UD’s Heather Kelly named commissioner of Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Heather Kelly, director of Institutional Research at the University of Delaware, has been selected as a commissioner of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE), a voluntary, peer-based, non-profit membership organization that performs peer evaluation and accreditation of public and private universities and colleges.
“It's an honor to be appointed as a commissioner,” Kelly said. “I've always been a strong advocate for the value of accreditation. I've seen firsthand how member institutions benefit from the peer review process. Higher education faces key opportunities and challenges today, and the accreditation process helps institutions navigate through this complex landscape. And as a commissioner, you get to play an active role in that.”
Recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, MSCHE serves as an independent voice in higher education and is responsible for the accreditation of nearly 600 institutions of higher education in Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
The only other UD administrators to hold this position are David Hollowell, who served as UD’s chief administrative officer for 20 years, and Mike Middaugh, who served as UD’s associate provost for institutional effectiveness.
“MSCHE commissioners are an esteemed group of professionals, typically presidents, provosts and faculty,” said Richard Reeves, associate vice president of Institutional Research and Effectiveness at UD. “The selection of Dr. Kelly is a recognition of her unique combination of knowledge related to accreditation and administrative data. This is a well-deserved recognition of Heather’s professionalism and her contributions to UD and our regional accreditation.”
In today’s environment, valid data is the key driver in informed decision-making, said Kelly, who has worked in UD’s Office of Institutional Research for more than 20 years. Institutional Research, she said, is like the Census Bureau for all things data-related to the University.
“The University of Delaware has such a strong data infrastructure, and it goes beyond Institutional Research,” Kelly said. “The key for institutional research to be successful is the partnerships that we have across campus. So whether it be with enrollment management, student financial aid, the library, human resources — institutional research touches every area, every aspect, of the University. And that's also what makes it very exciting. Institutional research is the center of the university's information infrastructure.”
Kelly also serves as UD’s Accreditation Liaison Officer for Middle States. She has been involved with both the international and regional associations for institutional research; is the past president and past treasurer for Northeast Association for Institutional Research; is the past president and past treasurer for the Association for Institutional Research; and is a member of the board of advisors for the Consortium for Student Retention Data Exchange.
Institutional Research (IR) at UD provides timely and accurate information to University leadership and stakeholders. It engages in research and analysis to demonstrate institutional effectiveness, inform decision-making and facilitate policies and practices at the University.
“The work in institutional research is to really help guide the institution and make effective policies and decisions to promote the institution,” Kelly said. “Why I enjoy my job so much is that I really feel like I have the opportunity to help propel the institution forward.”
IR is also the primary source for benchmarking data from national databases and targeted institutional surveys of peer institutions. IR helps to ensure the University is in compliance with government regulations and accreditation standards. Through these activities, IR identifies emerging issues, initiates innovative research and fosters institutional learning in collaboration with the University community to achieve strategic milestones and build institutional memory.
“Benchmarking is a big aspect of what we do — looking to see how the University of Delaware compares to our comparator institutions and to other institutions in the higher education landscape to make sure that there's continuous improvement,” Kelly said. “One of the key things with the work of institutional research is making sure that there's continuous improvement, both for the institution as well as promoting student success — the experience of students and their success and outcomes.”
As a commissioner, Kelly will be making decisions about the future of institutions.
“I've always held the commission in high regard,” Kelly said. “Middle States puts students in the forefront. Students are first and foremost in these processes, and so it's a wonderful opportunity to continue to serve higher education and also promote student success. To be able to play a role in that and contribute in meaningful ways is just a wonderful opportunity.”