Sunday, January 11, 2009

Original Survey Group 24 and Survey Analysis Group 25 Saturday December 13, 2008

(Both Groups 24 and 25 faced relatively early deadlines for their work, so I have included in this week’s post a final reflection from a few group members.)

It turns out the walls of the “Princeton bubble” are thinner than I expected.  When I sat down to speak with members of Group 24, the “Survey Analysis Group” and Group 25, the “Original Survey Group,” the first thing most students wanted to talk about was how excited they are to be involved in a project that has the potential to make a positive difference in the community outside of Princeton.  Sophomore Christine Bokman spoke highly of the passion she observed in fellow group members, “I never realized how many other Princeton students feel like I do about the importance of community service.  I’ve met so many people who care about what I do, and I can’t wait to work on public outreach with them even after this particular project is finished.  For many students, the “food desert” project presented just the opportunity they had been looking for to work for a cause that matters.

Junior Ben Harms of Group 25A was very pleased with what he learned about writing survey questions, and said that even though he found writing the survey questions “challenging,” it was also “very satisfying to contribute to the project and to the community in such a direct way.”  Harms recalls that it was challenging to “phrase questions in a way that didn’t incorporate scientific words like cholesterol.  We had to learn to write the questions in a way that people at an eighth grade reading level would understand.” 

Junior Paul Nehring of Group 25B remarked, “Thanks to this project, I have become a much better consumer as far as data goes.  When I hear about statistical results from a survey I am now much more informed about whether I should trust the survey based on how they constructed the survey frame.  Instead of just believing what I hear on the news I now feel prepared to think about these numbers critically.”  Nehring also feels “much more comfortable with surveys.  I think I could design and send out my own survey if I wanted to—with statistically sound results!” 

The one thing that some students complained about was feeling disconnected from what other students in the class have done to contribute to the overall project…sometimes even the members of their own group. While the feedback was mostly positive, some members of Group 24 felt separated from the actual project, and wondered whether their research had any impact on the community.  Freshman Leslie Bargmann admitted, “I can’t say I really know what the other members of my group are focusing on or why what they are doing is important for the overall project. I wish I would have been able to be more hands on…I would have liked to visit the communities we were studying.” 

On the whole, the members of Groups 24 and 25 were satisfied with what they took away from this project, both academically and personally.  Many students seem to agree with Junior Farrell Harding, who said, “This class has inspired me to get move involved in community service.  I’m really glad I had this experience.”  Caught up in the daily grind of classes and assignments, it is easy to forget that there is a big wide world away from the Princeton campus.  While it is crucial to focus our attention on being dutiful students and preparing ourselves academically to engage in that world, it is equally important that we remember how important it is to focus on others instead of only focusing on ourselves.