My First Project at the Office
I never thought I would be reading my reports to people so soon…
This past week at the office has been a great learning experience, not only in terms of the actual work I have been doing but also the skills I have gained along the way. Each day of my work is different; sometimes I am writing grants and doing research on other non-profit organizations, other days I am making brochures and forms for people to fill in. When I came into work on Monday morning, I was not exactly sure what to expect. My boss, Jamie, asked if I could take some surveys and write a report about what the surveys said. The surverys were from a community forum that had been held over the last month and we gathered information on what people liked and didn’t like about a possible new building for Walla Walla Catholic Schools (WWCS). Sure no problem… but then she handed me the GIANT stack of papers, and in my head I was like “Oh… these are a lot of surveys!”
I wasn’t sure how to tackle making a report with over 80+ surveys where the questions were open ended , but I thought back to my sociology methods class and tried to remember what I had learned about survey design and how to analyze data. I combined what I knew about survey methodology with some recent work I had done with Professor Janning and realized I needed to divide people’s responses into themes which I could then write paragraph summaries about each theme. So, I quickly started to read each survey and made a running tally of what people were saying. People were concerned about a multitude of things, everything from the price of the building to where would we add extra bathrooms were included.
In total, I had more themes than I had surveys, this had not gotten easier. I started to try to group the themes into larger encompassing ideas. All of the themes that had mentioned money in some sort of way were grouped under “cost”. All concerns about what facilities we would add were grouped under “structure of building” and so on. Once I had completed doing that, I had 10 themes that I was able to put into a spreadsheet. This job took the entire morning and I was exhausted, so I said my goodbyes to Jamie and headed home for the afternoon.
But… my work was not over yet! When I came in the next day, Jamie asked if I could add the Small group discussion responses to the report as well. Luckily, this was much easier since the people in the small groups were also the ones who submitted surveys so I spent most of the time cross referencing the list of codes I had with the post boards that the small groups wrote on and circling occasions when there was overlap. I added the new codes to the spreadsheet and wrote up my report and handed it to Jamie.
She was very impressed with my work and surprised me by asking if I could come to the meeting that night and report the findings myself! I agreed and that night I stood with shaky hands in front of a crowd of people reading what I had found. I took them through my logic of grouping the themes, I explained what conclusions I had come to, and vetted questions from the audience. All and all it was a really great experience, albeit a nervous one. It made me realize I really like doing qualitative data analysis and I don’t think I would mind doing it when I graduate.
Experiences like Kyle’s are made possible by the Whitman Internship Grant, which provides funding for students to participate in unpaid internships at both for-profit and non-profit organizations. To learn how you could secure a Whitman Internship Grant or host a Whitman intern at your organization, click here or contact Assistant Director for Internship Programs Mitzy Rodriguez