We are releasing today our new report Cultivating STEM: Why West Michigan college students select majors in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. The Van Andel Education Institute sponsored our fall 2008 survey of West Michigan college juniors at four local schools. 888 students participated. Key findings in the report include:
One important position that CSR offers is that of the Research Associate. This position is open to recent college graduates interested in pursuing graduate school. Candidates are often seeking additional experience in a research setting before continuing their education, and CSR provides this opportunity. Two of our recent CSR Research Associates have written the following comments about their experiences at the Center.
Research Associate from January 2007-June 2008
Current location: University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Ph.D. program in Cognitive Psychology
It sounds cliché, but there are so many things I could write about with regard to my experience at the CSR and how it prepared me for my PhD program. Just today, one of the Research Assistants in my research lab, who is also one of my students in the statistics lab I teach, was asking me about graduate school. He was fretting about getting into graduate school and succeeding. In our conversation, he asked me how I could possibly know what I know about teaching and research, both in terms of statistics and working with statistical software (i.e., SPSS), as well as designing and running studies with sound experimental protocol and clearly defined theories. I explained that my undergraduate education played a role in developing the skills I am using daily in graduate school; however, the contribution of my time spent at the CSR before graduate school is really what deserves most of the credit.
At the CSR, I gained experience in working with students, IT personnel, clients, and faculty. These interactions prepared me for my current role as a graduate student, because graduate school is (among other things) all about relationships. I’m not sure I would have gained this “people” aspect from another job, and I guarantee that I will not work with a better group of people than what the CSR has to offer.
In addition, I also developed technical and analytic skills at the CSR that I’ve already applied in numerous settings to automate and simplify processes such as data entry, to reduce unnecessary work and get the most out of my Research Assistants’ time, to provide an overall organizational structure for how my lab operates, and to learn how to program a gigantic driving simulator that I’m convinced was intentionally made abstruse to frustrate new graduate students in the program!
Research Associate from May 2008-present
Prospective location: Graduate school for degree in Public Policy and International Affairs
I graduated from Calvin College with a degree in Political Science. I knew that the field I would be pursuing in graduate school would require me to understand and carry out many different types of research, and while I did take classes in research methods and statistics, I was not satisfied with my level of proficiency in the areas of quantitative or qualitative analysis. I applied for the Research Associate position at Calvin’s Center for Social Research in an attempt to develop that skill-set.
Shortly after starting the position last May, I realized how fortunate I was to be working at CSR. I have acquired the skills that Nate describes above including competency in statistical analysis software like SPSS and Stata. I have had the privilege to work on research projects that are diverse and imperative. I have learned from collaborative and teamwork-oriented colleagues how to effectively manage and supervise student research assistants. My contact with clients, including professors, community leaders, and clergy has helped me develop professional communication skills and confidence. I have also developed editing and designing skills with software including InDesign.
In addition to these skills, I have had the privilege of working with a group of people that truly live out God’s call to love your neighbor as yourself. The staff actively supported me while I applied to graduate school and other research programs. They are gracious and patient as I continue to learn new software and research methods. They encourage me to pursue research topics that are of interest to me. Very few work environments are like the one that the CSR staff has created.
I am more than halfway through my term with the CSR and already wish I was staying another year. I will leave this office better prepared for graduate school, better equipped to work in and organize effective work environments, and more determined to continue to follow God’s call into research and the field of social science.
Order bound copies from the Calvin College Campus Store.
Our report on the Kent County Congregations Study of 2007 is now online! The report, entitled Gatherings of Hope: How Religious Congregations Contribute to the Quality of Life in Kent County is downloadable now in PDF format and bound, full-color copies are available for purchase from the Calvin Campus Store.
As reported on Sunday in the Grand Rapids Press, the KCCS is the most comprehensive study of religious congregations and how they contribute to the quality of life in Kent County. Inspired by the philanthropic vision of Doug and Maria DeVos and funded by their foundation, the project affirms the need for educational, community and religious sectors to collaborate in efforts to improve the lives of children and their families.
These major findings of the report are found in the Executive Summary:
Gatherings of Hope is being distributed today to over 200 religious and community leaders at the Kent County Religious Leaders Symposium, held at the Pinnacle Center in Hudsonville.
One of our very own student researchers, Sara Achauer, was chosen out of an elite group of applicants to spend her summer as an intern for the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research. Read what she had to say about her experience:
“This summer I was an intern at the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR), a unit within the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan. ICPSR is one of the largest dative archives and their mission statement is to: ‘Acquire and preserve social science data, provide open and equitable access to these data, and promote effective data use.’
I was a data processor for the Child Care and Early Education Resource Connection, one of the specialized archives within ICPSR. I personally worked with the National Maternal and Infant Health Survey 1988 and the Survey of Income and Program Participation 2004 data. It was my job to acquire the correct data and related documents, write the metadata for each study, and produce formatted files for the use of member institutions.
While working at the internship, I was provided the opportunity to participate in ICPSR’s Summer Program in Quantitative Methods of Social Research. I took two graduate classes: Regression Analysis I Introduction and II Linear Models. For more information see http://www.icpsr.umich.edu/sumprog/index.html . The skills I learned over the summer gave me a more holistic view of data and research that will positively influence my work at the Center for Social Research and my personal research as a Sociology major.”
We’re glad to have you back after this great opportunity, Sara!
The CSR congratulates five of our student workers who graduated from Calvin this year. Gwen Einfeld, Kirsten Anderson, Jeremy Chacko, Gerald Egede and Emily Oosterhouse were each at the CSR for over a year, and now they seek to employ themselves in various exciting fields:
• Gwen, an Engineering graduate, is pursuing a graduate degree in Engineering at Purdue University.
• Emily, having completed Calvin’s Psychology, Pre-Law and Business programs, is going on to study Forensic Psychology at the University of Denver
• Gerald, an Accounting major, is pursuing a graduate degree in Business or Accounting in the United Kingdom.
• Kirsten, graduating with a degree in English will be teaching English in Cairo, Egypt and may continue working in the field of social research in English.
• Jeremy, graduate of Calvin’s History and Political Science programs, will be working at Yellowstone National Park.
During their time at the Center, the graduates handled projects ranging from data entry to survey design and administration. The CSR bids farewell to the graduates, who will be sorely missed.