Campus News

October 14, 2010

Assessment pushes Campus Life goals

Emory’s Division of Campus Life is concerned with the welfare and experiences of students outside the classroom. And its staff wants to know how well they are doing.

The division has put evaluating whether its programs are meeting student needs and expectations at the forefront of its mission over the last three years, says John Ford, senior vice president and dean of Campus Life.

Spearheading a regional conference

That annual assessment process has served as a resource for other universities, and led Emory to host its first Student Affairs Assessment Conference on Oct. 11-12, with 18 presenters from several Southeastern colleges.

The conference goal is to share processes, strategies, competencies, technology and nonconventional tools, such as focus groups, used in evaluations.

Six Emory staff members were participants, from the areas of Student Leadership and Service; Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Life; Residence Life and Housing; Student Health and Counseling; and Sorority and Fraternity Life.

“We wanted to enhance the effectiveness of the assessment process by having a conference,” says Ford. “What we’re trying to do is document what students are learning from our programs and services. We want to know what methods to use to get that most reliably.”

Keynote speaker of the conference was Belle S. Wheelan, president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. SACS, which is Emory’s regional accreditation body, stresses the need to evaluate programs and services, not just academics.

This is especially important, Ford says, because students fund most of the programs and services of the 300 recognized clubs and organizations on campus, which help them learn about leadership, service and global citizenship.

Carolyn Livingston, special assistant to the dean, coordinates the Campus Life assessment process among the division’s 13 departments.

“We have departments collaborating as never before,” she says.

Data drives new outreach

Findings from a multiyear survey and collaboration between the Career Center and Athletics and Recreation revealed that student athletes were not as familiar with the center as non-athletes, according to Ford and Livingston. Only about 20 percent of student athletes used the resource, says Livingston.

 “That was an important and somewhat surprising finding for us,” she says.

The Career Center and Emory Athletics agreed to provide significant outreach to athletes, which led more than 90 percent of them to visit the center and become more aware of its services, including discussing their post-graduate career plans.

Another assessment found that Oxford College continuees were less satisfied and less positive about their experiences in the residence halls. During the summer, Residence Life staff generated several new strategies to improve the experience of making the transition from Oxford to Emory.

This year, the offices of Multicultural Programs and Services and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Life are examining how comfortable multicultural queer and transgender students of faith feel on campus, with special attention to programs and services offered specifically for those populations. 

Assessments in process

The evaluation cycle begins in August with each department, working with a steering committee, proposing two topics. The assessment team already is in the midst of its fourth cycle.

Topics are confirmed by September, and reports are due in June. Two-day meetings are held to discuss results.

Assessment team member Jonathan Zerulik helped design the initial process in 2006, and says refinements are ongoing.

“It’s about being accountable,” Zerulik says. “We need to make data-driven decisions.”

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