JMU Delegation Travels to Rwanda
A team of JMU faculty and staff traveled to Kigali, Rwanda in February of 2020. The purpose of the trip was to build reciprocal partnerships between JMU and Rwandan universities and civic leaders. Center for Assessment & Research Studies (CARS) and Department of Graduate Psychology faculty member, Jeanne Horst, was part of the group for purposes of offering information on assessment-related professional development opportunities. While in Rwanda, the team met with the Ministry of Education, the Higher Education Council, and several universities: African Leadership University, University of Kigali, University of Rwanda, and Kepler.
Currently, Rwanda is undergoing a transition in higher education. In previous decades, Rwandan education emphasized quantity and provision of access to education. Recent emphasis has shifted to defining quality of education. The shift in emphasis led to increased interest in the assessment of student learning and faculty development.
While in Rwanda, the team also engaged in activities to enhance their cultural understanding. A trip to the Kigali Genocide Memorial and the Parliament Museum helped the team develop an understanding of the historical, social, and political context in Rwanda. The delegation also met with non-governmental organizations" I-Debate, Never Again Rwanda, and Aegis: Preventing Crimes Against Humanity. Nightly, meals in private homes resulted in rich conversations between JMU delegates and I-Debate coaches. Finally, a day-long drive through Akagera National Park allowed the team to explore the rich wildlife of Rwanda - water buffalo, zebras, giraffes, crocodiles, hippos, elephants, various primates, and wart hogs.
CARS STUDENT SPOTLIGHT
Our student spotlight for this edition of the newsletter is Andrea Pope, a 4th year Ph.D. student - who just defended her dissertation earlier this week! Andrea received her Master's in Education from the College Student Personnel Administration (CSPA) program here at JMU. Prior to that she attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for her undergraduate studies; where she was a double major in sociology and public policy. Andrea says she chose JMU for her graduate work because of the university's commitment to funding graduate students. After finishing her M.Ed. she chose to stay at JMU for her Ph.D. because of what the Assessment & Measurement program could offer her. Specifically, she says "the coursework seemed intellectually rigorous and highly useful." She also credits the opportunities to work in an assistantship to get hands-on experiences. Like many students, she also notes that the faculty were welcoming and invested in the success of their students. We must be doing something right!
Andrea's interests lie at the intersection of assessment and instructional design. She says "Oftentimes, assessment professionals make the assumption that our clients know how to build sound educational interventions and they just need our help to assess the impact of these interventions." Through her research, however, she has found that faculty and staff "...regularly build educational programs and interventions without a clear understanding of how/why these programs should lead to intended outcomes." She points out that the result of this misunderstanding often becomes frustrating for faculty as they struggle to meaningfully use assessment results. Andrea's research is devoted to exploring what it looks like to build evidence-informed programs, courses, and interventions in higher education (particularly in Student Affairs.) She also strives to find ways to get more faculty and staff to engage in this intentional instructional design process.
With interests like that it is no surprise that Andrea has had a multitude of opportunities to apply her research during her time as a student and graduate assistant here at JMU. Her favorite experience, though, was the paper she wrote about evidence-informed programming (that was published in RPA!) and the presentation she gave based on that paper at an international Student Affairs Conference. The room she was assigned to present in was intimidatingly large (her own words) and every seat was filled. By the time she completed her presentation, there were more than 100 Student Affairs professionals in attendance! This should come as no surprise, however, as the thing our faculty praise Andrea for the most are her presentation skills. Andrea is an incredibly effective facilitator and this has been evident in many of the workshops and professional offerings she has conducted in her time in CARS.
As Andrea prepares to graduate in a few weeks she wants to acknowledge how much she appreciates her experience in the Assessment & Measurement Ph.D. program. She notes that having the ability to truly make this program her own, and find a direction that helped her identify her strengths and interests, was so valuable to her. She provides this advice for incoming students:
"Find the things that energize you, and do those things! Tailor your graduate experience to fit you, and don't feel guilty about saying "no". Every time you say "no" to something you're ambivalent about, it opens up space down the road to say "yes" to something that ignites your passion."
JMU Creative Media