If a Trivial Pursuit Boston College Edition existed, the Boston College Fact Book would be required pre-game reading.
Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2023, the Fact Book is much more than a treasure trove of University statistical information; it serves as its historical record, and most significantly, as a single, readily accessible and consistent source of highly pertinent BC data for use by administrators, faculty, staff, and students. Senior administrators from the president and provost to the financial vice president and treasurer keep current copies at their desks.
Comprising eight sections—covering administration and faculty to physical plant and research activity—the 100-page print and online compilation is produced and released annually in the spring semester by the Office of Institutional Research & Planning (IR&P).
While the Fact Book may not rival TikTok for number of views, thousands of visits are recorded throughout the year, particularly by BC administrators who religiously rely on the meticulously collected and reported data.
Amy L. Harrington, assistant director of accreditation and information management at the Carroll School of Management, can’t imagine doing her job without it.
“The Fact Book has been my trusted resource for gathering data to complete our annual Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business accreditation surveys,” she said. “It’s such a reliable source of information and incredibly helpful, and the team behind the Fact Book is always so wonderful to work with.”
“The BC Factbook is a critical element in our undergraduate marketing efforts,” said John Morawiec, director of marketing services in the Office of University Communications. “We often draw upon the key data points compiled by IR&P to design infographics for our recruitment materials, which clearly help increase the overall uniqueness of the pieces, and enhance prospective students’ and their parents’ experience in their college decision process."
IR&P Vice President Mara Hermano said six of IR&P’s nine team members contribute to the Fact Book production, and typically at least two full-time staff and a graduate assistant are involved in the day-to-day operations.
The Fact Book’s importance to BC, she said, reflects the office’s evolution “from a data-only operation to a full-service organization that provides a complex suite of services to support campus leaders in their strategic thinking as they grapple with decisions that impact the University in both short- and long-terms ways.”
Data requests to campus partners are issued in the fall for the upcoming edition, and it takes approximately four months for data entry, formatting, and review before submission to the printer in January.
“While we collect Fact Book information at the same time each year, not all of the institutional data in one edition is from the same time frame,” explained Stephanie Chappe, IR&P’s director of institutional research. “Some data lag a year, and some are available in the weeks just prior to publication, but nonetheless, our team works diligently throughout the production cycle to ensure that the information is accurate and the most up-to-date possible.”
The Fact Book has evolved over its five-decade history, just as the University and its resources have changed, said Chappe; for instance, IR&P integrates tables using the interactive data visualization tool Tableau Software to help the reader better understand the figures.
“The ‘Libraries’ section was renamed ‘Libraries & Information Technology’ in the 1989-1990 edition to accommodate the growing importance of IT infrastructure at BC. The ‘Enrollment by Race/Ethnicity, Gender, and Citizenship’ table was recently updated and reorganized so it presents the data in three different ways. We also redesigned and moved the table that shows data by federal reporting standards to the front of the section so it’s more clear and easier to understand.”
A few nuggets from previous Fact Book editions:
•During the 1996-1997 academic year, more than one million emails were sent and more than five million were received on the University’s primary email servers. (Chappe noted that less critical technology data such as “emails sent” were removed when reporting such facts was less practical for an annual publication.)
•In 1972—long before email became integral to everyday work and life—the mailroom handled some 16,000 packages and envelopes per day.
•Health service data are no longer reported, but in 1987-1988 University Health Services reported 31,876 student visits to doctors, nurse practitioners, nutritionists, and physical therapists.
Phil Gloudemans | University Communications | January 2023