Skip to Main Content

Innovative Methods of Assessment

Leveraging Alumni Feedback in Project Dragonfly Programs


For many years, the assessment leaders of Project Dragonfly’s graduate programs (M.A. Biology and M.A.T. Biological Sciences) have engaged in a comprehensive approach to assessment with multiple direct and indirect measures of assessment, including portfolios scored with rubrics, course evaluations (analysis of quantitative and qualitative portions), program completion rates, and student profile data. 

During the past year, the programs added a new assessment method: alumni survey. The survey was sent via an alumni listserv that included 1905 graduates dating back to 2006, and it included 26 questions. Twelve questions were fixed choice, five were Likert Scale, and nine were open-ended. The survey covered topical areas such as: professional outcomes; financing the program; skills gained; the diversity, inclusion and equity aspects of the program; post-graduation engagement; and overall impression of the program.  Respondents were also asked to complete the sentence: “The thing I share most about my time with Project Dragonfly is . . .”

Remarkably, a total of 568 (30%) alumni responded to the survey, and the data produced by the survey was rich and revealing, providing insights into program strengths and opportunities for improvement.  The program produced a detailed report summarizing the survey analysis, findings and recommended action steps. 

For example, 74% of respondents reported some sort of professional advancement (pay increase, promotion, new position, professional recognition or additional leadership opportunities) as a result of the program. Community engagement, inquiry-based learning and project planning & organization were the most commonly reported program outcomes, and 80% noted that they still maintain contact with program colleagues. Recommended areas for improvement included more rigorous coursework, more career development, and more opportunities for reconnecting with other program alumni. Program faculty and staff are now working on implementing strategies to address the alumni concerns. Overall, 93% of respondents felt the program met or exceeded their expectations and 41% indicated that the program “exceeded their expectations and was life-changing.”

The assessment activity of most academic programs focuses on the learning of current students. While data relating to current students is important in helping to know the immediate impact of the program on students, surveys offer a better understanding of the long-term impact of the program on students’ personal and professional success.

For more information on the assessment activity of these programs, contact Kevin Matteson, Associate Director, Project Dragonfly, at

November 2023