Outcomes Data for the Department of Wildland Resources
The College conducts 9-month and 5-year surveys of all of our graduates to determine how well our degree programs prepared them for their professional careers. We also periodically conduct interviews with leaders in governmental regulatory and funding agencies to determine how our graduates served their needs.
The Department of Wildland Resources evaluates the effectiveness of its undergraduate programs in three main ways: 1) Capstone courses require each student to become involved in the analysis of a real-world environmental problem. We are currently developing a new capstone course (WILD 4910, Assessment and Synthesis in Natural Resource Science), which will assist us in gauging the effectiveness of the entire curriculum. Students will be required to participate with faculty members in group activities and one-on-one interviews in which the entire undergraduate learning experience is evaluated. 2) The Department Head meets informally with graduating seniors at a working luncheon, followed by a formal, anonymous questionnaire. 3) We periodically conduct interviews with leaders in governmental regulatory and funding agencies to determine how our graduates served their needs. In addition, the department has formulated specific learning objectives with each course. These learning objectives are explicitly outlined in each course syllabus and are summarized for each degree program. To maximize placement of our graduates into career tracks that best match their aspirations and abilities, faculty members work with individual students to determine their professional aspirations, design course work and research, initiate participation in professional meetings, and introduce them to professionals at other universities or natural resource agencies. Learning objectives are tailored to individual students but will likely encompass aspects of experimental design, data analysis, statistics, modeling, and public education. In our graduate programs we educate students to fill positions in other academic institutions, state and federal agencies, and non-governmental environmental organizations. We accept high-achieving students from a diversity of backgrounds and our graduate education programs are specifically tailored to meet the interests and goals of each individual student.
Curricula for the Department’s undergraduate programs in Forestry, Rangeland Resources, and Wildlife Science were designed with an awareness of the requirements of the federal government’s Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Students graduating with these degrees are qualified for immediate employment in federal agencies. The Department is approached from time to time by federal agencies (e.g. the Bureau of Land Management) to review the curricula of programs at other institutions, or the transcripts of potential employees, to certify that they meet OPM standards. This level of respect and credibility that the Department enjoys has been earned to some extent from its participation in accreditation reviews conducted by the Society for Range Management and the Society of American Foresters. The Department is current with its accreditation with both these professional societies and some of our faculty members sit on the accreditation committees. The Wildlife Society does not have an accreditation system for academic programs but it does have a rigorous system for the professional certification of individuals, and the Department’s undergraduate major in Wildlife Sciences fully equips students to achieve this certification after graduating.
From an assessment perspective, the Wildland Resources Department considers the Employment/Education Survey of Recent Graduates to be one of the more important surveys we conduct because it focuses on one of the university’s most important outcome measures - student success in finding jobs and being accepted into graduate programs. The department uses the standardized telephone survey instrument that is used by all USU departments each year as we contact our recent graduates. Recent graduates are highly mobile and it can be difficult to locate them but a concerted effort is made to contact as many of our graduates as possible. The last official data from the Analysis, Assessment & Accreditation Office was published in March 2005. In May 2008, the Department of Wildland Resources conducted a telephone survey for students who received bachelor’s degrees during the 2007-08 Academic Year. The Wildland Resources Department awarded 30 degrees during this time period and 93% of Employment/Education surveys were completed which is a very high rate for a telephone survey. We were able to obtain information concerning the graduate from a variety of sources including the student, a parent, or a spouse. During this time period, when asked if the student was currently continuing his/her education, 36% responded “yes”. Graduates continuing their education were asked to name the school they were attending and as would be expected, USU was the most frequently reported choice. Of the students indicating they were not full-time students, 16 already had a full-time job, and 2 were seasonal. Although some students may choose to work in areas outside of their discipline, as a general rule, the Wildland Resources students pick majors because they expect to work in that field. As a result, of the 18students that had full-time/seasonal jobs, 14 indicated that the job was directly related to their degree, 3 somewhat related, and 1 not related. In evaluating the effect of state resources used for higher education, the issue of where graduates take full-time jobs is relevant. Students who remain in the State of Utah add human capital to the state’s work force and contribute to the tax base of the state. Interestingly, out of our 18 employed graduated students, 9 were employed in the state of Utah and 9 out-of-state. Graduates were asked who their employer was. Graduates from the Wildland Resources Department were most likely to be employed in the public sector. Obtaining numbers on starting salaries for recent graduates is a difficult task. Students or their spouses are often reluctant to provide this information and relatives who may have been contacted as part of the survey may not know. It was anticipated that this part of the survey data would be less complete than other information collected and the forecast proved to be generally correct. However, a surprising proportion of the survey contacts were willing and able to provide salary data, allowing us to identify the starting salary range of recent graduates with full-time jobs; these ranged from a low of $1,200/month to a high of $3,360/month, with 1 graduate doing unpaid volunteer work. At the conclusion of each academic year, the Wildland Resources Department continues to collect data regarding employment and continued education of our Wildland Resources graduates.