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CalSWEC’s Data Maven, Dr. Susan Jacquet, to Retire

She was instrumental in refining the collection of IV-E student information

Data Management Specialist Dr. Susan Jacquet, the individual who arguably knows CalSWEC’s Student Information System (CSIS) most intimately and who has generously shared her expertise with many a consortium administrator as well as her CalSWEC colleagues over the past 16 years, is closing her Excel sheets and retiring, effective January 4, 2017.

As she prepares to depart with her husband to begin her Third Act in Asheville, North Carolina, Dr. Jacquet paused to share some thoughts about her CalSWEC experience.

RELATED: Read more about Dr. Susan Jacquet

What made you decide to seek employment at CalSWEC?

I was working as a post-doc at the University of Texas—Austin and looking for a permanent position. I had decided that I preferred a research position over an academic one, and a woman I worked with suggested that I check out jobs at a university rather than a non-profit because there are more opportunities and more flexibility with university positions. I wanted to move to the Bay Area so I happened to check the UC Berkeley website for research jobs. A research specialist position at CalSWEC was posted; it looked very interesting and appealing, and I fit the criteria. So, I applied and got the job. It seemed much too easy, but I was delighted and have never had any regrets.

During your 16 years at CalSWEC, how has your work in research and evaluation changed? 

Initially I worked primarily on the studies that CalSWEC was conducting, and generated reports on those data. The first change occurred when I took over the management of the CalSWEC Student Information System (CSIS) in 2003. There were 17 partner universities at that time. My work expanded as each new school was added—now 22—and as the new IV-E BASW and Pathway programs were developed. In 2010 I was asked to develop a CSIS database for the Mental Health Stipend Program [now Integrated Behavioral Health]. When Dr. Sandhya Rao Hermon became Director of Research and Evaluation, the scope of the evaluation at CalSWEC shifted towards more integrated research among programs. 

As a self-described “people person,” how does this mesh with your profession in data management?

I work with all the administrative personnel who manage the data at each of the 22 universities in the CalSWEC consortium and interact with them on a regular basis. I train the new ones when there is turnover, and solve problems with the databases for them. I very much enjoy the interactions with them, and am always surprised by their gratitude for the work I do with them. I think that work would be a lot more difficult if I weren’t a people person.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in that area? 

When we switched over to the FileMaker server in 2011, it was a small nightmare getting each school connected and training the staff on the process of accessing their data on the server. Each person who accesses the data had to become a Berkeley affiliate, which involved application forms. Then the data had to be upgraded to a new version of FileMaker, and each school had to install the version of FileMaker and an additional software portal that allowed access to the Berkeley server. This all required a lot of handholding for those who weren’t very tech savvy. But it all worked out and made the work so much better in the long run. 

What accomplishments are you proudest of in your work at CalSWEC? 

I think the expansion of the CSIS database was the most challenging. I tried to make it as workable as possible for the administrative personnel who worked on it. I’m also proud of the research I was privileged to conduct along with the other research personnel. It is all very fine work and produced a number of scholarly journal articles. It all reflects positively on CalSWEC. 

What will you miss most about CalSWEC? 

The people. It’s been a delight to work with and interact with my co-workers. And of course, the administrative personnel at the schools, as well as the project coordinators, whom I admire for their knowledge and dedication to the program. I also miss the Graduate Student Researchers—GSRs—who have worked with us. We don’t have any at the moment, but I enjoyed the one-on-one mentoring of the GSRs. And I would like to add that many of them said that they learned a lot about research working at CalSWEC. 

What advice do you leave your colleagues?

What came to mind first is what my paternal grandmother said to her family before she died: “Stick together and get along.” I would remind them to remember the social work mission statement: “Seek to enhance the effective functioning and well-being of individuals, families, and communities through its work and through its advocacy.” Live that in your work at CalSWEC.

Anything else you'd like to add?

I’ve said this a number of times to many people, but I want to say here that it has been a privilege to work at CalSWEC. I admire the work that CalSWEC does, and I admire the students who go through the programs; I could not do the work that they do. It is vital but tough work, and I’m not cut out for it. I have a researcher’s and statistician’s mind, and it gives me the greatest pleasure and honor to be able to use my mind the way it works best for an organization that is making a difference in people’s lives. Thank you, CalSWEC. You hold a very dear place in my life.