Putting Student Affairs to the test
Departments in the USC Division of Student Affairs are working hard to make the grade when it comes to assessing their programs and services.
Last year, the Center for Testing and Assessment opened its doors to assist departments in determining if and how their programs have an impact on students.
“One of the accreditation requirements for universities is demonstrating what students are learning beyond what’s on the course syllabus,” said Pat Tobey, associate dean of students and chair of the Student Affairs Assessment Committee. “It is very important that universities demonstrate that they are looking at the goals of their programs and courses, and also their mission statements and strategic plans. Do they align, and are students benefiting?”
The committee recently hosted the second annual Assessment Symposium to showcase departmental assessments. The LGBT Resource Center and Orientation Programs shared the outcomes of their research.
LGBT Resource Center
Two years ago, the LGBT Resource Center began evaluating the effectiveness of its peer mentoring program by identifying the development of mentees in four concentration areas: psychological and emotional support, support for setting goals and choosing a career path, sexuality and gender identity, and health and wellness through occupational engagement. The mentees take a pre-test before the seven-month mentoring program begins and a post-test at the conclusion of the program, in addition to giving entrance and exit interviews.
The results from last year’s survey showed a marked difference in test results. On the pre-test, 5 percent of mentees responded that they strongly agreed with being comfortable with their sexual identity, while 26 percent strongly agreed with the statement only after participating in the mentoring program. Mentees also reported feeling comfortable coming out to much wider circles of friends.
“I had seen our students in the program get more involved with student activities, come to terms with their sexual identity and be more confident after their participation in the program, but I had no way to prove it,” said Vincent Vigil, director of the LGBT Resource Center. “I wanted to put research behind it.”
Since 2008, Orientation Programs has required student orientation advisers to take pre- and post-tests to measure leadership development during their nine-month positions. The Orientation Programs staff decided to use a social change model of assessment, which measures student leadership outcomes by focusing on seven concentration areas: consciousness of self, congruence, commitment, collaboration, common purpose, controversy with civility and citizenship.
The data compiled from the 2011 assessment showed that orientation advisers had an increase in the area of consciousness of self, which focuses on awareness of the beliefs, values and emotions that motivate one to take action. On a scale of one to five, the pre-test score in this area was 3.7; it grew to 4.04 by the end of the program. There were also changes in the areas of citizenship, collaboration and controversy with civility.
“As they leave us, we want to make sure the orientation advisers have an impact on the Trojan Family as a whole, the campus community and the surrounding community,” said Tom Studdert, director of the Orientation Programs. “We reevaluate some of the things we’re doing from a leadership development perspective, and it changes how we train and deliver the program.”
Learn more about the USC Assessment Center