Dr. Bobbie Frye graduated from the College of Education with an Ed.D. in Adult and Community College Education in 2014, and she is currently the director of institutional research at Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC) in Charlotte, North Carolina. She recently received the Tony and Beth Zeiss Award, which recognizes CPCC faculty and staff whose efforts to facilitate student success have been particularly extraordinary. We asked her to share how her experience at the College of Education influenced her career as an adult educator.
What does receiving this award mean to you?
I am honored, humbled and inspired. To be recognized by my peers and colleagues for “exemplary work in student success” means that the research efforts and activities of an institutional researcher are regarded as valuable and integral to the college’s mission to serve students. I immediately thought of those with whom I’ve worked that helped me achieve this award and thanked them for the opportunities provided to me over the years. The faculty members in the College of Education at
North Carolina State University were instrumental in helping the leader within me emerge as strong, passionate and caring about student success. I am grateful to and thank Dr. James Bartlett my dissertation chair and mentor who provided opportunities to mentor and engage students through an adjunct faculty role. Dr. James Bartlett has always encouraged me to pursue my research interests in the community college sector and through his efforts is helping to shape future educational leaders.
Tell us about the evolution of your 13-year career at Central Piedmont Community College. What is your favorite part about your job?
I started my career in 2003 at CPCC as a senior research analyst in the Planning and Research Department. Immediately, I gravitated towards analyzing data and searching for the “data story” that surfaced in the student data files. This role has always been the favorite part about my job. Although institutional researchers often work behind the scenes, the role has evolved in the last decade, as a visible one that demands leadership, data interpretation or oversight and data coaching across campus. Currently, I serve as the director of institutional research in the Planning & Research Department. During my tenure, I supported the college’s grant proposal efforts, spearheaded committees focused on student retention and success, researched developmental education and co-led student success activities such as CPCC’s Achieving the Dream and Completion by Design initiatives. Since 2014, I have co-chaired a program code committee, a team dedicated to identifying best practices for guiding and advising students in curriculum programs.
For the last several years, I have served on several North Carolina Community College System data initiative teams focused on identifying data issues, research needs and areas for improvement. I also lead a national effort designed to increase research capacity in the community college sector by implementing data-mart products and tools developed at CPCC.
How do you encourage your students to participate in research?
I encourage students to participate in research by sharing a contact or faculty member that I’ve met over the years that is considered knowledgeable about their topic of interest. I also try to integrate their topic into our conversations, direct them to journals or articles about the topic and help identify gaps or areas where more research is needed. If I am aware of a resident dataset that would facilitate their research I help connect them with the institution’s IRB, data owner or institutional research office. Students generally have ideas about what topics they want to study and research. Often they are looking for encouragement, coaching and guidance about how to apply their research interests; I recognize and observe where their passions are leading them and support and encourage their efforts. The student/faculty research experience is often reciprocal and I learn and gain new insights through my student’s learning experiences.
How did the College of Education prepare you for your career and shape you as an educator?
The faculty members in the College of Education at NC State were instrumental in helping the leader within me emerge as strong, passionate and caring about student success. This was not a small task. I have always enjoyed my work at CPCC, embarked on new learning opportunities and am fortunate to have strong data analysis skills. However, I was sometimes hesitant to share my experiences with others or contribute to college discussions. During my years at NC State in the doctoral program I was provided many opportunities to present my research in front of peers and colleagues. These opportunities were pivotal and invaluable as I learned to share my research and to network with other researchers in the field. I also discovered that I inspire others to participate in research and to pursue their passions.
As an educator, my experiences as an adult learner in the College of Education crystallized and catalyzed the importance of serving as a “change agent” at the college and beyond. I recognized that institutional and societal change first occurs within yourself and credit that realization to Dr. Tim Hatcher and to key faculty in the Adult and Community College Education program. My supervisor and mentor, Dr. Terri Manning, recently remarked that since joining and completing the doctoral program she has observed and enjoyed my emergence as a vibrant and strong leader destined to leave a lasting impact at the college and in institutional research.
What advice do you have for students considering a career in community college and adult education?
My advice for students considering a career in community college and adult education is to study the community college research, to study the characteristics and history of the institution and to speak with others that work in those institutions. Communicate your career interests to your peers and colleagues so that they can inform you of openings in the area. Specifically, in institutional research, careers are available for a variety of data analysts in many community college institutions. If selected for an interview, prepare for the interview by demonstrating that you are a researcher at heart. Most successful data analysts are detail oriented, organized, driven to find the “data story”, willing to share their research with others and are potential leaders who thrive in dynamic, complex and often demanding environments. Set your profile apart from other applicants by taking efforts to learn analytical software, and enroll in courses that build your knowledge and skills in the institutional research area. Engage in your own research experiences and be prepared to discuss your research interests and experiences during the interview. Also, have a clear idea of your career path as a future leader at the college.