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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Visitors to audit value of Brandeis education

Published: October 1, 2010
Section: Front Page

The administrators of a study that measures the strength of liberal arts programs at schools around the country will visit Brandeis Wednesday to meet with students, faculty and senior university officials as part of their evaluation of the true value of a Brandeis education.

The roving team is from the Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts at Wabash College, in Crawfordsville, Ind.

“Wabash College studies the best practices in a liberal arts education, and measures if you’re getting your money’s worth,” Brandeis Provost Marty Krauss said.

The goal of the Brandeis hosting of the Center’s leaders is to “help students achieve” by ensuring the university is undertaking these best practices,” she said.

According to its website, the Wabash National Study is “a large-scale, longitudinal study to investigate critical factors that affect the outcomes of liberal arts education.”

The team of four assessment experts will meet with students to discuss their findings from Brandeis’ participation, performed by surveys of the then-incoming class of 2012 twice during their first year in 2008.

The presentation will be held in the Art Gallery on the third floor of the Shapiro Campus Center and will be open to all students.

Some findings that will be presented include the percentages of Brandeis students who participate in co-curricular activities, and that participation’s effect on their studies; the average Brandeis student’s level of involvement in the social or political community; and Brandeisians’ study, discussion and intellectual habits.

The Wabash staff will take further questions to be used for the “qualitative” part of their examinations now that they have processed this quantitative data, according to Krauss.

“They’ll probe the dimensions of the numerical findings to find qualitative data in addition,” she said, adding that because both positive and negative reactions are “more extreme in focus groups,” there is that much more to learn should students make the effort to attend Wednesday.

The meeting seminars will be between the hours of 5 and 8 p.m. Wednesday, including an hour’s dinner in the Sherman Dining Hall at 6 p.m.

Brandeis’ participation in the study was funded by an outside grant from the Davis Foundation, which had been active in promoting Brandeis’ liberal arts in the past.

Krauss said at the time it was believed that the Center’s findings would “more likely lead to positive change,” Krauss said.

The changes could be made not just in relation to other schools in the study, but because the study would allow the university’s academic leadership to learn things about Brandeis even it does not know.

“Because of students’ different perspectives, we expect there to be as varied and different reports between our students as between other universities,” Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Michaele Whelan said.

The Wabash experts “will be digesting this to report out on what students are saying about Brandeis,” she said.

Krauss acknowledged that her office’s pre-arrival announcement underscored how crucial she believes student attendance and participation will be to the success of the study’s results.

“We’re really excited about doing as much as we can to make people aware,” she said, “because we really are working hard to have the best practices and the best education possible.”