A college concerned about first generation students asked us to study retention. This is a great example of when you want to study entry cohorts (e.g., groups of incoming first year students) and not simply look at point-in-time data. We developed a metric that allowed the college to compare trajectories of first generation students to other students over time. We also developed a presentation of the results that allowed the college to track how successive entry cohorts had done over the previous six years. The key analytic result showed that retention had been improving over time for all students, and that the differential risk of non-retention for first generation students had been falling over time, even before any programming could have had effect.
A university won a federal grant to help make women scientists more successful. (While some sciences now have much improved representation of women compared to 40 years ago, women are still badly under-represented in certain disciplines.) We helped assemble a longitudinal data file that had not previously existed and used it to study retention. The rates at which women and men were tenured were not much different, although our analyses did point to large college differences in retention which informed subsequent programming. The key analytic result was our demonstration that gender imbalance on faculties is primarily a function of not hiring enough women. This clarified the strategy the university needed to adopt to address the imbalance.