James Madison University

Psychological Sciences student presents workshop at SACSOC conference

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) is the regional accreditor of degree-granting colleges, universities, and other degree-granting institutions in the Southern states. Annually, SACSCOC hosts a conference and the theme of the 2016 conference was “Higher Education at the Crossroads: Pathways to Equity and Excellence.” A large contingent of JMU faculty, staff, and students attended the December 2016 conference. One Psychological Sciences student, Nikole Gregg (quantitative concentration), took an active role in the conference. Below, she provides her reflections on SACSCOC attendance, as well as what she hopes to get out of the 2017 conference.

Overall, Nikole felt like the SACSCOC conference is a great place to talk about assessment for accountability purposes, one of the primary reasons many attendees go to SACSCOC, but also for evidence-based student learning and student development. Nikole presented a workshop with her advisor, Dr. John Hathcoat, on reliability and validity evidence appropriate for different and various assessment purposes. Dr. Hathcoat presented a similar workshop in the previous year, making a solid foundation of information readily available for the SACSCOC this year. To prepare for the workshop, Nikole adjusted the activities in the workshop and made changes to the guidebook materials provided to participants based on feedback from previous years.

Nikole reflects on her other experiences:

During the conference I not only presented a workshop, but I was able to be a part of the the assessment consultation booth the Center for Assessment and Research Studies (CARS) held throughout the conference. During these consultation encounters at the booth, I was seen as an expert in assessment. University Provosts, Vice Presidents, and various faculty and staff from other institutions asked me for consulting advice on their assessment practices at their institution. This experience challenged me to embrace and find confidence in the knowledge I know about assessment, to admit to things I did not know, and to develop professional interpersonal skills in a setting where the majority of people I spoke to were in higher authority positions than myself.

Throughout the entirety of my SACSCOC experience, I enjoyed the networking with people who care about student learning and development similar to myself. I desire to stay in higher education, because I believe in the value of a liberal arts education. I also value evidence-based practices. Therefore it makes sense for me to stay in the assessment field where the goal is to provide evidence of the value of higher education in terms of student learning. One of the main questions pertaining to accountability and assessment is, “what are students learning?” In other words, “how are students doing and developing due to their educational experiences?” These are the questions of interest to myself and to a lot of individuals at SACSCOC. I appreciated this experience to converse and network with those like-minded people who valued student development and learning similar to myself.

Regarding future SACSCOC conferences, Nikole is excited to attend.  She and Dr. Hathcoat plan on putting on another workshop. Their goal is to make the presentation more accessible by tailoring it to individuals with minimal technical training in statistics and measurement. Her main goal is to go back to SACSCOC, interact and connect with the people who are similarly interested in the evidence of student learning, and use that experience as a networking opportunity for when Nikole goes onto job market. With training like that, she is sure to make waves!