CSAM: AER KC Interview with Kevin Grant

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AER KC Communications Workgroup

October 12, 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 Kevin Grant, Ed.D., Director of Student Affairs Assessment and Research at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and the Region VI Representative for the AER KC. 

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

I began in student affairs first with an educational advising role.  While this wasn’t necessarily in student affairs at that university, it is considered SA on other campuses.  From there, I directed the Learning Center which was a combination of Disability Student Services and Learning Assistance.  Ultimately, I was promoted to Assistant Dean of Student Development and began providing leadership for our assessment efforts, professional development and strategic direction of the division.  

  1. What do you do in your position?

Currently, I am the Director of Student Affairs Assessment & Research at Cal Poly.  Basically, I’m responsible for quality assurance on the educational level.  Are students learning the things that we claim to be teaching them?  I act as a divisional consultant, developing learning outcomes, assessment strategy and instruments (surveys, focus group protocols, assessment technology...).  Through program review, my work has much to do with helping to provide accountability at the departmental level (are the student’s dollars being wisely invested... are we offering the appropriate programs and services to meet student needs?).  Lastly, my desire and passion is for elevating the voice of the student.  All too often the students are forgotten in the assessment conversation; we think of them as products rather than partners in the educational process.  My drive is bringing their voice into the conversation and turning the assessment, evaluation and research components of our work into educational opportunities for our students. 

Read more in Kevin’s recent post for the WASC ARC Conference on this very topic: https://www.wscuc.org/content/notes-arc-so-what-do-you-do

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

Student affairs assessment is one of the burgeoning sub-fields within higher education.  This role typically brings a unique vantage point straddling the academic and co-curricular divide.  If you have an interest in the research and assessment world, this is a fantastic opportunity and time in our profession to explore the AER world.  We get to partner with so many different people across the institution and directly contribute to improving services for our students. 

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

I love the ability to live in both worlds between academic and student affairs.  I often find myself as a translator between these two worlds.  As a divisional assessment role, I enjoy being able to work with each department and always having new ideas/contexts/situations arise that I get to help trouble shoot and provide solutions.  

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

Some people within the university setting can be apprehensive towards this work.  Program directors can become defensive or fearful that assessment will shed bad light on their area or person.  Rather than viewing this work as integral to maintaining quality and ensuring we are going the best we can for students, it can often be relegated to being perceived as “extra” or “non-essential” work.  Lastly, the effectiveness of our assessment efforts is directly tied to our ability to collect, store and analyze good data.  Data isn’t always an easily free flowing asset on our campuses and can be a hotly contested territory battle.  Assessment can uncomfortably highlight the siloed areas on our campuses.  

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

My role in assessment is at the divisional level, so in reality assessment is my practice.  This would look different for an assessment specialist within a particular functional or unit area.  I continually strive for excellence and the world of assessment encourages continual change/improvement which also keeps me interested.  Assessment has also opened many professional doors for me, whether that be through the NASPA AER KC, involvement through our regional accreditor (WASC), and teaching graduate students in this area. 

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