What Do You Want to Know?: Participant Reflection on the Assessment Institute 2015
By: Megan Forecki
This question was asked in one of our first sessions at the 2015 Student Affairs Assessment Institute, and resonated in my mind throughout the following two and a half days: What did I want to know? As a student government and programs professional, there was a ton I wanted to know! Are our students gaining the “valuable career skills” we always talk about? Are our student directors learning to be effective leaders? Are there outcomes that we aren’t even capturing? How do I provide evidence that our programs create a more engaged student experience? There was so much to know! What I really wanted to know now was, “where do I begin?”
The Student Affairs Assessment Institute provided me with that much needed starting point. I’ll be honest, I was getting tired of creating surveys, and I’m certain our students were getting tired of filling them out. Our “evidence of learning” needed a breath of fresh air, and the Institute provided just that.
Through the different tracks and sessions available (Department/Program or Division and Choose Your Own Adventure), the Institute is structured to fit your specific needs. I was able to attend sessions that related exactly to the expectations that my department had for creating new programs and service assessments. I learned about how to create rubrics, design good survey questions, implement different methodologies, involve students in assessment, and communicate results in an effective way. Additionally, if there were sessions I really wanted to attend, but missed due to another session, all the presentations and handouts were uploaded to a website for use post-Institute.
Beyond attending the sessions, I was also able to meet other professionals in a similar position as myself. Many of the individuals I met did not do assessment as their full-time career. Most times, it was just one piece of their position. They were there though, like me, with little knowledge, but an understanding that effective assessment is essential to our students’ experience, and an important part of our institution’s story. They were curious, and so was I. This curiosity led to multiple conversations that helped me understand the direction of other departments, and their assessment efforts. I wrote pages of notes throughout the Institute, and many were about how to collaborate with other areas on campus regarding assessment strategies.
The Institute serves as a “how-to” manual for conducting assessment (and even comes with your own binder that includes worksheets and handouts!). Having entered the Institute with little knowledge, I believe I am now well-prepared to lead our department in assessment strategies that are innovative and refreshing. My recommendation for any individual that is interested in developing assessment skills in their own areas, no matter if it is on a small or large scale, attend this Institute! Not only is it beneficial to learn the material, but you will also make connections that will help you in your assessment quest! So, I’ll leave you with this…what is it that you want to know, and where will you start?
Megan Forecki currently serves as Coordinator for Student Governance and Programs at the University of Arizona. In her role, she oversees volunteer programs, including Alternative Breaks, as well as assessment efforts for the Associated Students of the University of Arizona (ASUA) and Graduate Professional Student Council (GPSC). Megan was a 2015 scholarship recipient and participant of the ACPA Student Affairs Assessment Institute.