posted on November 18, 2019 01:12
Jamaica DelMar, Assessment Institute Scholarship Recipient
I came to the NACADA Assessment Institute with significant informal experience in assessment and evaluation work. Throughout my career in higher education, I have found myself drawn to improving processes and student experiences and have always worked hard to do both of those things. I carry the lens of a first generation student of color in my work, so it is important to me that students facing challenges are benefiting from our processes as much as students who may not have as many challenges. I believe that using assessment to identify gaps in learning should be an integral piece of supporting the marginalized majority through advising and in other areas.
While much of my past work experience included using data to inform decision making, I did not have a solid understanding of what formal assessment practices included. As an academic advisor representative on a newly formed Assessment Committee for the College of Management at Metropolitan State University, I jumped at the opportunity to attend the NACADA Assessment Institute in 2019 for formal assessment training. The College of Management was lucky to send a team to the 2019 Assessment Institute. Two professional advisors (including myself), one professor, and the Director of Advising made the trip to further the work we began in fall 2018. I felt it unique and beneficial that we were able to include a faculty person on our team who is leading the college assessment activities for our Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) accreditation.
Metropolitan State University is a four-year, commuter institution located in the Twin Cities, Minnesota. The average age of our students is 31 and close to half are students of color. Many of our students hold jobs and most have additional responsibilities commonly facing nontraditional college students such as caring for children and/or aging parents and dealing with poverty. Metro State caters to working adults and strives to create an anti-racist learning community as expressed in the university’s vision statement. The students we educate often represent multiple marginalized communities. That fact, along with the expected demographic changes facing our region, are primary reasons for us to try and ensure all students are learning and equitably benefiting from our advising work.
We came to the institute with a previously created mission statement and student learning outcomes that had been in existence for years. Our intent was to improve the language of those two things, identify next steps, and figure out an implementation plan. We ended up doing so much more! The first plenary session “Advising—Creating a Culture of Success” got us thinking about other stakeholders we need to include, and the importance of developing a culture of assessment—not just at the college level, but across the university.
The first breakout session we attended was “Vision, Mission, & Goals”; the facilitator did a great job in explaining the differences and importance of each. We were able to knock out a vision statement and get some work done on improving our mission statement language, taking into account our institution’s mission and vision of serving a diverse student body. We also started thinking about our goals as a department. We felt really good leaving that session and wished we could continue working but needed to stop for lunch.
The afternoon of that first day, we were inspired and energized by working sessions focused on developing strong student learning outcomes, how to improve our student surveys, and creating advisor outcomes which was something our team had not discussed much up until then. Each session provided valuable resources to refer to while working on each topic (and long after). After the day was done, we returned to our hotel rooms exhausted. Reflecting on my day, I was both surprised by and satisfied with the work accomplished. I looked forward to getting back to it the next day.
On day two of the Assessment Institute, the plenary session “Assessment—Part of Your Daily Life” started off the day by encouraging us to think about how assessment can and should impact and inform our daily work with students. Throughout the day, we had great conversation with other attendees while discussing measures for data and assessment. We started thinking about how having a rubric would impact our assessment practices, and finally, we learned some new ways of thinking about how to map our assessment process. On day two, we also had dedicated time to work together as a team, with NACADA faculty available for questions. That time together was valuable; we were able to finalize our mission statement and continued brainstorming departmental goals.
Day three of the event was a short one, cut shorter by our need to get to the airport to return home to the frozen tundra of Minnesota. However, we were able to do some networking over breakfast and attend the work group session where we began thinking about the implementation and sustainability of our assessment program. Interestingly, our last work group session seemed to take us full circle back to what was sparked in the first plenary. We revisited the list of stakeholders we needed to invite to the table; we discussed buy-in, and the importance of celebrating our assessment successes, which seems to be a great way of contributing to a culture of assessment.
The NACADA organization has guided the great work we do as advisors at Metropolitan State University. It is important to me that the organization guiding our work has values that are in line with my own, such as Caring, Empowerment, Inclusivity, and Respect (NACADA, 2017). As NACADA members, we are fortunate to have access to events like the Assessment Institute which facilitate understanding of best practice in a specific area. NACADA provided us with the tools, resources, and guided work time to actually get things done! The faculty involved with teaching the working sessions at the institute were knowledgeable and had real life experience with assessment in higher education settings; they were fantastic to learn from.
While my personal reasons for contributing to assessment work will continue to motivate me, there are other equally important reasons for assessing our advising program: accreditation, showing results in time of budget constraints, and contributing to a culture of innovation and improvement. I am thankful for the scholarship I received, which allowed me to attend the 2019 NACADA Assessment Institute. I gained a lot of new, applicable knowledge, and our team has made great progress and identified next steps because of our time at the Institute. I expect to attend again in the future as assessment is an ongoing process, and we are just getting started!
College of Management
Metropolitan State University
NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. (2017). NACADA core values of academic advising. https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Pillars/CoreValues.aspx
Cite this article using APA style as: DelMar, J. (2019, December). Supporting the marginalized majority through assessment. Academic Advising Today, 42(4). [insert url here]