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2023 Student Affairs Assessment Conference

Tenth Annual Student Learning Assessment Conference | June 21, 2023


conference slides (requires NU credentials)


Plenary Session

Beyond Learning: Redefining Community to Understand Belonging at Northwestern

Presenters: Amanda Mueller, Residential Services | Dr. Brent Turner, Campus Life

Institutions across the country are striving to answer the following: Do students feel they belong on campus? Where and how are students finding that belonging?  Northwestern’s Division of Student Affairs is no different, we strive to develop experiential programs, services, and spaces to foster an individual and collective sense of belonging. But how do the students uniquely define belonging at Northwestern? Utilizing the student engagement database, which captures attendance as a measure of student engagement, the division collects data in three defined domains: community, learning, and support. To assess how students uniquely define belonging, the research team engaged undergraduate student leaders in a reflective activity to define belonging in their own words. The findings aim to help us better understand the community domain and its subdomains of affinity, connectedness, belonging, and identity. Results, implications for practice and next steps will be discussed.

Divisional Strategic Themes: Pursue equity, justice, and belonging 

Concurrent Sessions

Cultural Clarity: Examining Workplace Culture through the Employment Cycle

Presenter: Travis D. Schilla | Residential Services

“Workplace culture” can be difficult to define, yet it has a significant impact on the experience of working in a department. It is the personality of the department as viewed by the employees, and encompasses the people, leadership, policies and practices of a unit. This assessment sheds light on what candidates for hall staff positions (live-on graduate and full-time staff) learn about the workplace culture of Residential Community and Support (RCS) – an office within Residential Services – during their hiring and initial training processes (i.e., onboarding), and how those perceptions are reinforced or altered through their experiences on the job. Data collection involved a survey administered in the spring quarter, followed by individual interviews to gauge staff members’ experiences. The aim of this project is to prepare RCS staff members for success starting in the recruitment process, improve the staff experience, and increase investment in the job and department.

Divisional Strategic Themes: Invest in Organizational Development

Centering Indigenous Student Voices: Utilizing a New Demographic Approach to Understand the Experience of Native and Indigenous Students at Northwestern

Presenter: Aaron Golding | Multicultural Student Affairs

In the reporting of institutional surveys and assessments, the responses of Native American and Indigenous students are often hidden due to smaller populations and low response rates. Through revisiting who is counted as Native or Indigenous, we have recompiled existing demographic data and are now able to center and report on the experiences of Native and Indigenous students at Northwestern University without compromising student anonymity. In re-reviewing multiple years of data from the Multi-Institutional Study of Leadership (MSL), Consortium on Financing Higher Education (COFHE) surveys, Post-Graduate Survey, and others, we can provide insights into the ways we can support Indigenous students through our collective work as a division. Findings will highlight what Indigenous students have been telling us all along, but we were unable to report on until now. Using the Division of Student Affairs Strategic Themes as a lens to understand the needs of Native and Indigenous students, we will all be able to better see the ways our individual offices and units collectively work to supporting the success of this community on campus.

Divisional Strategic Themes: Pursue Equity, Justice, and Belonging; Foster Meaningful Student Engagement; Champion Holistic Wellbeing; Invest in Organizational Development

Assessing Students’ Leadership Development through Community Partner Racial Equity Projects

Presenter: Daniella Feijoo | Leadership Development and Community Engagement

The inaugural Leadership for Racial Equity cohort program is an opportunity for Northwestern students (18 in Winter Quarter 2023) to learn about grassroots racial equity efforts and engage in hands-on community engagement initiatives focused on racial justice led by four nonprofit organizations and schools in Evanston and Chicago. This presentation is a summary of the key findings from the Leadership for Racial Equity cohort program by examining the results from weekly written reflections as well as both a pre- and post- test administered to students and will inform the 2nd iteration of the program in the next academic year. A discussion of findings will demonstrate student learning regarding racial equity and how to apply these strategies in practice, the context of the local communities of both Evanston and Chicago, and links between students’ academic studies, their co-curricular experiences, and career development.

Divisional Learning Outcomes: Cognitive and Practical Skills, Interpersonal Competence, Personal Development, Social Responsibility

Spiritual Yearning: Understanding the Spiritual but Not Religious Student Community at Northwestern University

Presenter: Eric Budzynski and Ricky Klavon | Religious and Spiritual Life 

Multi-school surveys are utilized at Northwestern in conjunction with the Consortium on Financing Higher Education (COFHE) and the Big 10 Network. This multi-year assessment critically engages the utility of these surveys, including the Survey of New Students, Enrolled Student Survey, and the Senior Survey, in describing the needs of the religious and spiritual student communities. Data collected in the past 24 months from these surveys indicated a need to examine a previously understudied student community on campus, appointed “spiritual but not religious” (SBNR) by the research team. Data indicates that 3 percent of students entering Northwestern identify as SBNR, but this population increases to more than 1 in 10 students (or 14%) by the time students graduate. Thus, the research team set out to find what environmental, behavioral, and psychological factors influence the collegiate transformation to SBNR and what practice and support systems are necessary to ensure SBNR students thrive during their collegiate experience. To answer these questions, the research team conducted the first set of focus groups of a four-year longitudinal study in April 2023. Three focus groups with various student populations on campus were conducted; two were first-year students at Northwestern University, and the third was non-first-year students at Northwestern. The resulting data was coded for themes.  The results of the thematic coding as well as programmatic implications will be discussed.

Divisional Learning Outcome(s): Champion Holistic Well-Being, Foster Meaningful Student Engagement, Pursue Equity, Justice, and Belonging

The Learning Curve: Preparing Students for the Real World

Presenter: Jill Norton | Student Affairs Marketing 

Student Affairs Marketing (SAM) employs 18-24 undergraduates each year to serve the Division of Student Affairs in all marketing needs. They are graphic designers, writers, photographers, videographers, social media coordinators and website coordinators. During their time at Northwestern, working for SAM provides students with real world experiences and expectations that provide increased confidence in a variety of skills essential for their future careers. This assessment sought to find what the students are getting out of their time here, from what they expected to what they were surprised to learn. Data from pre- and post-tests were analyzed, along with testimonials from SAM Alumni, many of whom are working in the real world with diverse career paths (and impressive titles!). Findings will be used to inform future training efforts and also revised learning outcomes for SAM student employees.

Divisional Learning Outcomes: Personal Development, Cognitive and Practical Skills

Oh The Places You’ll Go: A Deep Dive into NCA’s Post Undergraduate Data for BIPOC & FGLI Students

Presenter: Jose Santos | Northwestern Career Advancement

As Northwestern Career Advancement (NCA) shifted to a new organizational structure in the summer of 2022, the BIPOC/FGLI Pod was developed, in part to ensure that the qualitative and anecdotal experiences of the identities we serve were systematically compared against historical and on-going data analysis.  NCA has collected “first destination” data, which tracks the first place of employment for undergraduates six months after graduation, for the last 8 years.  While this data is reported on externally and to shareholders throughout the university community, this project aims to disaggregate BIPOC/FGLI populations across each year to understand where they compare against the dominant or majority-identifying students.  This study hopes to identify potential placement, skill and engagement gaps within the BIPOC/FGLI populations.  Results of the multi-year disaggregation and directions for future programming will be discussed.

Divisional Strategic Themes: Pursue Equity, Justice, and Belonging, Foster Meaningful Student Engagement, and Champion Holistic Well-Being

How Engagement in the Fraternity Sorority Leadership Retreat Impacts Student Leadership Competencies

Presenter: Cayce Pasko-Stanley| Fraternity and Sorority Life 

Due to rapid changes in the community, there has been a need to redefine and rebuild community across Fraternity and Sorority councils. In academic year 2021-2022, this resulted in the reconfiguration of the Fraternity Sorority Leadership Retreat. In its current form, FSLR is a day-long, intensive leadership retreat offered to both chapter presidents and council executive boards in the Fraternity Sorority community at Northwestern. As the community experienced growth over the past year, it became increasingly important to assess the impact of programming effectiveness and to collect feedback for future improvement of the FSLR. As such, participants in Spring 2023 FSLR were provided with a summative assessment in the form of pre- and post-surveys. The pre-survey featured open-ended and Likert-type questions in which students would self-select answers about their leadership skills. These questions were asked a second time in the post-survey, as were additional open-ended questions. Students were also given the opportunity to provide feedback and program-specific satisfaction ratings. Results of both assessments were compared to evaluate how competency- leadership skills such as conflict management, delegation, community, and adaptive leadership were impacted as a result of attending FSLR. Findings and implications for future programming to be discussed.

Divisional Learning Outcomes: Personal Development, Interpersonal Competence, Social Responsibility, Cognitive and Practical Skills

Room to Grow: Centering the BIPOC Residential Assistant Experience

Presenter: Magdalena Gracia | Residential Services

The Residential Assistant (RA) experience has been a key component of student engagement for Residential Services. Throughout the years, a variety of training modules have been developed to best prepare all RAs equally. As the student body at Northwestern has continually become more diverse, so too has the RA team and their subsequent needs. As is common in the field, diversity, equity, and inclusion training focuses on getting everyone on the team to a common baseline to properly meet the minimum expectations of their role. Given the changes in demographics, it is important to center and elevate the voices of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) RAs, particularly around experiences as student leaders and where they see gaps in DEI training. Through an anonymous survey and subsequent structured interviews, this assessment seeks to explore the BIPOC RA experience with a focus on their leadership development, supervisory experience, experience as BIPOC RAs, and the training BIPOC RAs believe their white peers need to be successful in the role. Results and implications for future trainings will be discussed.

Divisional Strategic Themes: Pursue Equity, Justice, and Belonging; Foster Meaningful Student Engagement

Advising Competencies & Student Impact

Presenter: Rick Cazzato Jr. | Residential Services

Residential Services has implemented a new student governance model called Area Councils. Representing their area as volunteer paid student leaders, full-time Resident Directors and part-time Assistant Resident Directors within the Office of Residential Experience have served as the initial advisors for the student governing bodies of the area. During August 2022, Advisors went through an initial training period to equip them in supporting their students. Utilizing benchmarking of best practices for student organization advisors, Advisors conducted self-evaluations and received feedback from current student leaders to determine gaps in the initial training and to provide recommendations for future trainings. This project utilized the feedback to provide an ongoing training and development session to current Advisors to assess the impact the training had on the competency of advisors as it relates to the best practices of student organization advising. 

Divisional Learning Outcome: Personal Development

Divisional Strategic Themes: Foster Meaningful Student Engagement, Invest in Organizational Development

The Second Year Experience: Second Year Student Engagement & Satisfaction

Presenter: Michael Gonzalez | Office of Student Transition Experiences

Second-year students navigate various transitions connecting academic and co-curricular experiences, and yet, these students often are overlooked in terms of their support needs. Students in these transitions seek a variety of experiences at Northwestern. Using the Student Engagement Database and the Enrolled Student Survey, we can better understand the trends in engagement for second-year students by analyzing event attendance alongside student satisfaction. In using this data, we identify continued gaps in assessment of second-year students, discover the benefit of using the student engagement database to understand engagement from year to year and are better informed to continue building transition experiences for our second-year students.

Divisional Strategic Themes: Foster Meaningful Student Engagement

Divisional Learning Outcome(s): Personal Development

Renovating for Resilience: Assessing the Impact of Investment in First-Gen, Low-Income Spaces

Presenter: Jack Day | Student Enrichment Services

Student Enrichment Services (SES) partners with first-generation, low-income (FGLI) students to foster identity development, navigate campus resources, and build community. The SES space serves to be a safe space for FGLI students to come together, yet its location in an old student housing building has caused issues with its ability to promote this kind of community in years past. Between the summer of 2022 and the spring of 2023, SES was closed to the public as its office underwent extensive renovations. With the office now reopening its doors this Spring Quarter, assessments have been created which measure how the improvements to the space impact the FGLI students who use it. This assessment, which is designed to be used frequently as students use the space, examines FGLI students use of the space, satisfaction and perception of the space, and how that use impacts their sense of self, sense of belonging, and perception of Northwestern. Results and implications of Spring data will be discussed.

Divisional Strategic Themes: Champion Holistic Well-being; Pursue Equity, Justice, and Belonging

An Ounce of Prevention: Measuring the Impact of a “Burnout Balm” Workshop for Medical Students

Presenter: Rachael Collins, PhD, LCP | Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), Chicago campus

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines burnout as “resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” This “occupational phenomenon” is characterized by “exhaustion, cynicism or feelings of negativism, and reduced professional efficacy (WHO, 2019).” According to the National Academy of Medicine (2017), 45-60% of medical students and trainees experience “crisis levels” of burnout. As such, this topic became the focus of this assessment project. To support their overall mental health and well-being, the CAPS Liaison to MD students created a 90-minute workshop to address burnout among this at-risk student population. In April 2023, “Burnout Balm for MD Students” was conducted using a blend of didactic instruction, experiential activities, and opportunities for personal reflection. The workshop aimed to equip participants with the knowledge to identify personal and structural factors which can contribute to burnout, describe a variety of short- and longer-term strategies to prevent and reduce burnout, and complete personalized Burnout Prevention Plans to apply the workshop content to their daily lives. Qualitative and quantitative data was collected via pre- and post-test evaluations, and personalized prevention plans. Assessment approaches included both direct and indirect, and formative and summative sources. Results of the program evaluation will be shared and implications for future “Burnout Balm” workshops will be discussed.

Divisional Learning Outcome(s): Cognitive and Practical Skills; Personal Development

Divisional Strategic Themes: Champion holistic well-being; Foster meaningful student engagement; Pursue equity, justice, and belonging

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