Staff Spotlight: Tait Kellogg, PhD – Director of Research & Strategic Services

HEI invites you to get to know our fantastic staff members. Each month, we will highlight a different colleague. This month, learn about Dr. Tait Kellogg’s background and what drives her professionally.

Tait Kellogg, PhD

Tait Kellogg brings to HEI both content knowledge in higher education as well as a broad set of methodological skills. Prior to her work as an external evaluator, she worked internally doing research and evaluation at Tulane University’s Center for Public Service. Tait’s aim is to provide useful, asset-based evaluation and facilitations. In a previous role as the data analyst at a college access nonprofit, she learned firsthand the challenge of understanding an organization’s impact internally. Tait is passionate about helping universities, nonprofits, and foundations conduct research and gain strategic tools that help them work towards their mission. Tait earned her BA from Millsaps College, her MA from Teachers College, Columbia University in Higher and Postsecondary Education and her PhD from Tulane University in the interdisciplinary program City, Culture and Community – Sociology.

What first drew you to work in higher education?

My passion for access and interest in expanding postsecondary opportunities is rooted in my personal experience. I was the first in my family to get my bachelor’s degree and I struggled to pay my way through my education. After getting my master’s, I worked in different areas of higher education like international education and career services in NYC, but I eventually moved to rural Mississippi, where I worked for the Woodward Hines Education Foundation with students who aspired to go to college but lacked easy access to quality information on applying to and paying for college. I saw myself in those students, and now ten years later, I see myself in many of the students supported by HEI’s research support work. I’m also now inspired by my colleagues working to help organizations identify how to connect students to meaningful work and meaningful life paths.

What is your favorite part of working at HEI and with HEI’s clients?

My favorite part is the staff–the team we have built. Our people have a wide variety of lived experiences, and they all authentically come together around the shared values of having high-level skills and wanting to bring them to people on-the-ground who are making a real impact in higher ed.

I also love the work we do! We get to explore questions in the world that are directly impacting  people. We work quickly; we put out high quality products. We also try to be flexible with our clients, adapting to their needs as they evolve. For example, during COVID-19, we pivoted our research and strategic services work quickly to hear from learners and community partners to understand how higher education was unfolding during this unprecedented time, and offer immediately applicable recommendations to clients. If a philanthropic foundation wants to learn and strategize based on their own data, or a department wants to hire a firm to conduct high-quality custom research, HEI can support them in a way that is responsive to their inevitably changing needs.

What gives you hope in the work you do?

I have great hope for the power of education to transform individuals’ lives. I also have great hope for the power of learning for organizations–and that’s what we do at HEI. We help organizations become learning organizations so that they can be more effective in realizing their missions. Recently, we were doing a “data party,” which is where we help organizations make sense of their data–often massive amounts of data–and connect it to their work on the ground, and then grow from the learnings. We filter through that data and create slides, and then bring staff together to reflect on what has actually unfolded on the ground in the last year. Experiences like these are powerful for reducing fear around data and allowing staff members to feel more connected to aspects of the work that can feel abstract. In supporting organizations around learning and being strategic about how to become better, I find hope.