Who are the Pack Assessment Ambassadors?
The Pack Assessment Ambassadors (PAA or “paw”) are student leaders who are trained to conduct focus groups on NC State student attitudes and experiences, learn and participate in qualitative data analysis, and develop the assessment and leadership skills that are valued in a wide variety of career paths. The Ambassadors help the Division of Academic and Student Affairs (DASA) support the success of the whole student by collecting data on topics that influence student success and retention at NC State. Each fall, undergraduate students are invited to apply to become Ambassadors and are selected to collaborate with the Office of Assessment for data collection each spring.
How do the Ambassadors collect and analyze data about NC State students’ success?
Ambassadors collaborate with the Office of Assessment to narrow down various topics related to student success and write focus group questions to learn more from NC State students about those topics. Ambassadors identify and facilitate participant recruitment strategies for focus groups, which they facilitate with support and training from the Office of Assessment. After they administer focus groups, ambassadors are trained to use qualitative coding methods to identify themes from student focus groups. Finally, Ambassadors write actionable recommendations based on the focus group findings.
After the Ambassadors have concluded their work, the data and recommendations are reviewed by a team of DASA faculty and staff who share key findings with DASA units. Units then use the data to brainstorm small but impactful decisions they can make to better support student success, based on findings from the Ambassadors’ focus groups and other data.
How does the Ambassadors’ work fit into DASA’s Retention Foundations Assessment?
Retention Foundations Assessment (RFA) is an ongoing process in DASA. Faculty, staff, and students work in teams to: review literature on retention-related topics, collect the data on NC State students, and share findings with DASA units to identify small but impactful changes that support student success based on the data. The Pack Assessment Ambassadors serve as the qualitative data collection team in this process. Each spring, the Ambassadors conduct focus groups on a different student success topic that has been identified by DASA leadership to be included in the Retention Foundations Assessment process.
What are grit and growth mindset, and why do they matter for student success?
In 2019-2020, grit and growth mindset are the student success topics that the Pack Assessment Ambassadors will help collect data on as part of the Retention Foundations Assessment process. Grit is defined as one’s passion and perseverance toward long-term goals (Duckworth, 2007), and growth mindset is the mindset that one’s abilities are not fixed but can be developed through dedication and effort (Dweck, 2010). These factors help students succeed throughout their college careers, which is why the Pack Assessment Ambassadors will focus on these topics when conducting focus groups in spring 2020. Ambassadors will play an instrumental role in helping DASA learn more about how these factors impact student experiences at NC State, and where there are opportunities to strengthen NC State students’ grit and growth mindset.
What do Ambassadors gain from the experience?
Ambassadors develop small group communication and leadership skills, as well as the ability to identify patterns in data and make recommendations for real-world action based on data. Ambassadors also receive training in focus group facilitation and qualitative data coding that are transferable to a wide range of fields. This experience helps students develop skills that are highly valued across academic and professional disciplines.
The vast majority of spring 2019 Ambassadors reported that their knowledge of and skills with qualitative data improved a great deal from their participation with PAA. Ambassadors also value the opportunity to collaborate with students and staff to help learn more about and improve student experiences at NC State:
What kind of students are encouraged to apply to be an Ambassador?
NC State undergraduates from any college or major are invited to apply to be a Pack Assessment Ambassador. Students who are interested in developing leadership and communication skills while learning how to collect and analyze qualitative data are encouraged to apply.
No prior experience in research or assessment is necessary. All training for focus group question writing, group facilitation, and coding qualitative data will be provided by the Office of Assessment. Ambassadors will contribute 2-3 hours per week in the spring 2020 semester for PAA meetings and focus group administration. No academic or internship credit can be awarded for participation in PAA.
How can students apply to become a Pack Assessment Ambassador?
Students can find more information about PAA and the spring 2020 application at go.ncsu.edu/PAA. Applications are due Wednesday October 30, 2019. Please refer any questions about the Pack Assessment Ambassadors to Alison Krowiak in the Office of Assessment at firstname.lastname@example.org.