CARS Newsletter january 2021

The new year has begun, and with it a new spring semester. Though it looks like we won't be seeing any spring weather anytime soon! Please enjoy our updates from a particularly snowy January.

Assessment Day

At the time you are reading this, Assessment Day will likely have just occurred, but Dena Pastor and her team of graduate assistants spent much of January putting the finishing touches on the Spring Assessment Day plans. Respecting COVID-19 safety protocols, we opted to hold Assessment Day in a virtual capacity much like we did in August with a few modifications. Instead of a multi-week window to complete required assessments, students will have a 24-hour testing window that aligns with the regularly scheduled class cancellations on a traditional Assessment Day (February 9th). Testing will open at 8:00 am on the 9th and will close the following day at 8:00 am. Classes will be cancelled up until 4:00 pm on the 9th to allow students the unrestricted time needed to complete their assessments. This shorter testing window will allow CARS to receive complete assessment data in the same time frame it normally would if Assessment Day were held traditionally.

As you may know, there are unique challenges that come with the spring "A-Day" that are not present in fall. For starters, the weather can be unpredictable! Given how much winter weather we have received this January alone, we are thankful that Assessment Day will be held in a virtual capacity. Hopefully this means that our team will not be refreshing Weather.com hourly in the days leading up to A-Day! Another concern regarding spring testing is motivation and participation. In fall, students have just arrived on campus, and participate in Assessment Day as part of their overall Orientation programming. With the help of the FROGS, getting students to attend their assigned assessments is not typically an issue. In spring, we often see slightly lower participation rates on the day of testing - relying on makeup testing dates throughout the spring semester to complete all required testing. The virtual, and asynchronous nature of this year's assessment testing leaves us uncertain about two main factors: attendance, and quality. Will the students complete their assessments within the designated time frame when left to do so on their own? And will the students take the tests as seriously, and respond thoughtfully without a proctored classroom setting? The answers to these questions are yet to be discovered. We hope that we will be able to deliver good news in next month's Newsletter!

Our Assessment Day/Data Management Team (from top left to bottom right): Beth Perkins, Dena Pastor, (last year's team photo), Kate Schaefer, Samantha Harmon, and Yelisey Shapovalov.

Did you know that CARS now has a Twitter page? Check us out @JMUCARS for information, updates, resources, and news related to the work here in the Center for Assessment and Research Studies.

We've received information about a few notable job changes among our alumni since the last newsletter! After 5 years at the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM), Bo Bashkov (Ph.D. '15) is now a Lead Research Scientist at IXL Learning. IXL Learning operates internationally, and Bo's work is based out of Toronto, Canada. Joining ABIM is Matt Swain (Ph.D. '15)! Matt has been working as a Senior Scientist at HumRRO since he graduated in 2015, and has now taken a position as a Psychometrician at ABIM where he joins an ABIM team made up of many other A&M alums! While ABIM is based in Philadelphia, Matt will work in a remote capacity from his home in Richmond, VA. Congratulations to both Bo and Matt on these new opportunities.

CARS and the Quant Program are eager to jointly announce that we have multiple internship experiences for undergraduate students in summer 2021. During these experiences, interns will learn about quantitative methods, assessment, how assessment is applied here at JMU (think Assessment Day) and engage in research opportunities. In the past, interns have been accepted and fully funded to present at regional and/or national conferences. This is a great opportunity to experience research and learn quantitative methods! We've recently launched a new page on our website to highlight these opportunities, as well as to share experiences and projects of former interns. If you work with undergraduate students that may benefit from this internship experience, please feel free to reach out to Brian Leventhal (leventbc@jmu.edu) for more information or check out the internship website here. The priority application deadline is February 24th. This internship is best for students in their sophomore or junior year, who are interested in quantitative psychology or assessment. The internship is open to students from all majors and institutions (not just JMU!) and will be held virtually this summer. Students will not need to come to campus or meet in person to complete the internship requirements.


CARS faculty, staff, and graduate students had a productive fall semester with a total of 17 publications (and 3 more in press) in the second half of 2020 and first month of 2021! These publications are featured below.


Paulius Satkus is currently a second year student in the Assessment & Measurement Ph.D. program. Paulius is from Lithuania and grew up there before moving to London where he completed his final year of high school. When he finishes his Ph.D. Paulius will be a "triple Duke" having completed his B.S., M.A. and Ph.D. all at James Madison University! Paulius chose JMU because it was his life-long dream to play basketball in the United States and JMU offered the opportunity to do so. Paulius played on the JMU Dukes men's basketball team during his undergraduate studies. During his time as a psychology major, Paulius became intrigued by our Quantitative Psychology program and applied to continue his studies in our graduate program. In his own words, he was motivated to choose this program by "the pedigree of the faculty and the accomplishments from the previous students." We were thrilled when, upon completion of his Master's, Paulius decided to stick around for the Ph.D. program.

Paulius has held a number of different GA roles during his time in CARS, and says that he finds the work personally challenging but very rewarding. Paulius has had the opportunity to present at many conferences both here in the U.S. and internationally. These experiences have been among his favorites since joining the program. "I simply did not know that there are so many people interested in the same things professionally as I am" he says about meeting people at conferences. He also feels that our program has a respectable reputation which helps meet other people and develop professional relationships at these conferences.

When it comes to research, Paulius has been drawn to psychometric theory and its application. He says in the courses he has taken and the statistical models he has learned about so far show that it [psychometric theory] provides a framework to learn about the scientific method. Paulius is currently working on projects related to the applications of item response theory.

In addition to being a hardworking student and graduate assistant, Paulius is incredibly friendly and always brings a smile to those he encounters in the halls of Lakeview.

Looking Forward...

We don't know what the spring semester holds as far as the pandemic is concerned but our faculty, staff, and students are prepared for whatever may come. Most of our classes are being held in an online capacity for the spring semester, and many faculty, staff, and students continue to work at a distance.

This spring we hope to hold a CARS Talk or two, and continue to find ways to stay scholastically and socially connected despite distancing precautions. In February we will hold our first round-robin style zoom session for students and faculty to allow our folks to have some of those informal connections they miss by not interacting in-person with their peers and colleagues.

We hope everyone has a healthy and productive spring semester!

Created By
Paula Melester


JMU Creative Media