Staff Profile: Institutional Research Analyst Delves into Data

Headshot of Caitlin Blacksmith
December 15, 2021

Caitlin Blacksmith, M.Ed, arrived at Yale School of Nursing (YSN) two years ago as the Institutional Research Analyst. She has extensive experience in educational research methodologies and provides a wide variety of data support activities across all areas of the school. These include accreditations, external reporting, internal outcome measures and financial and programmatic modeling. Blacksmith can do magic in Excel and her enthusiasm for data organization and applications is infectious. 

She is currently pursuing a PhD in Research Methods, Measurement, and Evaluation at the University of Connecticut, with interest in graduate student sense of belonging. In her free time, she enjoys watering and weeding a garden at the M.L. Keefe Community Center in Hamden that supplies fresh produce to their food bank.  

Can you describe your role as the Institutional Research Analyst at YSN? What is a typical day is like for you?

Questions come from all directions, and there’s always something new to learn. There’s a seasonality to the external reporting, such as accreditor surveys. That arm of what I do focuses on aggregating data.

The really fun stuff is exploring our data and assessing what it means. Examining the history and trajectory and collaborating with colleagues across the school to figure out what the data are telling us. I love digging into it and building tools and dashboards for leadership to make the information accessible so that it can be used effectively. It is really satisfying to use data to expand our understanding of student and faculty experiences, for example, or develop tools and strategies that can streamline our processes. I always want to prompt as many questions as I answer so that we can engage in topics thoroughly. I love questions!

How did you embark on this career?

I had no concept of this as an undergraduate. After college, I was working as an analyst in a registrar’s office and my manager suggested I pursue a master’s in educational psychology. I realized how much I enjoyed the idea of working with data to support operations in higher education and specifically graduate education as a career.  I’ve been so fortunate on this path that I didn’t know existed in college. 

What inspires you about working at YSN?

I come from a family full of nurses across three generations. These are people I grew up admiring, knowing how hard they work and how important their work is to them. I love the idea that my work contributes to the school and, by extension, helps support the education of YSN practitioners and leaders.  

Staff Series

This is the latest in an occasional series of YSN staff profiles, and the conversation has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity. Read our earlier pieces about how Wesley Revangil engages students on financial aid,Ekaterina Ginzburg drives teaching and learning innovationJeanetsey Prates anticipates faculty needsJanene Batten partners with faculty and students in the nursing mission, and Eddie Quiles thrives in the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Check back soon to meet more YSN staff.