Our business is all about our people. All the ideas and innovations, the possibilities and the solutions that have impacted thousands of clients and millions of learners over 30 years have come from the minds of our Talent. That's why we're excited to showcase the people of Unicon through our Talent Spotlight, giving you the opportunity to get to know them! Today I have the pleasure of highlighting Tasha Dannenbring, PhD, one of the newest members of the Unicon family.
Kate Valenti: Greetings, Tasha! To let our readers know a bit about you, you’re a Strategic Project Manager at Unicon, with an area of focus in data & analytics. You have a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Master’s and PhD in Educational Psychology. In your path to a career in education analytics, who or what was a source of inspiration?
Tasha Dannenbring: The people who have inspired me the most have been strong women. Seeing someone charting a new course has inspired me to step out of my comfort zone. I had a statistics teacher in my Master’s program who was one of the most incredible women I’ve ever worked with. She ended up being on my thesis committee and gave me the confidence to pursue a career in this field. When you’re in Institutional Research working heads-down in statistics, you don’t look around and see a lot of women, let alone women who have the opportunity to support other women. When you look up and see someone like you working on complex math equations, you realize you can do that, too. I’ve ended up seeking out smart women throughout my career, like when I got my PhD, and when I’ve participated in workgroups within my field. In fact, Linda Feng, who I worked with on the Educause Student Success Analytics workgroup, introduced me to Unicon!
Kate: And we’re so glad she did! Our core values are very important at Unicon; was there a value that was especially relevant to you as you considered joining us?
Tasha: The two core values that really resonated with me were Mastery and Curiosity. I like hard projects, and I like being a thought leader. I was also really motivated by the opportunity to work with a brilliant team of colleagues. Curiosity is an important value because asking “why” has always been an approach I’ve used, especially as I serve clients. Everyone at Unicon is curious about something, so my colleagues inspire me to be curious, too.
Kate: We do have a lot of curious people! Many of our folks become subject matter experts in the areas they are most curious and passionate about. What kind of an SME are you?
Tasha: My area is data analytics and actionability. For me, it’s all about being able to collaborate with a client and then have them go out and use those data insights. When I help a client figure out a strategy, develop a plan, and then actually understand the data in a way that she feels comfortable, I’ve built some data literacy in that client. If a client isn’t confident in explaining the data, it sits in a drawer and doesn’t help anyone. I like to focus on the action plan, both for the strategy deployment and addressing institutional preparedness.
Kate: We expect you to have a lot of proud moments here at Unicon. Tell us about a proud moment in your career so far, prior to joining us.
Tasha: In a previous role, I was presenting at an AIR (Association for Institutional Research) conference, alongside skilled colleagues. The provost who had sponsored our project was incredible at shining the light on other people’s contributions, supporting the three of us (authors) in presenting our work. It was a packed room, and we had a lot of questions from the audience about the data, the theory, and the technical approach. The team turned the technical questions to me, and I felt so proud and inspired to be standing on stage with the team and be capable of fielding those questions. It made me understand that sometimes it takes other people’s confidence in you to help you understand what you are capable of. For instance, a colleague's confidence in me helped me to get actively involved in Educause, and now I’m developing a rubric with a bunch of smart people that I would never have taken the lead on otherwise.
Kate: I’ve definitely seen you take the lead on client work! What are some areas of impact for you in your current role?
Tasha: In my current role, I’ve felt impactful by being the person to shine the light on my teammates. In a recent project, my teammates surfaced some points about accessibility that I agreed needed to be highlighted. In my role as PM, I was able to emphasize their knowledge and experience as the experts, and this allowed them to do their best work and magnify their impact. And ultimately, their impact has the effect of helping students who weren’t able to access this information before, which is really what we’re all here to do!
Kate: I understand you have a particular interest in inclusive education. How does that perspective help you do your job?
Tasha: I feel like I always have a thought in the back of my mind that I don’t know what others are experiencing, I don’t know their context. They might have an accessibility challenge that isn’t obvious. So I have to remember that, and I have to be curious to check my understanding. When working with clients, it is helpful to remember that everyone is human! I can watch for the person in the room who isn’t speaking up, and I can give them the opportunity to have a voice. I can do my part to be inclusive and to invite them in.
Kate: Finally, what’s something you’re passionate about outside of work?
Tasha: I’m passionate about bringing my best self forward but also giving myself grace as a mom to have a messy house. I’m currently at a place in my life where work and family are my passions and are all-consuming!
Kate: Tasha, thank you so much for taking the time to share about yourself today. We’re happy to have you on the team!
March 29, 2023