Two Hobart and William Smith students, Gabrielle Perez ’11 and John Wasmund ’12, recently participated in a workshop on assessment at the Center for Inquiry in the Liberal Arts at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Ind. Perez and Wasmund were joined by William Smith Dean and Assistant Professor of Education Cerri Banks and Associate Dean for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment Susan Pliner. Professor of Dance Donna Davenport also attended the conference as a Teagle Scholar.
Hobart and William Smith Colleges are one of 30 institutions that are collaborating with The Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts in the Wabash Study 2010. The three-year project is developing a process for improving student learning and investigating factors that affect the outcomes of a liberal arts education.
The purpose of the Wabash Conference was to engage students and faculty collaboratively in the assessment of student learning and educational programming, with emphasis on the design of focus groups and effective use of resulting data. Each participating college or university focused on a matter of critical importance on their campus. The HWS team focused on students’ role in increasing the centrality of inclusive excellence in every aspect of the Colleges education.
Perez explains they chose to investigate inclusive excellence as a means to build awareness.
“There are students who are aware that we have a Commission on Inclusive Excellence, but there is a lack of engagement around it,” says Wasmund. In preparation for the conference, Perez and Wasmund interviewed HWS students about inclusive education. They discussed the results of the student interviews at the conference and, within their focus group, started to identify what needs to change in the educational community in order to promote inclusive excellence.
Both Perez and Wasmund agree that their involvement in the conference was a worthwhile experience. Wasmund says that after listening to the experience of students attending other colleges he was able to see HWS from a new point of view.
“I realized how unique my HWS education has been. We are encouraged to think about things here and engage in conversations that students from many other institutions aren’t encouraged to,” he says.
Perez agrees, explaining that students from other institutions lamented over the fact that they had no administrative support on important issues surrounding inclusive excellence. “I am proud,” she says, “of our commitment to inclusive excellence and how far we’ve come since my first year.”
Pliner commends Perez and Wasmund for their work, saying that “they are learning the importance of the education they are receiving and had an unbelievable experience, and amazed the other institutions.”
Perez and Wasmund became involved in the project as students in Banks’ course titled Social Foundations of Multiculturalism. Additionally, Perez is working on a related independent study with Banks, and Wasmund, who is enrolled in the education program, is interested in ideas surrounding multicultural education and inclusive learning.
Perez, a women’s studies major with a minor in education, is president of the Caribbean Student Association, public relations chair of Women’s Collective, and a residential assistant. Wasmund is majoring in history and is a member of the Hobart rowing team.