We Are All Data People: Making The Case For Data Literacy

There’s a lot of buzz about data these days.  But what exactly is data?  One way to think of it is as facts, statistics, or pieces of information that we collect, analyze, and interpret to help us make decisions, understand situations, or discover patterns. Also, data is more than just numbers.  Data also takes the form of words, images, audio, video, and more.  

In UDS, our work revolves around data.  But who else at Northeastern works with data?  Do you?  The fact is that every job and every person on a college campus works with data in some way.  Here are some examples:  

  • Faculty members use data to assess student performance, see where students are struggling or excelling, evaluate the effectiveness of their instruction, and identify areas for improvement. 
  • Research staff use data to analyze and interpret the results of experiments and studies. 
  • Marketing and communications departments use data to track the effectiveness of campaigns and outreach efforts. 
  • Facilities staff use data to manage maintenance schedules, track repairs, and ensure that buildings and equipment are running efficiently. 
  • Administrative assistants use data to maintain files and records, as well as manage calendars and schedules, budgets and expenses, email and other communications, and departmental projects and tasks. 
  • Executive leaders use data to track the performance of the college or university and to make strategic decisions about its direction. 

In fact, data is indispensable in today’s workplace. So is the ability to access, understand, interpret, evaluate, and communicate using data.  This is what we call “data literacy.” Being data literate helps people derive meaningful insights and make more informed decisions. According to the Harvard Business Review, 90% of business leaders consider data literacy to be vital to organizational success.  Research by Forbes has also revealed that data literacy is the skill employers want most in the workforce by 2030. At the same time, only about 25% of employees feel confident in their data literacy skills!  This means that there is a great need for on-the-job training in data literacy skills. 

Northeastern University is responding to this need by launching a new, university-wide data literacy program for staff.  We are very excited about this and hope you will be, too. Stay tuned for updates and opportunities to come! 


Capone, M. (2022). Businesses That Value Workers Also Value Data Literacy. Forbes. Available at 

Sabar, R. (2021). How Data Literate Is Your Company?. Harvard Business Review. Available at