AERKC Leadership Team Spotlights
Throughout Careers in Student Affairs Month, the AERKC will be spotlighting our wonderful leadership team members to help members connect with the KC.
Here's Erica Eckert, our Awards, Recognition, & Sponsorship Co-Chair for the AERKC:
I am fortunate to serve as a faculty member in Kent State University's Higher Education Administration and Student Affairs program. Our program is well-suited to individuals who are interested in academic and student affairs assessment. I currently teach our Assessment and Accreditation course and a course called Technology, Systems, and Data in Higher Education. These two courses align nicely because assessment is much more powerful when you can bring together data from a variety of sources to speak to whatever goals or outcomes your organization (institution, college, division, unit/office, etc.) has developed. I've been focusing on assessment for more than 10 years, and my experience is informed by working in admissions and data systems.
Before moving into higher education, I was employed by an accounting firm, doing tax and audit work. I am very glad I made the switch to higher education! However, my background in business prepared me to serve as co-author of Business Practices in Higher Education: A Guide for Today’s Administrators. Through my assessment work, I have had the opportunity to work with regional and disciplinary accreditation across a dozen fields, develop data collection tools, write self-studies, work with program review processes, and present data for a variety of stakeholders.
My work has informed how I think about how institutions can be more effective in serving their students and serve as good stewards of their resources in the process. My engagement with assessment informs my research, which centers around how systems and structures impact the work we do in higher education. This includes accreditation processes and standards, but also includes expectations around approaches to assessment data collection. Common approaches to assessment data collection include tests, portfolios, surveys, and focus groups. The degree to which one approach is more appropriate than another depends on the situation, target population, and the audience for the data. However, accreditation practices and institutional politics and culture impact the decisions we make around data collection. These decisions often have an impact on which voices are centered and which are pushed aside.
I am looking forward to exploring these issues and many others related to the practice of assessment. If this sounds interesting to you, I'm looking for collaborators-- reach out!
I'd like to close this post with some advice for those of you in academic or student affairs, thinking about pursuing additional knowledge in assessment: Do it! It's never too late to learn more about assessment. The most important thing to remember about assessment is that it is a process focused on goals. Goals are everything. An organization should: Set goals (framed through outcomes) Figure out how the goals are accomplished (through delivery of instruction, providing services, etc.) Collect data to understand the experiences of your target group, and Evaluate (make meaning of) the data you collected so you can make tweaks to your goals and/or approach to delivering instruction or services.
The most important thing to remember is to have goals (or outcomes) and align everything else to those goals. The choices about how to collect the data, from whom to collect data, when to collect data, and how to present those data should also be informed by those goals and who you are trying to communicate with when you complete the assessment cycle. Collecting random data that aren’t aligned with specific goals is a recipe for wasted effort, and nobody has time for that.
If you would like to learn more, consider joining (or increasing your involvement with) the NASPA Assessment, Evaluation, and Research Knowledge Community (AER KC). AER KC is a great resource for professional development. We offer coaching, webinars, and other resources to help you make sense of assessment.