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Taking Action with Data: Improving Student Sense of Community

Creating community at NC State matters. Through the Retention Foundations Assessment (RFA) process, units in the Division of Academic and Student Affairs (DASA) used division-wide data to make small changes in an effort to improve students’ sense of community. Take a look at the RFA: Sense of Community webpage and read below to learn more about the data-informed decisions units made and the Retention Foundations Assessment process.

What data-informed decisions did DASA units make?

Improving the sense of community for 30,000 students can feel daunting, but small impactful changes across the Division can make a difference. In response to survey data that demonstrated the importance students place on developing a sense of community in small groups, Prevention Services redesigned alcohol free programming to foster connections in small groups. To assist transfer students, Leadership and Civic Engagement presented specific program opportunities designed for their experiences during orientation. Additionally, Wellness and Recreation created a video showcasing how students have built community through intramural sports. Units whose focus is not on programming found ways to make changes as well, including the Disability Resource Office which started asking questions about how students are connecting with faculty and other students in their interactions.

How did units decide which changes to make?

DASA Assessment recruited a team of faculty and staff from across campus to review the data collected about students’ sense of community and to identify key findings to share with DASA units. This same team then facilitated workshops for units to brainstorm how to use the findings in their own work. Within the larger DASA project of Retention Foundations Assessment, this is called the Implementation Stage. Directors have shared that the brainstorming exercise in the workshops helped them think about opportunities for small changes they had not previously thought about making in their existing programming in order to support student success. The workshops give units time to consider foundational topics of student success and still keep the changes focused and reasonable within the scope of their unit.

What else is involved in the Retention Foundations Assessment process?

RFA is championed by Dr. Carrie Zelna, Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Success. RFA is a DASA initiative to identify, measure, and improve the underlying variables that impact student retention at NC State by using existing research and data collection methods. Teams of division staff, faculty, and students working with DASA Assessment address each retention topic in three stages: review, collection, and implementation. Each stage in the process spans one academic year and consists of a unique team of interested individuals within DASA. The team then passes on its progress to the group taking on the next stage for that retention topic. 

  1. Literature Review Stage – The review team engages in literature review of current research for their topic of interest and narrows the focus as necessary. 
  2. Data Collection Stage – In the collection stage, data is gathered and compiled from existing quantitative data sources and analyzed. This team also makes recommendations for what to explore with student focus groups conducted by the Pack Assessment Ambassadors
  3. Implementation Stage – The implementation team reviews the data collected and identifies key findings to share with DASA units. This team then leads units in brainstorming ways they can use findings to make small but impactful adjustments to existing programs and practices at the unit-level.

Throughout the process, teams keep the question “what is actionable for DASA?” centered in their work.

How can I get involved?

DASA Assessment is preparing for the Implementation Team for RFA: Grit, Resilience and Growth Mindset for the 2020-2021 academic year. To get involved with the team for this project, please contact Jordan Luzader ( in DASA Assessment.