Shuying Sha, a second year graduate student in the Educational Research Methodology department in the UNCG School of Education, talks about her internship experiences, why she loves the ERM department, and her perspective on UNCG and the Greensboro community as an international student.
I am really excited and proud of my accomplishments this past summer! As a second year M.S. & Ph.D. student in the Educational Research Methodology department, I completed two internships through the ERM’s Office of Assessment, Evaluation, and Research Services (OAERS) office, and received great feedback from the clients.
One of my internships is with Physicians for Peace (PFP) on an evaluation project of their blended learning program in the Dominican Republic. PFP is an organization aimed at delivering healthcare education and support in underserved countries around the world. This internship was really a surprise opportunity for me because PFP initially wanted to recruit only two students, but then they recruited a third student, which was me! The other two students have been on evaluation projects for the past two years with Dr. Holly Downs, and they are really great at what they do. Though I had experience in the community health assessment area (through my research assistantship the previous year), as a non-native English speaker, I still feel at a disadvantage compared to the other two students who are native English speakers. I thought I would struggle with writing and interviewing the participants, but the two other students really helped me along in polishing my English writing skills and assisting me during the interview process. They made me feel that I made a great contribution to the research! Recently, we received great feedback from the PFP interviewees, the president, and program directors that I was in charge of interviewing. They praised us for the quality of questions we asked and how we conducted the interview sessions.
Dr. Downs was our supervisor on this project. A great supervisor not only makes the project run smoothly, but also educates the interns in many aspects of the profession. She is such a wonderful supervisor from whom I learned useful skills such as cooperation, time management, project management, and how to communicate with the clients. I believe this experience will be beneficial to any work I do.
The other internship I worked on over the summer was providing Benchmark Analysis for Winston- Salem/ Forsyth County Schools. On this internship, I worked with three other senior graduate students doing test evaluation based on different test statistics. Through this internship, I not only learned how to write up a technical report, but I was also reviewed in regards to my measurement knowledge and programming skills.
I cannot imagine getting this experience without our Department’s strong advocacy for field experience and support in different types of resources.
Before I came to UNCG, I was not sure if this would be the right place for me. I know UNCG’s ERM Department is one of the largest programs in our field in the country, and there are several big names in the measurement field working here, but your success is related to so many other factors. Not long after I started in this program, I knew that I was in the right place. We not only have the most thorough curriculum, but the nicest faculty group in ERM. Even if a faculty member is not your advisor, they will ask you about the courses you are going to take, and give you advice on your coursework. It’s not a situation like ‘You are not my student, why should I bother giving your advice?’ They are also the type of professors that you feel you can knock on their door and talk to without an appointment. Whenever I get stressed and confused, I know that my advisor is not the only one that I can go to for help.
Our Department Chair, Dr. Randy Penfield, and professors in ERM know every student and where that student is on their academic track. Dr. Penfield even knows which student hasn’t filled out the correct forms or plan of study. In many large departments and institutions, you probably only see the Department Chair once each year at orientation, but we have regular meetings with Dr. Penfield. As students, we are well informed about what is going on in our Department and where we are heading in the future. This really gives students a feeling of ownership in their studies.
I am surrounded by intelligent colleagues in ERM – there is almost always another student I can turn to when I have problems with my study or work. Some of them are good at math, some are good at programming, some have years of experience in psychometric companies, and some are experts in content fields. What is most important is that they are always willing to help out their fellow students.
It is probably because of the above factors that the ERM department is well respected on the UNCG campus, which makes me feel proud. And because of that distinction, we have greater opportunity to work with faculty or other programs outside of ERM.
My life at UNCG
I have been studying at other larger institutions before I came to UNCG. To me, it’s not about how much a University can offer me; it’s really about what the University or program is able to offer me as an international student and a student in ERM.
To most international students, English as a second language is a challenge (so is the feeling of loneliness) but UNCG and the ERM department have great atmospheres of community. Within ERM, everyone knows everyone. The ERM Department and students work hard together to promote social gatherings in order to build that sense of community. Being here at ERM, I have a sense of belonging.
When I came here, my English was not very good. However, UNCG has a great speaking center that very few institutions can match. You can go there whenever you have time (with or without an appointment) for an informal conversation or presentation practice. The consultants working there are great in engaging you in conversational skills and make you feel better about yourself too.
UNCG also offers opportunities of learning American culture and English through community service. The Office of Leadership & Service-Learning is not just a place for an undergraduate student to earn community engagement hour credits; it’s also a place for international students to get involved in the local community and to learn American culture through serving the community. I have attended several events while at UNCG, such as community garden projects, planting trees for the Beautifying Greensboro project, and helping in animal shelters. These service trips not only gave me a chance to get to know other students and local community members, but also provided me with a feeling of achievement by doing something meaningful.
Life Here is Not Boring!
My life here in Greensboro is not all about studying. I like to enjoy my life as best as I can. During most of the weekends throughout the school year, UNCG offers sports, games, concerts, and dance performances at a very low price or completely free to students. And we all know that UNCG has a great music school!
Greensboro is in a great location. It is 1-3 hours away from the mountains and the beach. As a mom with little ones, I am also very surprised by how much is available for my kids in this area! There are children’s museums, science centers, and zoos in most of the major cities close by, such as Greensboro, Durham, Raleigh, Winston Salem, and Chapel Hill, and they are all within 0.5 to 1.5 hour driving distance.
The Educational Research Methodology Department (ERM) in the UNCG School of Education specializes in educational measurement and psychometrics, research design, program and policy evaluation studies, educational statistics, and the application of research methodology to address educational questions. For more information on the UNCG Educational Research Methodology Department, please visit: erm.uncg.edu.
The Office of Assessment, Evaluation, and Research Services (OAERS) is a division of the Department of Educational Research Methodology (ERM) at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. The purpose of OAERS rests at the intersection of two goals. The first goal is to offer exceptional consulting services and technical resources in the areas of assessment, program evaluation, and data analysis to individuals and organizations in the Piedmont Triad, North Carolina, and beyond. The second goal is to provide graduate students in ERM extensive hands-on applied experiences to support their training and professional growth. Through meeting these two goals, OAERS is able to deliver valuable research and evaluation support to organizations while providing a rich training ground for the next generation of leaders in the fields of assessment, program evaluation, and data analysis. For more information on OAERS, please visit: erm.uncg.edu/oaers