Jen Wells is the Director of Assessment in the Division of Student Success at Kennesaw State University and the Editor for the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS). Jen received her undergraduate degree from Albion College in German and History and her Masters in Student Affairs Administration from Michigan State University. She is currently a part-time student in the CSAA-D program.
Where are you in the publishable paper or dissertation process?
I am currently analyzing data and working on chapters 4 and 5. My instrument closed on September 30 with 277 responses. 🙂
Tell us about the study you are conducting or are planning to conduct.
My study is about the relationship between psychosocial development and the Broader Autism Phenotype (BAP) in college students. The BAP describes individuals with mild autistic-like traits in the typical population. In other words, someone on the BAP might demonstrate some of the characteristics of autism spectrum disorders, but not a clinical level.
How did you decide on this topic?
There are a variety of factors that led me to research this area. I have always been interested in learning more about students that do not fit into any particular identity or group that is currently researched or provided specialized services. For example, my publishable paper looked at the nature of social interactions between undergraduate men who play video games. In addition, my sister had epilepsy and disabilities, but often struggled because she did not have a label or particular diagnosis. Students with the Broader Autism Phenotype are often thought of as weird, unsocial, isolated, loners, etc. They can often be dismissed and/or ignored by their surrounding community. I wanted to learn more about these students, so that we can better help them be successful and included in the postsecondary educational experience.
What have you enjoyed about the process?
I really enjoyed the literature review process; I love that part of research and liked the challenge of learning about a topic of which I basically had no previous knowledge. It provided an opportunity for me to learn more about clinical terms and diagnoses. It was like putting together a puzzle, which I love. In addition, as strange as this may sound, I enjoyed the prospectus defense. The feedback and knowledge shared really helped me as I develop my skills as a scholar.
How have you grown as a scholar-practitioner through your work on this study?
I could probably write an entire blog on this question alone, but I will limit it to two things. First, I have learned to be more confident in my abilities as a researcher and to trust myself more in the writing process. Second, as an assessment professional, I believe that understanding the research process elevates my knowledge and skills in assessment.
Give one piece of advice for someone who is going through this process, or about to start this journey.
I think the most important thing someone can do in this journey is fully submit to the process. Be open to the personal development that occurs throughout the doctoral program. Look at feedback in a positive way. Be a sponge – absorb as much knowledge as you can while surrounded by our fantastic faculty. Oh, and read Bird by Bird.