Quality help with this responsibility?

Dr. Decker:  The tools, practices, and theories of Information Quality will be paramount to our work in Institutional Research.  I don’t start until July 1st but early conversations with stakeholders have demonstrated there is significant opportunity to expand upon the existing information practices and systems at UALR.  I envision, with the collaboration of my colleagues at UALR, a specific focus on data governance.  We anticipate stakeholder engagement sessions to identify “low hanging fruits,” establishment of a data governance program, including a data dictionary, automation of key regulatory reports, and a purposeful collaboration with staff to facilitate and enhance the culture of data use at UALR.

IQ Program: As an alumnus of the Information Quality Program, what advise do you give to IQ Students?

Dr. Decker:  I’d encourage students to take advantage of assistantships and internships.  I learned a great deal while working as an intern and perhaps more importantly, it provided me an opportunity to network with IT professionals and potential employers.

IQ Program: The Information Quality Graduate Program is definitely looking forward to cooperating with you and the UALR Office of Institutional Research. We are keen on keeping our records accurate.

Dr. Decker: Thank you for the chance to visit with you.  I look forward to partnering with the Information Quality Graduate Program and working together to enhance our services to faculty, staff and students at UALR.



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