Assessment Stars Aim High


On May 6 Robin Anderson had a full-circle moment. Ten years after receiving the first doctor of psychology degree in assessment and measurement awarded by James Madison University she once again stood on the stage at the Graduate School commencement. 

Anderson, associate director of the Center for Assessment and Research Studies and associate professor in graduate psychology, had the honor of placing the hoods, the academic regalia signifying completion of their doctoral degrees, on Javarro Russell and Megan France, her two advisees. 

The excitement felt by Russell and France at earning their doctorates in assessment and measurement was matched by the thrill Anderson felt to mentor her two advisees to this moment. 

"I was excited by all the possibilities that are before Megan and Javarro," said Anderson. "They each have the potential to impact our global society in truly meaningful ways. I see no end to what they can accomplish." 

The First One

Anderson was not just the first JMU graduate with a doctorate in assessment and measurement, she was the first one in the world. JMU pioneered the way and is still one of the few programs in the country to offer a blend of theory-based course work and real-world assessment experience. 

For Anderson it was the equal emphasis on the psychology of the person taking the test and the expertise in measurement to create an assessment test that drew her to the program. 

Anderson graduated in 2001 and went to work for the Virginia Community College System as the director of institutional research and effectiveness. In 2007 she was recruited back to JMU to work for CARS and, like her colleagues, take on the dual role of teaching in the assessment and measurement program. 

Anderson values the opportunity she has had to advise Russell and France through the doctoral program. "A real strength of our program is we work on the mentoring relationship of advising," she said. 

Reflecting on the differences between her experience in the program and her advisees, Anderson said the biggest change is the community that has developed because of the strength of the program. Russell and France are the 32nd and 33rd doctorate students to graduate in the last 10 years. 

"When we go to regional and national conferences JMU now has such a huge presence which wasn't the case 10 years ago when literally I was the only one," said Anderson. 

Representing the Program

From Anderson's graduate experience to today, the philosophical approach of the program has remained the same. "I could not have imagined a more student-centered faculty or a more thoughtful educational experience," said Russell. 

France agrees. "The faculty are outstanding. They have a strong commitment to the students and the program. They give us the support and guidance necessary to help us excel as researchers, practitioners and individuals," she said. 

"We all have a sense of pride about this program," said France. "I recently returned from a conference in New Orleans that many JMU students and faculty attended. I heard over and over from people outside of the program how great the JMU presentations were. It was wonderful to see so many JMU alumni, current students and future graduates together in one place." 

Russell and France are good representatives of where students in JMU's assessment and measurement program go after graduation, often to a testing environment or into higher education. 

Russell has accepted employment at the National Board of Medical Examiners as a psychometrician. "I will be ensuring the quality of scores on an exam that is used for the licensure of medical doctors in the United States," said Russell. "I will also be working with medical schools to identify appropriate pre-licensure assessments for their students." 

France will begin her career as the director of assessment for the School of Education and Counseling Psychology at Santa Clara University in California. She will work closely with the faculty by assisting with the development of student learning outcomes, design and data analysis and report writing. "From an employment perspective, in a time where jobs are hard to come by, I was able to choose the job I wanted and choose where I wanted to live," said France. "There is a high demand for the people this program produces." 

Like her advisees, Anderson will also move on this summer as she takes on the role of department head of JMU's graduate psychology programs in July. 

Thanos Patelis, vice president of research and analysis for the College Board, who has hired several graduates of the assessment and measurement doctoral program, said the JMU students receive great training, not just in content and philosophy but in the practice and application of assessment. "It is not just the occasional star coming out of JMU, they're all stars," said Patelis. 

Published: Friday, June 3, 2011

Last Updated: Monday, February 5, 2018

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