As director of Community Service Learning at Assumption College, one of my annual New Year’s resolutions is that, this time around, I’ll finally do a banner job of academic assessment – that often hopelessly abstracted process in which programs identify goals and objectives, figure out how to measure them, and relay the information up the chain to the people that accredit us.
OK, so, I’ll be honest: It actually hasn’t quite risen to the level of a New Year’s resolution, more a vague hope for the future, if I have time while accomplishing more compelling objectives. Experience has taught me that good can come of assessment when results translate into practice … but often there’s not enough useful information to change things … or time, amid the actual week-to-week work, to do it right.
On the other hand, well, assess this: In the last week, Assumption College SEND students have traveled to my hometown of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, helped strip away a decaying roof, and replaced it with a brand-spanking new one. Miss Anna, who lives in the home, doesn’t need a spread sheet or an assessment form to assess their success. For more, see the article and photo spread by Gary Cosby in The Tuscaloosa News.
This is the fifth year that Assumption has come to help Tuscaloosa recover from an April 27, 2011 tornado that killed 54 people. More than four years after the storm, Habitat for Humanity Tuscaloosa has moved from homes for tornado victims to addressing the ongoing shelter needs of lower-income people everywhere – and Assumption SEND has stuck with the agency through that transition. One SEND student, Mary Guinee, even went on to a postgraduate year of service with Habitat Tuscaloosa.
Every year the students’ work has left tangible results I can see as I drive around my hometown. Not to mention less tangible ways that students impact the lives of locals they meet, and the abundance of lessons that students learn from folks down here.
Those benefits I cannot begin to assess.
But someone will probably have to.