CSAM: AER KC Interview with Darby Roberts

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AER KC Communications Workgroup

October 3, 2018

In support of Careers in Student Affairs month, members of the Assessment, Evaluation, and Research (AER) Knowledge Community share their story of how they got their start in Student Affairs and how their role working in assessment has shaped their practice. We hope these stories help inspire others to further a career in student affairs and discover where a journey in student affairs assessment can take them.

Please welcome Darby Roberts, Director of Student Life Studies at Texas A&M University and Professional Development Co-Chair for the AER KC.


  1. How did you get your start in Student Affairs? 

I was involved in RHA as an undergraduate, so learned about residence life. When I was in graduate school, I was a graduate hall director, although my master’s degree is in human resources management. By the end of those two years, I realized I wanted to do this as a career. Of course, student affairs assessment wasn’t created when I began my career in Student Affairs, so I had no idea that I would end up where I am today.

  1. What do you do in your position?

The big picture is that I help people gather information, so they can good decisions, take appropriate action, and continually improve. More specifically, I coordinate assessment for the Division of Student Affairs so organizations can improve their programs and services for the students they serve.

  1. What advice do you have for those interested in exploring a career or role heavily rooted in Student Affairs Assessment?

Learn (what)—learn statistics, research methods, student affairs functional areas, and the higher education/student affairs context/current issues

Learn (how)—keep up to date by reading (articles, books, blogs, etc.), attending conferences and other professional development opportunities, and observe and talk to others to understand priorities, needs, and strategies

Volunteer—even if you don’t have experience right now, your motivation and willingness to help will give you valuable insight and skill that you can use. Busy staff always appreciate the assistance!

  1. What is your favorite part about your role in Student Affairs assessment?

It balances the things I like—the analytical and process pieces, learning about programs and students, and working with staff and students. I love it when I can see how assessment has helped improve the co-curricular experience. And I really enjoy staff who have the “aha” moment about the value and process of assessment.

I also could talk all day about student learning in the co-curricular—what students are learning, how they are learning, how they can articulate that learning (how do we know they are learning), and how they can apply that learning in a variety of contexts. How are we preparing students to be productive citizens after graduation?

  1. What is one challenging lesson learned that you gained through your role with assessment?

It all comes back to communication:

--agreeing/articulating in the beginning on how a client will be using the information they receive

--sometimes you have no control how someone shares results, but you can be very clear in contextualizing and putting limits around the information in what you provide

--particularly for staff who are anti-assessment, you have to strategize how you effectively and persuasively communicate the benefits of doing assessment, the expectations, and the assistance you can give them

  1. How has your role in assessment shaped your practice?

I see assessment everywhere. It makes me curious: what happened, why is something the way it is, what could be better, how could we make it better, etc. Because I have worked with all of the departments in the Division, I know a little bit about many things. I can also see the connection of various programs. Being in assessment also pushes me to examine what is going on at the institution, but also around higher education in general.

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