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Get to Know Marlena Creusere

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Each month, Get to Know… will feature two members of UT System Administration’s talented staff as they offer insights into their lives in and out of the office. Each new edition will be published here.

Marlena Creusere serves as UT System's Executive Director of Institutional Research and Analysis

Marlena Creusere

Executive Director
Office of Institutional Research and Analysis 

What are your primary job responsibilities?

As the executive director of the Office of Institutional Research and Analysis, I provide strategic direction for and oversight of our team of analysts, researchers and developers. I guide my staff in the development of analytical methodologies and policy studies, including projects using quantitative research methods and statistics, that support decision-making by UT System leadership. My team and I analyze data to prepare special reports and fulfill ad-hoc requests for internal and external audiences. My focus is on providing our stakeholders with accurate and timely data based on sound methodologies. One of the aspects of my work that I enjoy the most is engaging with and supporting our institutions, particularly my colleagues in the institutional research offices on the campuses. My most important duty is safeguarding the privacy and security of the student data entrusted to us by ensuring we are in compliance with all state and federal laws and using secure and approved technologies for data storage and sharing. Although my leadership role means I have had to step back from much of the day-to-day data analysis, I still enjoy working with my staff on deep, complex research projects, particularly in the areas of financial aid and post-graduation employment outcomes.

What do you most enjoy about your job?

One of the favorite parts of my job is working directly with my colleagues in the institutional research offices on the campuses. Our support can range from presenting a united System-level perspective on policies or definitions from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to creating campus-specific matriculation models to help institutions make the most of their financial aid awards. I enjoy learning from my peers and seeing the unique and innovative ways that each institution uses data to improve student success. It is rewarding to provide direct support to the institutions that are serving students because I am a firm believer in the transformative power of education.

What is a book or movie that has inspired you – and why?

Jung Chang's Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China had a profound impact on me when I first read it in 1991 and it's one of the few books I have read multiple times and recommend to others. The book is a simultaneously tragic and uplifting memoir of three generations of women in 20th-century China. At its core, Wild Swans is a story of courage and resiliency during times of tumult – and an excellent reminder that history isn't a list of dates and events, but rather the story of how real people's lives are impacted by those events. I've always enjoyed reading history for pleasure, but this book was the first that pushed me toward learning more about history of cultures outside of Europe and North America. In addition, it led me to discovering some amazing Chinese movies, particularly those directed by Zhang Yimou.

What do you do to disconnect or de-stress?

For daily de-stressing, I try to exercise in my swim spa during lunch or after work. In addition, I've been learning to play mandolin and tenor ukulele the last few months and practice one of those most days to relax. For deeper disconnection, my go-to is travel. For several years, my travel was tied to sailing in the Mediterranean or Caribbean, but now I'm back to being a land-based explorer (although the sea is generally still nearby).