Eric Hasseltine '58, Haskell Rhett '58 and Dan Chambliss Discuss Institutional Accountability

Alumni College, Assessing the Quality of Education 
In 1999, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded Hamilton a grant to assess student learning in a liberal arts setting. At the time of the initial award, Hamilton's proposal read, "The public deserves greater accountability, and we are prepared to demonstrate the effectiveness of our educational program to students, current and prospective parents, alumni and higher education opinion leaders." 

The assessment project has been renewed by the foundation three times and continues today with its longitudinal study led by Daniel Chambliss, the Eugene M. Tobin Distinguished Professor of Sociology. In "Assessing the Quality of Education," Chambliss joined Eric Hasseltine '58, chairman of the board of regents of the John F. Kennedy University, and Haskell Rhett '58, former chairman of The College of New Jersey, in a discussion of institutional accountability.

Hasseltine began by observing that he was less nervous speaking as part of the panel than he had been in his public speaking courses as a student at Hamilton. With the confidence gained at Hamilton, he went on to describe the shift in measurements used to access educational quality, from concrete quantitative measurements like endowment and class size to qualitative measurements, what a student knows and can do. Rhett discussed his experiences with sociological research, referencing his experience with an AmeriCorps research project in the Philadelphia school system in which the identification of positive "influencers" was critical.

Chambliss summarized the ongoing panel study at Hamilton of the class of 2005 and the particularly notable discovery that Hamilton graduates like the college when they graduate but that their feelings toward the college intensify significantly two years after graduation to a degree not seen at other institutions. He suspects that part of the reason is the appreciation Hamilton graduates develop of the speaking and writing skills they gained while at the college.

Chambliss also emphasized the importance of relationships in college and particularly at Hamilton. These relationships serve students well because they become adept at dealing with people, a skill essential for upper management and working in a large organization.

After distributing short summaries of some of his research, Chambliss and the two other panelists took questions from the audience. They related to many topics including public speaking courses, the absence of a core curriculum, the advising system, the importance of class size, the level of interest in the arts and in the sciences, sophomore seminars and study abroad.

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