The Society for the
Study of Social Issues


Name, Credentials:  Shirley Truong, Ph.D.

Job Title:  Principal Analyst

Company / Organization:  University of California, Santa Cruz

Department:  Institutional Research, Assessment, and Policy Studies

City, State:  Santa Cruz, CA



BA, Psychology, University of California, Santa Cruz

MA, Social Psychology, San Francisco State University

Ph.D., Social Psychology, University of California, Santa Cruz

How long have you worked for your current company or organization?  1 year

What are your primary duties in this position?  My primary duties include conducting statistical studies and analyses that address issues related to institutional outcomes and effectiveness; implementing planned analysis, including data verification and data correction, using a report writing tool and statistical analysis software for the management and analysis of data; providing routine and ad hoc reporting and analytic support to decision-making bodies; and responding to various (internal and external) requests for institutional information.

What do you enjoy about your work? What are the perks and drawbacks?  For the most part, every day is different and the work is rewarding! There are a multitude of concerns and issues that our office works to address. My contributions can have a direct impact on the institution's planning, programs and/or policies, which ultimately can affect students' experiences.

Career path: how did you land this position? What do you see in your future career plans?  I made the decision during graduate school that I wanted a non-academic career, but I wasn't entirely sure what that career would look like. I researched various positions, mostly applied research-oriented jobs, as I prepared to go on the job market. I felt that this position was well aligned with my interests and qualifications. It likely helped that I not only had the skills desired, but that I was also familiar with the institution (having earned both my undergraduate and graduate degrees there). I've been in this position a little over a year so there's still much more for me to learn.

What career advice would you like to share with graduate students seeking careers in your field?  For graduate students who are interested in careers in Institutional Research (IR) and/or assessment, one suggestion would be to visit the Association for Institutional Research (AIR) webpage ( They provide a listing of current job opportunities, mostly based in the U.S. The job descriptions can give you a sense of what the work entails (e.g., data analyses, report writing, developing assessment tools and surveys, etc.). Many of the experiences and skills I gained during graduate school are applicable in my current work. If you are interested in issues related to higher education (e.g., accessibility, diversity, student learning outcomes, retention and graduation, etc.) and educational policy, your contribution to IR can influence and inform program and policy decisions. As Ph.D. graduates we have a lot to offer!

Additional Comment:  Most public and some private 2- and 4-year colleges and universities have an Institutional Research office, so for those of you who may want or need to relocate to different areas working in IR provides some geographical flexibility due to the number of colleges and universities across the country

Ways I am involved with SPSSI: Read newsletters / mailings / website; Network with other members; Attend conferences / workshops

Research that produces nothing but books will not suffice.
                                                                                                                    - Kurt Lewin