CARS Newsletter January 2020

We have hit the ground running here in CARS. The beginning of a new calendar year and a new semester brings excitement to Lakeview Hall. The first full week of the year we hosted Student Affairs professionals and graduate students for an Assessment 101 workshop tailored to outcomes assessment in SA. The Assessment Day team is in the final preparations for the spring A-Day. Faculty are getting ready for spring conferences; and graduating students are embarking on their last semester in CARS! We hope you will enjoy this edition of the CARS Newsletter.

Division of Student Affairs & CSPA Students Engage in Assessment Training Offered by SASS Team

Andrea Pope, Chris Patterson, Samantha Gonzalez, and Sean York (all JMU graduate students) and Dr. Sara Finney of the Student Affairs Assessment Support Services (SASS) team offered "Assessment 101" from January 7 to 10. Beginning on January 7th, the Student Affairs Assessment Support Services (SASS) team offered a three-and-a-half-day workshop intentionally designed for current and future student affairs professionals. The workshop was done in partnership with the Division of Student Affairs and the College Student Personnel Administration (CSPA) master’s program, as all first-year CSPA students were required to attend with remaining seats then available to the student affairs division. Twenty-two total attendees participated in the workshop with twelve CSPA students and ten staff. Student Affairs staff included an Associate Vice President and professionals from the University Health Center, Learning Centers, Career and Academic Planning, the Center for Multicultural Student Services, and University Unions.

The workshop was designed and implemented with several student learning outcomes in mind. Upon completion of the workshop, participants should demonstrate an increased value for assessment, increased assessment self-efficacy, increased confidence in their ability to advocate for sound assessment practices. Throughout the three and half days, student affairs professionals and students were introduced to the entire assessment cycle. Major focus was placed on the following steps: specifying student learning outcomes, creating and mapping theory-based programming, selecting and designing instruments, examining implementation fidelity, and using results for improvement. Additionally, there were explicit links between the training and the various professional standards related to assessment put forth by organizations like ACPA, CAS, and NASPA. By engaging in activities related to a few crucial assessment topics, participants were able to build a strong foundation for future assessment work and continued education.

The excellence of the training and facilitation could not have been attained without the hard work of Andrea Pope (4th year Assessment & Measurement PhD student), Chris Patterson (1st year Assessment & Measurement PhD student), Samantha Gonzalez (1st year Early Childhood Education Master’s student), and Sean York (1st year Assessment and Measurement PhD student). Overseeing these three graduate students was Dr. Sara Finney, who also contributed to the training throughout the week. Together, they offered an engaging and empowering experience designed to increase participants’ perceived value and confidence to engage in meaningful assessment practice.

The Center for Assessment and Research Studies thanks Andrea, Chris, Samantha, Sean, and Sara for their efforts to build and sustain a positive culture of assessment on campus.

Photos courtesy of JMU's Creative Media.

CARS, with the support of the Assessment Advisory Council and the Office of the Provost are hosting the first ever Assessment Celebration in April to showcase the great assessment work being done across campus. This half-day event is an opportunity for faculty and staff in both Academic Affairs and Student Affairs to attend workshops/presentations about assessment, and share their assessment work with their peers through a poster session. We are currently accepting poster proposals through February 28th. The poster session will take place on April 22nd from 3:40 - 4:30 pm with an awards reception immediately to follow. If you are interested in submitting a poster proposal, please do so at the link below. Even if you are not interested in a poster, we hope that you will save the date, April 22nd from 2:00 - 5:30 pm, and join us in celebrating the wonderful work our peers are doing in assessment at JMU.

Psychological Sciences M.A. student Briana Craig wins the Graduate School's Three-Minute Thesis Competition!

On Friday January 24th, Psychological Sciences students, Kathryn Thompson and Briana Craig, and Assessment & Measurement student, Thomas Hartka, each presented their theses during The Graduate School's Three Minute Thesis competition (3MT). Briana Craig won first place for her thesis, entitled, "Propensity Score Matching and Generalized Boosted Modeling in the Context of Model Misspecification: A Simulation Study." Briana will now travel to Birmingham, Alabama to compete in the regional competition at the Conference of Southern Graduate Schools March 5 – 7, 2020.

Pictured right, Briana Craig receiving the award...

Dr. Megan Good ('12 M.A., '15 Ph.D.)

Megan Good (PhD '15) was recently named the Director of Academic Quality and Improvement at Auburn University. Megan has been working at Auburn since she graduated from the Assessment & Measurement Doctoral program in 2015. Her previous role was Director of the Office of Academic Assessment. In her new role, Megan will serve as Auburn's liaison to the Southern Association for Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges (SACS-COC), the university's accrediting body. Please join me in congratulating Megan on this wonderful opportunity. You can read more about her new role on Auburn's website here.

Dr. Jason Kopp ('09 B.S., '11 M.A., '14 Ph.D.)

Jason Kopp (PhD '14) recently took a new job at Amazon as a Research Scientist. This new job will move Jason, his wife, and their newborn baby across the country to Seattle, Washington.

Congratulations to our alumni on these wonderful new phases of their lives!

Last month we started a feature in our newsletter to share with you what goes on in the months between Assessment Days. Last month we shared with you our administrative team that supports Assessment Day year-round. One of the things this team is responsible for is hiring proctors to serve on Assessment Day. This month we want to highlight the proctors themselves - as Assessment Day would not happen without them!


Testing nearly 4,500 students on Assessment Day takes a lot of man-power. We've already talked about the team that plans and coordinates the event, but we would be remiss not to acknowledge the outstanding work of our wonderful proctors. CARS hires approximately 60 proctors each Assessment Day (120 total each year) to help administer the assessments in the student testing rooms. Our proctors come from many different backgrounds - some are retired educators living in the area JMU, others are faculty and staff in other departments at JMU, and many are graduate students in programs throughout the university. For a stipend, proctors work an 8-hour day and are provided breakfast and lunch. Online training videos help the proctors understand what to expect in their testing rooms before arriving on Assessment Day. Many of the improvements we have made over the years to the Assessment Day model have come as welcome suggestions from our proctors. We value the input of those actually in the room doing the work! These proctors are invaluable when it comes to helping us ensure data collection is valid; and they help us motivate students to give their best effort.


Derek Sauder is a 3rd year Ph.D. student in our Assessment & Measurement doctoral program. Derek has been a fixture in CARS for almost 5 years. As Derek gets ready to graduate and leave us this May, we wanted to be sure to highlight his time here in CARS as a graduate assistant and student. Derek came to JMU from Eastern Mennonite University where he received a Bachelor's degree with a major in Math and in Psychology.

When we asked Derek what led him to choose our programs at JMU for his graduate work he credits Dr. S. Jeanne Horst for his recruitment. Jeanne previously taught at EMU and switched jobs while Derek was a sophomore. He knew she was doing more research and statistics-related work at JMU and that interested him more so than the programs at EMU, that were primarily counseling-focused. Derek reached out to Jeanne when he was seeking an internship experience, and through that experience confirmed that JMU's Quantitative Psychology concentration was what he was interested in.

Derek's preferred area of research and study is in simulation studies. As an advisee of Dr. Christine DeMars, Derek has completed simulation studies in a number of different areas including IRT, missing data, and propensity score matching. He says his research "tends toward testing of statistical assumptions, or trying to improve estimation of models in less-than-ideal data situations, such as small sample sizes." When asked what his favorite experience has been so far throughout his time in CARS, he emphasized the opportunities to attend regional and national conferences in the field of assessment and measurement. He says "...it is always interesting to see what other students, faculty, and professionals are doing in the field..." He also enjoys sharing his own research with others. In addition to attending conferences, Derek values the opportunity he had to teach during his tenure at JMU. Derek served as a teaching assistant for one of the years he was a graduate assistant.

As Derek prepares to defend his dissertation this semester, graduate, and interview for jobs, he wanted to take a moment to thank everyone for the opportunities this assistantship has offered over the time he has been here. He notes that being able to do work that is highly relevant to future job opportunities is a bonus that is easily taken for granted.

Looking Forward...

The spring semester looks to be busy as usual. We have the annual spring Assessment Day coming up in February, where we will administer assessments to ~4000 students who have between 45-70 credit hours. A number of conferences are scheduled for February, March, and April. Our students who are on track to graduate in May will begin preparing for their Thesis and Dissertation defenses. And everyone is ready for a little sunshine and some spring weather - though I am sure there are some of us whoa re still hoping for one big snow day before winter is over! Stay tuned in the next few months as we have lots more exciting news to share from the Center for Assessment & Research Studies.

There are not currently any CARS Talks scheduled in the next month, but please check out the following events:

Civility and Disagreement: Free Speech and Norms of Inquiry, hosted by the James Madison University Logic and Reasoning Institute. February 28th from 9:00 am - 4:30 pm in the Hall of Presidents. For more information, email LRI@jmu.edu

Spring Assessment Forum for Assessment Coordinators. This forum is for all academic program assessment coordinators. Two dates offered: March 18th from 3:30 - 5:00 pm in ISAT 259; or March 19th from 8:30 - 10:00 am in SSC 1075. Please register through MyMadison TD course 2264.

An Introduction to Structural Equation Modeling workshop, hosted by the Center for Faculty Innovation in partnership with the Center for Assessment & Research Studies. April 3, 2020 from 9:00 am - 12:00 pm in Rose Library. Registration required. Please contact CFI for more information.

Inaugural Assessment Celebration - April 22, 2020 from 2:00 - 5:30 pm in Festival Conference & Student Center. This celebration will feature workshops and presentations related to assessment at JMU, as well as a poster session and awards reception. (See section above in this newsletter for more information)


JMU Creative Media