Don't Judge a Book by Its Cover

In graduate school we learned the value of using assessment, we talked about assessment, practiced using assessment… we discussed assessment a lot. And I mean, a lot! This particular topic was my least favorite part of my Student Affairs education. Even though I was told I would and should use assessment, I really did not think that I actually would. In my undergraduate experiences working in Student Affairs, I did not see professionals using assessment and I assumed my career would follow suit. Well, I am happy to admit that I was wrong.

When I started working in my current job, I quickly learned they were in the middle of an assessment project. I started learning more about the project and the possibilities it would bring to the office and the students. After a month or so after I started my job, I joined a committee and we put our assessment skills to the test. The type of assessment you use really depends on the project or the people in your committee (this is where team work comes into play). When doing an assessment project, you can use both quantitative and qualitative methods (and there are other methods as well!). You can track trends and numbers of students you see in order to make accommodations for the busier times during the academic year (quantitative). Or you might have students give direct feedback as to how successful your office or event is and take their suggestions to make improvements or changes (qualitative). You can use this data to make improvements. It really can be this simple or even more complex.

I was amazed that within a few months of my first job within Student Affairs, I was discussing assessment and had my hands in different projects. I will save you all of the details of these projects, but you should know I am now grateful for having those discussions during my graduate work. So those who are in graduate school, a piece of advice: pay attention during those long discussions about assessment and try to get involved in projects if you can. Every time you serve on a committee or help out with a project, it gives you valuable experiences that will be beneficial for your future.

The bottom line is you will use assessment in your daily work and it will help you better serve your students. The thing I thought I would not use, I started using right away and actually (surprise, surprise) enjoyed it. There is always something that can be assessed to determine how to improve the current situation and process. You never know what your results will be and sometimes they will surprise you. So, for those of you who are like me and do not enjoy assessment, take my advice and find something that really interests you. Now that I have found projects that spark my interest and that I have a vested interest in, I find it enjoyable. I want the best for the current and future students and assessment is really the key to finding solutions to future success. Happy assessing!

Amber Phillips

Student Affairs - the First Years

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