I was introduced to the world of research in eighth grade when we went to the Kent State University Ashtabula Branch Library on a field trip. It was there that I learned how to use a card catalog, periodical indexes, and microfiche. My first “real” research project was a paper on the uprising in Tienanmen Square. The paper was typed on our Commodore 128, and I handed it in for an “A”.
The introduction I received to the library at that age was enough to pique my interest. Looking for books, topics in periodical indexes, and searching roles of microfiche felt like a treasure hunt of sorts. I carried this feeling of the “hunt” with me when I entered college. I consistently utilized library resources to help inform my coursework. The 12 story library at Kent State University was a place where I spent hours looking for resources in their electronic catalog, requesting books through their inter-library loan program, and using their computer lab to type my papers.
During my time in graduate school, I was introduced to the concepts of qualitative and quantitative research. One of the first projects I was assigned was to create a grounded theory based on race and gender of our assigned group. The four of us were assigned African American females. We had to interview five undergraduate students. Our professor had submitted the HSRB form for us, but we had to give our participants the consent form before we began the interviews. After the transcription of the five interviews, we were able to identify a common thread in all five women’s stories. Family was at the center of everything in their lives. We called it: The Family Factor – The sustaining vector. Other projects I worked on during my tenure in graduate school focused on college students and their faith development, as well as an in-depth analysis of Kent State’s orientation program.
After graduate school, I went on to work at Tulane University. While I was at Tulane University, I assisted in researching and developing their Foundation Experience for their student leaders. This included integrating leadership theory, social justice, and Tulane knowledge into a comprehensive three-day weekend retreat. One of my colleagues and I began to do impromptu research as we held judicial hearings with our freshmen students. We theorized that we were having hearings with students whose first choice school had not been Tulane. While we did not continue to pursue this topic as he switched jobs, I know that many of the students I met with said that Tulane was their second or third choice.
While at Lake Erie College, I assisted in researching student interests. I would administer an interest questionnaire to all orientation participants, which I entered into an Access database to create lists of interested students. These lists were sent to the student organizations in order to connect with students before they arrived in the fall. In addition, I worked on an alcohol assessment. We assessed the anonymous students at orientation, and then the freshmen class after their first semester. We wanted to see if students were engaged in high risk drinking behavior before arriving to college, or if they developed the behavior while at Lake Erie. We were able to generalize that many students were engaged in drinking behavior before arriving to campus, but those who drank in high school were more likely to engage in high risk drinking at college.
During my time as Associate Director for Co-Curricular programs at Loyola University New Orleans, I utilized Survey Monkey as a way to assess our summer orientation program. I would then utilize what I learned in the surveys and best practice research to make adjustments to the orientation experience. While at Loyola, I began my doctoral coursework at the University of New Orleans. I soon realized that my research skills, while good for the late nineties needed to be re-evaluated. It happened after I made photo copies of a journal article I needed to inform my paper. I then proceeded to ask the librarian where they had their current copies. She informed me the entire journal was on-line, and all I had to do was log-in to the library’s database. My love of the library grew as I logged into our e-journals and ERIC documents. While I still relied on books, I found that I could better inform myself by doing Internet database research before hitting the shelves and looking for elusive titles.
While I have not formally been trained in qualitative or quantitative research, I am looking forward to learning more as I continue the research journey that started with the card catalog. I have written and administered many surveys. I am a member of our University Life Assessment Committee. I have looked at lots of data, have a basic understanding of KPIs and understand cross tabulation. I have worked with my graduate assistant to mine data as we ask questions to unearth correlations that help resident advisors better understand their impact. I enjoy looking at data, doing research, and formulating questions and will appreciate the new skills I will acquire as a scholar in the PhD program at Mason.