Willamette University

Project Description

Ethnographic Field Study of Non-Traditional Student Population at Willamette University

Project Abstract

During the Spring Semester of 2006 at Willamette University, I plan to conduct a field study of the students at Willamette University who are commonly referred to as non-traditional (over 25 years of age). I propose to conduct a study of this population group as a whole, which will include the Non-traditional Students Association as a sub group. Most of the data will be collected on the Willamette University campus in Salem, Oregon using both a formal online questionnaire and a more informal interview methodology, although some data collection may occur off campus at school related social events, at an informants� home or a mutually agreed upon public venue.
The purpose of this study is to quantitatively document the non-traditional student experience. I am hoping to identify factors that might effect the non-traditional student�s decision to either begin or complete a course of college study. Possible areas of exploration are likely to include such questions as: Are there particular issues that challenge or constrain the student�s decisions and experiences? Is gender a significant element in shaping the non-traditional student�s experience? Are there areas in which the educational and/or personal needs of this student group may not currently be served by the college? As is typical in qualitative research, specific issues and areas of inquiry will emerge through interaction with informants.
Data collected and analyzed as a result of such a study might provide insight into the effectiveness of existing programs at Willamette University that are geared toward the non-traditional student and suggest changes to them and/or provide information with regard to the development of new programs that may better serve the expressed needs of this student population. This research is being conducted in connection with the Anthropology 361W, Ethnographic Methods class, in which I am enrolled. The final result of this study will be to collate and present my conclusions and suggestions in a paper which will, of course, be submitted as a paper to Professor Moro and will also be informally offered to the Non-Traditional Student Organization. Further, it is anticipated that some or all of the information gathered as a result of this study may be included in a larger regional study for my senior thesis in anthropology during spring semester, 2007.
The methods I propose to employ will include informal participant observation with field notes, interviews, and the use of a written questionnaire that may be disseminated and collected electronically. I will obtain oral informed consent from all of the participants I interview, as well as providing a consent statement to be checked off on any printed or electronically transmitted questionnaire I use. Interviews will be conducted in person and by telephone, on campus and off. Data will also be collected in the form of field notes taken during association meetings and luncheons. While I believe that significant research has been done in other areas with regard to non-traditional student groups on university campuses, I do not believe that this particular kind of research has previously been formally approached here on the Willamette University campus or through qualitative methodology. I will seek access to previous quantitative studies done here at Willamette, if available, that may supplement my study. If not confidential, I may utilize such data as supportive background research material. I believe that such a study may identify significant opportunities to improve the services and opportunities available to the non-traditional student body.

Surveys released for this project:
Willamette Non-Trads 10
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