January 8, 2024

Designed For Action: Junior Sociology Major Conducts Institutional Research For YCP

5-Minute Read

At York College, students aren’t just reading textbooks and listening to lectures. They’re working on community projects, solving real-world problems, and using their education to effect change. In Designed for Action, we meet the students who are making an impact outside of the classroom.

Grace Seebold ’25 knows the potential a good work experience can have on your future career path.

The junior Sociology major (York, PA) took a work-study position for the Fall 2023 semester in the Provost’s Office as an Institutional Research Assistant. The opportunity presented the perfect situation for Grace, who sought the chance to deepen her knowledge and research skill in a real-world setting, outside of the classroom. Now, she’s considering institutional research and assessment as a possible field to pursue after graduation.

“I took this work-study job because it was filled with great opportunities for me to get more familiar with research methods in an applied manner and for me to enhance my analytical skills,” she says. 

Making a difference

Grace found out about the position through Dr. Steve Jacob, Associate Provost of Institutional Effectiveness. At the time, he was teaching Sociology courses, in which Grace was enrolled.

“I took a few classes with Dr. Jacob last fall and when this job opportunity arose, he reached out to me to see if I was interested,” she says. “One of the classes I took with him was Community Based Participatory Research (formerly known as Quantitative Research Methods), which I really enjoyed and indicated an interest in further research work.”

As an Institutional Research Assistant, Grace’s main responsibilities are to collect and analyze data, which assists with the College’s re-accreditation processes and institutional assessment. Each academic year, every unit of York College (for example, Academic Affairs) is responsible for the creation of a grid listing annual goals for their unit, which tie into the larger goals and Strategic Plan of York College as a whole. Grace worked with these grids over the summer, as well as analyzed National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) data. Currently, she’s working on analyzing the data from the First Destination Survey (FDS) that is sent to students when they graduate from York College.

“I read every grid from 2014 through 2022, organized them, and tallied whether they indicated that goals were completed, in progress, or unmet. I also did an overview of the past eight years of YCP's NSSE data. NSSE is the National Survey of Student Engagement that is sent out to first-year students and seniors and measures areas of learning and experiences at YCP,” she explains. “I have recently been working on a Tableau dashboard related to the First Destination Survey assessing career planning at YCP. The FDS is sent to graduating students and part of it involves questions about the level of support and preparedness that graduates felt they had from YCP as it applies to their careers (current or future). I did an analysis showing how well each of our schools is doing in this area.” 

All of this data, according to Grace, will be used as evidence for the College’s accreditation with the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

“It’s showing that we are maintaining institutional accountability and evaluating areas of improvement and areas where we're doing well. It's also used to assess program effectiveness and to see where we can improve in areas like career planning and different college-wide learning outcomes. Essentially, the data is used to tell us how well the College has been serving students and where we can improve,” she says.

So far, her favorite part of the work-study experience has been the positive feelings she’s gained from the work she’s doing. She believes she’s making a difference.

“I love feeling like what I'm doing is meaningful, and that's something I definitely get from this job,” Grace says. “I also really appreciate how supported and encouraged I've felt since I started. Between Dr. Jacob, [Executive Assistant to the Provost] Angie Decker, and [Provost] Dr. DiQuinzio, it really feels like they believe that I can do this job and that I do it well. That's really encouraging to me, especially because I wasn't familiar with this work when I started.”

Preparing for a successful experience

Before she undertook her position in the Provost’s Office, Grace “knew nothing about institutional assessment or what it involved, so all of my experiences in that realm have been a chance for me to learn,” she says. Despite encountering unfamiliar subjects with institutional research, her prior research courses taught her skills that have been invaluable in navigating a position such as this one.

“Two of the most helpful classes I've taken at YCP when it comes to this job are Community Based Participatory Research and Qualitative Research Methods. These classes gave me an understanding of statistics and the ability to code and analyze qualitative data,” she explains. “All of those skills have been incredibly helpful in my work, and they're skills I wouldn't have had without those classes.”

Grace also credits her relationships with the College’s professors as beneficial to her undergraduate experience.

“I've had really good experiences at York so far,” she adds. “I have had some really great professors who care about what they're teaching and care about helping you learn. I think the smaller class settings provide an opportunity to have closer relationships with professors at York, and that's something that I've found really valuable.”

After college, Grace doesn’t have any career plans set in stone, but she knows she wants to pursue a postgraduate degree of some sort. Experiences like her work-study role in Institutional Research have only furthered her interest in higher education—specifically, in institutional assessment, and she believes this is an area where she could potentially see herself down the road.

“I think this job has really opened my eyes to a whole new field of career opportunities,” she says. “Before I started, I wasn't at all familiar with institutional assessment or what it involved, but now it's a field that I find really interesting.”