The 2011 NSSE Annual Results were released today. I don’t want to focus on the content of the report in this blog post. Instead, I am briefly noting how fun it is to work on a project with a large impact that regularly receives attention from the press (even if some of the attention is sometimes negative, a very interesting experience itself). It’s gotten more fun each year as I’ve become more involved in much of what we do; this year I directly contributed by writing part of the report itself. Yes, it’s ego-boosting to see my work in print but more importantly it helps address a very serious and difficult problem that vexes many researchers and administrators in higher education: It’s hard to explain to others, especially our parents and extended families, what we do. Instead of trying to convince them that I really have graduated (several times!) and am not wasting my whole life in college, I can send them the report and articles from the New York Times and USA Today and say, “Look – this is what I do!”
Now I get to watch media reports and subsequent discussions to see how they play out and what they will emphasize. This process is unpredictable and it has surprised me in previous years when relatively small bits of information have caught on to the exclusion of other interesting and important information. As The Chronicle of Higher Education notes, this year may be a bit different given recent events but who knows how things will play out.