You may see ones and zeros, but Rizwan Hussain sees a way forward for students

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June 30, 2021 by HCDE-Texas

Where most see numbers, Rizwan Hussain sees a map to the past, present, and future.

“Data tell a story,” he said. “When you research and look at the data, there are always new insights you didn’t have before.”

Hussain, a research coordinator for the Harris County Department of Education Research and Evaluation Institute (REI), turns data evaluation into an art form. He is currently the lead on the Texas Data Dashboard Project, an REI special project commissioned by HCDE Superintendent James Colbert Jr., which compiles information on students, teachers, schools, and superintendents together in a comprehensive visualization that highlights disparities and areas of need.

Dashboard data visualization is a well-known and popular concept among research and evaluation professionals and teams. It is a widely incorporated practice because of its usefulness in making sense of large amounts of data and drawing attention to areas that indicate errors, needs, and progress.

During Hussain’s time at the University of Punjab in Pakistan, where he is from, he took a sincere interest in public policy.

“Public administration is so vast as a field. I love it,” he said. “I loved studying about policies and how they impact populations. I always read the reports and [learned] how they impacted different sectors of society.”

He ultimately received a Bachelor of Science in Marketing Research with a minor in Public Administration before earning a Master of Public Administration from Texas Southern University.

After graduating, Hussain sought to work for a public sector organization. Searching for the right position, he came across an opening with HCDE in the summer of 2019. It was a perfect fit, he shared, highlighting that the job description matched not only his portfolio but what he felt he needed in a job.

Rizwan Hussain poses in his office on June 30, 2021
Rizwan Hussain poses for a photograph in his office on June 30, 2021

REI Director Darlene Breaux illuminates just how well-suited Hussain is to the work her team is entrusted with.

“If there is an assignment, he is going to work extremely hard to ensure he gets it done and gets it done right,” she said. “He actually seeks feedback and he goes on his own to seek additional training. Many of [the trainings] happen after hours or on his own time, but he does it to better himself, which I find very impressive.”

Breaux went on to describe how Hussain has been instrumental in the ongoing Texas Data Dashboard Project. When the initiative was first commissioned to REI, no one on the team was trained in dashboard visualization. However, all members received training during the work-from-home period last year. By the time the team returned to the office, Hussain had already strengthened his own skills through additional professional development, which he applied to his work.

To Breaux, Hussain is a “great example of the type of employee directors would love to have.”

“He may not be the lead on a project, but you would never know,” she said. “He’ll seek out additional resources, and he always comes prepared with additional ideas and suggestions. Ultimately, he always tries to ensure the end product is better than what we thought it would be.”

REI provides needs-based and other research-based services for HCDE and surrounding educational communities so HCDE and school districts can utilize data to plan and strengthen programs, making them more cost-effective and tailored to specific research goals. A few recent research projects include “Restorative Justice? A Brief Overview” and “Priorities in Social and Emotional Learning (SEL).”

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