Consultants for campus
Sociology majors understand theory, analyze data, and devise policies to address social problems. These skills get put to good use each fall as students in the sociology senior capstone serve an organization in a consulting capacity. This fall, the sociology course analyzed survey data and national literature to recommend additions to Beloit College’s flagship programs: Career Channels and Advanced Mentoring Program (AMP).
Led by professor Kate Linnenberg, seven sociology students worked collaboratively to understand the scope of the project, break the work into manageable pieces, and deliver analysis and recommendations to college leaders.
One group of students delved deep into the Beloit results from the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), which surveyed first year and senior students about their experiences at Beloit, especially with their advisors. The NSSE data reflects students’ experiences before AMP started, which gives a sense of the baseline experience before the new programming began. One finding was that first year students had significantly more positive experiences with advising than first year students at other schools. First year students at Beloit were more likely to report having advisors who frequently asked them questions about their educational background, actively listened to their concerns, respected their identity, and cared about their overall wellbeing.
The student sociologists dug deeper into the data and found some variation in results by different identity groups. These findings resulted in recommendations to AMP to have more frequent meetings between students and advisors and to incorporate a field trip for AMP students to bond. A second group of students observed the rates of peer mentoring at Beloit reported in the NSSE and explored the literature on peer mentoring to make recommendations about a peer mentoring program at Beloit that might increase integration, socialization, and retention of first year students.
“We were already considering how to infuse peer mentoring and other returning students’ participation into AMP, so it was great to see that the Sociology students also saw that as an important area for us to address.” said Joy de Leon, AMP co-director. “They offered several ways that we might achieve a high quality peer mentoring program as a part of helping new students transition to the college and cited research that indicated it would help with students’ sense of belonging, retention, and success.”
A third group of sociology students delved into the NSSE survey data and literature about career advising. They found that Beloit College students reported talking to a faculty member about career plans at rates broadly similar to students at other schools. Not satisfied with average outcomes, these students recommended a simple intervention to make conversations about career plans a natural part of advising conversations: A Career Advancement Plan (CAP) template for each student and their advisor, with recommended career planning steps for each class year, modeled on the My Academic Plan templates students and advisors already used.
Daniel Youd, one of the co-directors of the Career Channels program and an attendee at the students’ capstone presentation, commented, “I was deeply impressed with the quality of the students’ work and the practicability of their recommendations. We are eager to share these recommendations with the Career Channels program steering committee, and we hope to act on them right away.”
During their final presentation to the leaders of the Career Channels and AMP, students observed that their experience in their course can serve as a model for life in the workplace. Merging their separate projects into one presentation with a consistent tone taught them to communicate effectively, and putting their data analysis skills into practice with real survey data allowed them to be creative problem solvers.
Morgan Haynsworth, a student in the course, commented on the value of her experience evaluating AMP, “I was able to showcase my integrated education by putting into practice the analytical, problem solving, and leadership skills that Beloit has instilled in me. This opportunity has provided me with the experience and growth that I will utilize in my future endeavors after graduation, all while being able to give a little back to Beloit College.”