Engaging Students as Co-Researchers in Institutional Inquiry
Wabash-Provost Scholars are a group of undergraduate North Carolina A&T State University students trained to conduct focus group sessions, surveys, and other assessment activities aimed at improving the learning environment at the university. These students work alongside faculty and administrators in guided campus inquiry. Their activities include developing questions and assessment instruments, collecting and analyzing data, summarizing findings, sharing their results with the university community, and presenting on their research experiences at conferences.
Originally developed to “dig deeper” into North Carolina A&T’s Wabash National Study results, the Wabash-Provost Scholars Program provides important student-level feedback and recommendations on a variety of institutional issues. Comprised of students from a wide array of majors, the program illustrates how “high impact practices” such as undergraduate research experiences can be made available to all students, regardless of discipline, while also providing valuable research service to the university.
The Wabash-Provost Scholars Program started in the fall of 2008, when the first 17 Scholars were trained. New cohorts of Scholars are trained each year, with many Scholars returning for multiple semesters. Typically, 12-20 Scholars are actively participating in this program as student researchers.
Becoming a Wabash-Provost Scholar
Wabash-Provost Scholars enroll in a one-credit-hour course, which may be repeated. Undergraduate students are invited to participate in the Wabash-Provost Scholars Program through a campus-wide invitation and information sessions where current Scholars describe program responsibilities and their personal experiences as student researchers. Potential Scholars are admitted into the course with the permission of the directors. Scholars must maintain at least an overall 3.0 grade point average (a “B” average) while in the program.
As part of the Wabash-Provost Scholars course, Wabash-Provost Scholars complete focus group and Institutional Review Board (IRB) training prior to conducting assessment activities. All Wabash-Provost Scholar activities are carried out under IRB approval. Additional training in conducting focus groups, survey development, report writing, and public presentations is also included in the course. The program serves as a valuable way for students from a variety of majors to be conduct authentic mixed-methods research that directly impacts the university. Many of our Scholars have indicated the benefits of participating Wabash-Provost Scholars research when applying to graduate programs and law school.
Wabash-Provost Scholar research focuses on a single institutional research issue each semester/year. The Scholars conduct student focus group sessions and implement surveys to gather ground-level data reflecting “student voices” on issues of importance to the university. Focus group questions are carefully developed in consultation with faculty members and administrators working on these issues. Typically, input from more than 100 students is gathered via small focus group sessions, with 6-8 students participating in each session.
Data Analysis and Reports
Focus group data is analyzed by the Wabash-Provost Scholars in data-analysis sessions coordinated by the directors, Dr. Karen Hornsby and Dr. Scott Simkins. Preliminary reports are created by the Scholars, with multiple revisions completed before a final report of findings and recommendations is developed. See the Reports section of this site to see the publicly-available reports the Scholars have produced.
Presentations – Regional, National, and International
Wabash-Provost Scholars regularly present the findings of their focus group research to top-level administrators and the academic community at NC A&T State University. In addition, the co-directors and students have presented at regional, national, and international meetings on the integration of students in the institutional assessment process. See the Presentations section of this site to see a listing of past presentations, including handouts and slides
Scholarship Highlighting the Wabash-Provost Scholars Program
The research activities of the Wabash-Provost Scholars have been discussed in a number of publications as examples of student-faculty-administration co-inquiry. See the Scholarship section to see where the Wabash-Provost Scholars Program has been highlighted.