New Job: Hello Assessment, Goodbye Student Affairs

Three weeks ago, I started a new job: Senior Research Analyst in the Center for Teaching and Assessment of Learning at the University of Delaware.  I have not updated this blog, responded to blog comments, or even looked at Twitter and some e-mail messages for the past month-and-a-half as I’ve been busy and focused on moving halfway across the country and and starting a new job.  That should change as I settle into things and regain my focus.

My new job focuses on assessment of student learning, particularly general education goals.  Some of that will involve analyzing existing assessment data and helping faculty and administrators understand the results, including providing them with concrete recommendations.  Some of that will involve working with others to create or modify plans to assess student learning.  I already know that I will work some with our ePortfolio program as our FIPSE ePortfolio grantpays for some of my salary. Similarly, I am already working with our Howard Hughes Medical Institute Undergraduate Science Education Program grant as that grant also funds a small part of my salary.  I am also very pleased to already be involved in consulting with faculty on research design and assisting my colleagues with teaching and learning workshops.

My new job, however, does not focus on or often interact with student affairs programs and staff. I have already applied the skills and knowledge I gained working with student affairs programs and earning a student affairs graduate degree so this is not a complete disconnect.  But I will not be working in the culture that has been most familiar to me throughout the first decade of my professional life and that is a little bit daunting and sad.  On the whole, however, I am ready to move on as I am very ready for some new challenges and I am very happy to work in assessment and faculty development.  I confess that a tiny bit of that is related to my experiences in my job search, especially the dearth of appropriate jobs in student affairs for someone with my deep and broad knowledge of technology.  I am also sad that I am leaving many of the professional communities that have been so important to me, particularly the less formal but more spontaneous ones like #satech and #sachat.  But on the whole I am very happy to have found a new home that will allow me to stretch my wings and apply many of my skills in analysis in a job whose fundamental function is to ask and answer very important questions.

As I move on, I will be working to tie up loose ends and bring some projects to closure.  In particular, I still plan to complete my research into student affairs professionals’ historical views and uses of technology; I am not sure what form that will take (journal article(s)? series of lengthy blog posts? interactive timeline?) but already know that I will not be presenting at #NASPAtech next month as originally planned.  Of course, I also have to complete my dissertation but that deserves a separate post entirely as that’s more complicated and not tied to student affairs.

I don’t think that this new job will dramatically or instantaneously change many of my broad interests or the topics of this blog aside from the obvious shift away student affairs, a shift that has been underway for quite some time now anyway.  The impact of and use of technology in higher education is still one of my primary interests and I hope that my new job will provide me with new insights and spark new questions.  For example, I am sure that my work with ePortfolios will inform my thinking.  Additionally, I still have connections with other researchers who actively work on interesting questions and plans to continue working with some of them.  And I’m already beginning to work with faculty here who share these interests, including one who is beginning to explore some possible predictors of student success in hybrid courses (compared to face-to-face courses), so the future is bright!