Spring 2011 Stories
Students Present Quantitative Analysis at National Conference
By Erin Doherty
Not many undergraduates present their research findings at a national conference. But that's just what a small group of Evening and Weekend students did, as a result of a recent program called “Class in the U.S.”, taught by Sarah Ryan and Allen Mauney.
Joan Hoffmeyer, along with fellow student Cindy Roaf and labor studies faculty member Sarah Ryan, traveled to the How Class Works conference last June at the State University of New York: Stony Brook. The conference was largely attended by faculty, graduate students, and activists.
“I didn't know at the time that we were the only undergraduates presenting there. At first I thought it would be scary, but when you know your material, it feels very comfortable. And we were well–received. People were very interested in our findings,” said Hoffmeyer, 61, a senior at Evergreen. She is enrolled in Evening and Weekend Studies programs with an emphasis in social science while also working full–time for the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries.
Students in the two–quarter, half–time program studied sociology and statistics. They designed and administered an in–depth survey on social class among students at Evergreen. With guidance from faculty members Ryan and Mauney, students did everything from designing survey questions to coding data sets.
“As faculty, we didn't administer the survey at all—students did all of the coding and final editing. It was very labor–intensive and sometimes frustrating work—they learned how to ask the right questions by first making mistakes” Ryan says. “But the best way to learn about doing research, especially quantitative research, is to have a real project, to work with your own data, and to connect to an important issue in your community.”
From that two–quarter program, seven students put together a spring quarter group contract to fine–tune the data set and create a report to present at the conference. Monica McInnis was one of those students. “I signed up for this class not really even understanding what social class was or meant. From the survey, I learned that there are so many people at Evergreen like me, who are taking Evening and Weekend Studies programs and having to work full–time to make ends meet. It taught me to be more open and not pre–judge people—knowing that many of us are in the same boat,” says McInnis, 30, a junior with an emphasis in psychology who also works full–time as an evening shift pharmacy technician at Western State Hospital.
Hoffmeyer and McInnis say that their experiences mirrored the survey findings, which concluded that Evergreen's practices and policies encourage equity across class differences. “Professors are really willing to work with you when they know students have work or family needs to meet,” McInnis says.
Both students hope that their findings encourage more people to think about class and its impact on students at Evergreen and other schools. To view the survey report, see blogs.evergreen.edu/classintheus.
Erin Doherty, a returning student in her sophomore year, is emphasizing gender studies, sociolinguistics and writing at Evergreen.