By Claudia Zequeira
As vice president of analytics and planning, Brandon McKelvey spends his days sifting through data to help drive Valencia College’s mission. But he considers himself more of a navigator than an analyst.
“In our team, we are mainly technical people; we’re statisticians, or computer scientists … but we’re not trying to tell the College what to do. What we do is figure out what the College wants to do and say to other leaders of the College ‘How do we get there?’”
Brandon works with all departments at Valencia, looking for ways to imaginatively interpret data and use it to ensure it aligns with the College’s long-term goals and overall mission. On a day-to-day basis, he may be studying Facilities and Sustainability department numbers, or collaborating with Organizational Development and Human Resources, or looking for ways to help students by analyzing Student Affairs data.
Recently, Brandon partnered with the Faculty Development team to determine which instructors were likely to need the most assistance as they made the transition from face-to-face teaching to online teaching after our campuses closed due to COVID-19. This helped the department determine whom they would need to contact and connect with resources.
Brandon said he is particularly proud of work he has done — and which Valencia spearheaded — to connect multiple educational institutions’ databases to make informed decisions. The Central Florida Education Ecosystem Database (CFEED), as the effort is called, includes Orange County Public Schools, the School District of Osceola County, Valencia College and the University of Central Florida (UCF).
The data from CFEED has been used to shed light on patterns, such as the lifetime course trajectory of students who struggle after they transfer to UCF, or the students who struggle at Valencia and never transfer. It has also helped guide our policy, such as helping Valencia create better course pathways for students and a more aligned curriculum that better prepares them for transfer.
“We have built a database that allows us to answer questions we could not answer before … this helps look at the big picture,” said Brandon. “By sharing our data together we’ve been able to do some tremendous work to support students.”
Brandon said what he most enjoys about Valencia is its culture of collaboration as well as its mission, which mesh well with his personal ethics.
“I think my favorite thing is the culture of collaboration and the way it respects the autonomy and the value that each individual brings,” he said. “There’s a high value that’s attached to people being heard.”
He added Valencia’s mission of access is something that also inspired him to work here.
“It’s very important to me to be part of an open access institution,” he said.
Valencia, he said, is also a place that practices inclusivity but always looks for ways to improve.
“It’s our mission to provide open access but, particularly, we look to see how much we can do to expand that.”
“The message of Valencia is that whether you’re a 16-year-old doing dual enrollment … or a 25-year-old doing an A.S. degree, or a 70-year-old who’s taking classes as a transient student, that we’re open and we’re there to have a lifelong impact on people’s lives.”
His supervisor, Kathleen Plinske, executive vice president and provost, said she feels “privileged to call Brandon a colleague.”
“He approaches our work thoughtfully and respectfully, with brilliant analytical skills, and above all, with a true heart for our mission,” she added.
Prior to joining Valencia, Brandon, who has taught multiple college-level courses in sociology and related fields, worked as associate superintendent of research, accountability and grants and as a senior director of accountability, research and assessment for Orange County Public Schools. Before that, he was a performance data analyst with Seminole County Public Schools and a presidential fellow at Florida State University.
Brandon also currently serves as a consultant for the Assessment and Accountability Advisory Committee of the Florida Department of Education and as a Graduate Faculty Scholar at UCF. In addition, he participates in Harvard University’s Public Education Leadership Project, which seeks to strengthen public education management. He’s also a Strategic Data Fellow there, an effort aiming to bring high-quality research methods and data analysis to bear on strategic management and policy decisions.
In his free time, Brandon, a proud cat owner, likes reading, looking at non-Valencia related data, and participating in philanthropic events with his partner.
“I’ve always been fascinated by data,” he said. “You can regularly find me looking at things like Census data or Bureau of Labor Statistics data trying to learn more.”
Know of someone who embodies one of Valencia’s Values (learning, people, diversity, access or integrity), who has been an employee for one year or more? Send the colleague’s name to us at The_Grove@valenciacollege.edu. He or she might be one of our featured colleagues, subject to supervisor’s approval.