Assessment measures employed

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Assessment Report Standard Format

July 1, 2007 - June 30, 2008

PROGRAM(S) ASSESSED: Master of Arts Program in International and Comparative Politics (ICP)
ASSESSMENT COORDINATOR: Laura Luehrmann, Director
YEAR ___2_______ of a ____4______YEAR CYCLE


Briefly describe the assessment measures employed during the year:

What was done?

In this second year of our assessment cycle, assessment focused on the first and second benchmarks in our plan:

“1. Projects and theses should be error free in terms of punctuation and grammar. They should have clear abstracts, literature reviews and other features as specified in the published requirements for projects and theses in the student handbook.”
“2. Exit interviews will demonstrate that at least 80% of students believe they are adequately prepared to apply theories and concepts of international relations and comparative politics in future scholarly pursuits or work-related environments.”
The Political Science Graduate Assessment Committee also met to discuss general levels of success with the program, graduation and completion rates, and ways to foster greater communication with our growing number of program alums.
The Director of the Master of Arts Program in International and Comparative Politics (ICP) also began the process of mailing the “learning outcomes” alumni survey.
Who participated in the process?

The Director of ICP program reviewed the single project presented since last year’s assessment period and reviewed the results of this process with the Political Science Graduate Assessment Committee. She also conducted exit interviews with the two most recent graduates of the program.

What challenges (if any) were encountered?

There were no significant challenges encountered in this process. The learning outcomes survey was delayed somewhat because of the difficulties locating valid mailing addresses for alums.


List the objectives and outcomes assessed during the year, and briefly describe the findings for each.

The second stage of our assessment cycle examined each of our four learning outcomes, at least in part:

“a. Students will master graduate level quantitative or qualitative research skills as

appropriate to the study of international relations and comparative politics.

b. Students will master formal graduate writing skills appropriate for the creation

of graduate theses and projects.

c. Students will have a solid understanding of the knowledge of their chosen specialty within international relations or comparative politics, with an understanding of the surrounding their topic of inquiry and the methodologies used to examine it.

d. Students will have effective communication skills, both oral and written.”

One project was reviewed for this study. It was satisfactory on the “error free” benchmark, although lapses in proper citation were noted.
Two exit interviews were conducted for this assessment report, targeting the two program graduates during the assessment period. Both graduates (for a level of 100%) believed they were “adequately prepared to apply theories and concepts of international relations and comparative politics in future scholarly pursuits or work-related environments.” Both students were pleased with the skills they had developed in the program, and believed that the program prepared them for both career and volunteer opportunities in their chosen fields. Interestingly enough, two of the primary concerns highlighted during these exit interviews (the need to take core classes in a prescribed order and the need for a rigorous orientation program for new students) have been rectified since the two recent graduates participated in the program. Other concerns, including dissatisfaction with hybrid undergraduate-graduate classes and the need to make faculty mentoring more systematic, were closely related to faculty concerns discussed during the Graduate Assessment Committee meetings.

The Program Director continues to hold annual workshops to promote more detailed understandings of the thesis and project requirements for students. In June 2008, the workshop “Taming the M.A. Thesis,” geared toward first year students, was held. Eight of the twelve first-year students attended. A second workshop, designed with advanced graduate students in mind, was also held in June 2008. This workshop, “Navigating the Home Stretch,” was designed to help “jumpstart” the writing process for those students who are more removed from the classroom portion of the program. Twelve continuing students attended this program.

The Program Director continues to update the Student Handbook to clarify program goals and objectives, distributing copies at the mandatory student orientation program for new students each August, as well as posting copies of the revised handbook on both the ICP webpage ( and the WINGS Group dedicated to ICP graduate students. Revisions based on assessment findings last year (i.e., explicitly stating the need for a project abstract in the handbook) were included in the most recent version. The Director continues to promote ongoing discussion among faculty about standards for theses and projects, at both Departmental Meetings and with the Political Science Graduate Program Assessment Committee

The only deviation from the stated assessment plan was the delay, noted above, in mailing the learning outcomes alumni survey, due to inaccurate mailing addresses for our increasingly mobile alums.

At the October 2008 Political Science Graduate Program Assessment Committee, discussion about the utility of the planned focus groups (in Year 3) was begun. Some committee members stated that, given the newness of the program and the fact that most recent alums will have completed either or both the exit interview and the learning outcomes survey, additional focus group sessions may not yield much new information. Further discussion on this matter will be held during the Spring 2009 meeting of the Political Science Graduate Assessment Committee.


The Program Director plans to continually improve communication between department members who teach and advise graduate students, utilizing existing department meetings and the departmental listserve, as necessary. The Graduate Assessment Committee will be expected to serve a key advising function as the transition to semesters presents itself in future years.

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