Jason Rhody, Director of Academic Program Services and Professional Development for MLA, asked a good question during the Q & A of the panel I was on for the MAPS Institute. I didn't respond, because I had previously spoken for some other questions and didn't want to take up too much of the space.
Rhody asked (I'm paraphrasing) the panelists and really the room about various metrics we use to demonstrate the value of humanities education at our various institutions. He said (or I imagined) two areas for his question:
1.) What metrics do we gather and share with administrators?2.) What metrics do we gather and share with students?
I can tell you that with the program I work with for first-year collegiate black men, the biggest, most important metrics were released a few years back. The folks at the analytics center at my university revealed that the biggest predictor, since 2013, on whether black men persisted and graduated was whether they participated in the course I teach for guys during their first year.
The analytics folks took a look at all black men students and started identifying patterns concerning those who persisted, graduated, went on probation, and dropped out. Those metrics reflected favorably on our program and assisted me in making the case for making a new tenure-line hire in African American literary studies and for expanding the number of Black men students we could enroll each year.
Still, I think we need additional metrics, like:
• How many guys enroll in African American literature and/or related courses after that first one?• How many of the students decide to major or minor in courses as a result of the course?• How many arts and humanities activities do the students participate in?• What humanities activities do the students participate in each semester as a result of the course?
And so forth.
Re: metrics for students
In the course I teach for first-year black men and the one I teach for first-year black women, the students are particularly interested in what their predecessors thought about materials we cover. The guys want to know what the previous cohorts of young black men thought about Malcolm, Black Thought, and others. The young women want to know which spoken word poems previous cohorts of black women favored.
Among black women students, there's no question that the most popular poem over the last five or so years has been Jae Nichelle's "Friends With Benefits."
I'll need to do more to gather and then present some of the figures on student interests.
Students would also benefit hearing about the various things beyond our course that students did with humanities. Doing so could give the students a clearer sense of pathways they might take up.
Anyway, the real point of this entry is to note I have more work to do to develop a full answer on metrics, black students, and literary studies.