Barker to Serve as First Director of Institutional Research

Joining the community as the first ever Director of Institutional Research, Michael Barker will conduct research on all aspects of Andover beginning Wednesday, May 8. His position will focus on research related to the creation of Andover’s strategic plan, a process that began with the appointment of Rachel Skiffer, new Dean of Policy and Strategic Planning. Strategic Plan provides structure and direction of policies for the coming years, according to a previous article in The Phillipian. Barker said that one of the challenges will be picking the most important things to work on, as the position has a broad-reaching agenda. “The job is largely driven by curiosity and what an institution wants to learn about itself. I am assuming that Andover will have a lot of intellectual curiosity, lots of questions and lots of data that will have to be gathered to answer those questions. My role will be figuring out ways to aggregate or collect data to support the decision makers at the school,” said Barker. Barker’s position as Director of Research is a new one, created by Palfrey in discussions with Jim Ventre, Dean of Admission and Financial Aid. Barker will work closely with Skiffer to analyze Andover’s structure and programming in order to shape the school’s future policy. Barker will, for example, play a large part in an existing longitudinal study to figure out the benefit of the $70,000 that Andover spends on all students’ education compared to the $15,000 spent at local public schools and $1,500 at many schools in Africa, according to Palfrey. “If you look from an institutional perspective, what are we doing for over $70,000, and is it an appropriate use of funds?” said Palfrey. “[Barker] is enormously high energy and incredibly friendly. He is very hard working, extremely bright, very personable and someone who has a great background in using data to solve problems,” continued Palfrey. “What I am most excited about is speaking and working with students and faculty. That is the biggest draw for me,” Barker said. Before the decision was announced about a month ago, Barker was interviewed by several Andover administrators, such as Stephen Carter, Chief Operating and Financial Officer, Jim Ventre, Director of Admissions, Nancy Jeton, Special Assistant to the Head of School, and Rachel Skiffer, Dean for Policy and Strategic Planning. Most recently, Barker worked as Director of Financial Planning and Analysis at Harvard University to centralize the services of Harvard’s 72 libraries. He also collaborated briefly with Palfrey at the Harvard Library. “We identified 30 or 40 services that all the libraries had in common and tried to centralize those. It is still a work in progress, but for the most part the project is complete,” said Barker.