Publications

Technical Reports

HMoob American Undergraduate Students at University of Wisconsin’s 4-Year Comprehensive Colleges 
– Background, Enrollment Statistics, and Graduation Trends
Smolarek, B. B., Vang, M., & Wolfgram, M. (2019). HMoob American Undergraduate Students at University of Wisconsin’s 4-Year Comprehensive Colleges – Background, Enrollment Statistics, and Graduation Trends Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions, UW-Madison.

Summary: The Paj Ntaub Research Team is a collective of HMoob American student activists and scholars at the Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions (CCWT) housed within the Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison). This report was compiled by members of the Paj Ntaub team and draws on institutional research data provided by the University of Wisconsin System Office of Policy Analysis and Research. We combine this data with U.S. Census and other demographic data reports to provide a profile of the basic higher educational statistics for HMoob American students in the UW System Universities.

The HMoob started arriving in Wisconsin shortly after the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 and continued to be resettled until about 2006, after the closing of the last refugee camp in Thailand. It was not until 2006, however, that UW-Madison, and in 2008 the rest of the UW System schools, began offering “Hmong” as an ethnic category on their application for admissions. Therefore, the data presented in the report only includes students who self-identified as “Hmong” since 2008. This report is the first time that disaggregated HMoob student data has been publically reported as the UW system typically combines data on Hmong students with larger categories such as “Asian,” Southeast Asian,” or “Targeted Minority” when publishing publically available data digests and other reports concerning students.  


How Do Students Experience Internships?
Hora, M.T., Parrott, E. & Her, P. (2019). How do students experience internships? Exploring student perspectives on college internships for more equitable and responsive program design. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions, UW-Madison.

Abstract: At a time when colleges and universities are anxious to prove that their graduates are employable, internships are being increasingly touted as valuable “high-impact” practices. However, how students themselves conceptualize internships is poorly understood, which inhibits their inclusion in the employability discourse and their incorporation into program design. In this study we use the freelisting method from cultural anthropology to analyze data from students (n=57) in three U.S. colleges, using saliency analysis, thematic analysis, and social network analysis techniques. Results indicate that the most salient terms in the cultural domain of internships were: “experience,” “learning,” “paid,” and “connections.” Students discussed these words in utilitarian terms (e.g., something to “get” for one’s resume), as important aspects of career- and self-exploration, and to highlight the importance of compensation. Differences in the complexity of student accounts were evident between students who had taken an internship and those who had not. These findings highlight how common definitions of internships reflect a homogenous and aspirational perspective that is inconsistent with student accounts. We conclude that students’ insights about internships are important to consider to re-frame the employability debate to include student interests, to avoid one-size-fits-all approaches to internship design, and to facilitate student self-reflection.  


Results from the College Internship Study at the University of Baltimore

Chen, Z., Wolfgram, M., Her, P., & Hora, M.T. (2019). Results from the College Internship Study at the University of Baltimore. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions, UW-Madison.

Abstract: This report includes preliminary findings from the first round of data collection for The College Internship Study, which is a mixed-methods longitudinal study of internship programs at the University of Baltimore. 

The study includes an online survey of students in the second half of their academic programs (n=228), focus groups with students who have and who have not had an internship experience (n=24), interviews with career coaches and faculty (n=8), and interviews with an area employer involved in internship program administration (n=1). The research questions guiding this study focus on how stakeholders conceptualize and define the idea of internships, participation rates by certain demographic characteristics, and the relationship between internship program structure and student outcomes. 

This report concludes with recommendations for specific steps that students, faculty and staff at the University of Baltimore, and employers who supervise interns can take to increase participation rates, access, and program quality for internship programs in Baltimore area in Maryland. 




Results from the College Internship Study at University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh

Results from the College Internship Study at University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh
Zi Chen, Matthew Wolfgram, Pa Her & Matthew T. Hora (2019)

Abstract: This report includes preliminary findings from the first round of data collection for The College Internship Study, which is a mixed-methods longitudinal study of internship programs at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.

The study includes an online survey of students in the second half of their academic programs (n=221), focus groups with students who have and who have not had an internship experience (n=19), interviews with career advisors and faculty (n=11), and interviews with area employers involved in internship program administration (n=15). The research questions guiding this study focus on how stakeholders conceptualize and define the idea of internships, participation rates by certain demographic characteristics, and the relationship between internship program structure and student outcomes.

This report concludes with recommendations for specific steps that students, faculty and staff at UW-Oshkosh, and employers who supervise interns can take to increase participation rates, access, and program quality for internship programs in Oshkosh area in Wisconsin.


Benbow, R. J., & Lee, C. (2019). How faculty develop teaching-focused social capital: Personal networks and 21st century skills instruction. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions, UW-Madison.

Abstract: While research shows that relationships or social ties give K12 teachers access to valuable information, knowledge, and advice that improves professional practice and student learning —resources conceptualized as “social capital”—few studies investigate how faculty develop the kinds of ties that help them better teach important 21st century skills like communication, teamwork, problem solving, and self-directed learning. Focusing on college faculty in one U. S. city, this mixed-methods study explores the association between science, technology, and medical (STM) instructor characteristics and personal social networks centered on discussing how to teach important skills. Survey responses (n=244) indicate that teaching experience, institution type, and teaching preparation time are correlated with network patterns linked to improved professional practice, while interview data (n=22) supplement these findings with instructor descriptions of how and why they developed teaching-focused social ties in their professional lives.


Problematizing College Internships: Exploring Issues with Access, Program Design, and Developmental Outcomes in three U.S. Colleges
WCER Working Paper No. 2019-1
Matthew Hora, Zi Chen, Emily Parrott, and Pa Her

ABSTRACT: Internships for college students are widely promoted as a “high-impact” practice, yet the academic literature is limited by terminological imprecision, lack of data on intern demographics, and insufficient attention to the impacts of program format on student academic and developmental outcomes. In this mixed-methods study we analyze survey (n=1,129) and focus group (n=57) data from students in three diverse U.S. colleges by using inductive thematic analysis, chi-square, and hierarchical linear modeling to document intern characteristics, access-related problems, program structure, and impacts on student outcomes. Results indicate that internship participation varied significantly by race, institution, enrollment status, and academic program, and that 64% of students who did not take an internship had desired to do so but could not due to scheduling conflicts with work, insufficient pay, and lack of placements in their disciplines. Students also reported high degrees of supervisor support, supervisor mentoring, and relationship between internships and academic programs—all program features that were significant predictors of students’ satisfaction with internships and perceived value for their career development. Based on these results, we propose a processual model for studying internships, and we discuss implications for career advisors, faculty, and postsecondary leaders. Specifically, we urge employers, colleges and universities to ensure equitable access to internships for all students, to screen employer hosts for mentoring quality and capacity, and to recognize internships can be simultaneously a positive transformative experience for students and a vehicle for reproducing inequality.


Results from the College Internship Study at Claflin University
Our HMoob American College Paj Ntaub

Authors (in alphabetical order): Lena Lee, Pangzoo Lee, Bailey B. Smolarek, Myxee Thao, Kia Vang, Matthew Wolfgram, Choua Xiong, Odyssey Xiong, Pa Kou Xiong, & Pheechai Xiong

“Our HMoob American College Paj Ntuab” is a qualitative research study conducted by the Center for College-Workforce Transitions (CCWT) in partnership with the HMoob American Studies Committee (HMASC), a University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison) student activist initiative, to examine the sociocultural and institutional factors influencing HMoob American college experiences at UW-Madison. We found that the HMoob American students who participated in our study often reported feeling unwelcome or excluded at UW-Madison. Participants stated that they felt the campus community did not have any knowledge of HMoob history and culture, which put HMoob American students in the position of educating their peers and professors on who the HMoob are. Additionally, participants reported experiencing macro- and/or microaggressions in classrooms, residence halls, and on the streets near campus. Our participants also reported feeling unwelcome in certain schools, buildings, and professional student organizations, which has significant implications on HMoob American students’ academic majors, future career plans, and professional social networks. In contrast, the spaces in which our participants stated that they felt most comfortable, safe, and welcome were student support programs, race-specific student organizations, and HMoob specific classes. Participants described these spaces as places where they were able to cultivate their ethnic identity and find mentorship and other support systems.


Results from the College Internship Study at Claflin University

Results from the College Internship Study at Claflin University

Matthew T. Hora, Emily Parrott, Zi Chen, Mindi N Thompson, Jessica G. Perez-Chavez, Anna K. Fetter, Matías Scaglione, Matthew Wolfgram and Arun Kolar (2018)

Abstract: This report includes preliminary findings from the first round of data collection for The College Internship Study, which is a mixed-methods longitudinal study of internship programs at Claflin University.

The study includes an online survey of students in the second half of their academic programs (n=207), focus groups with students who have and who have not had an internship experience (n=18), and one interview with an educator involved in internship program administration. The research questions guiding this study focus on how stakeholders conceptualize the idea of internships, participation rates by certain demographic characteristics, and the relationship between internship program structure and student outcomes. 

This report concludes with recommendations for specific steps that students, faculty and staff at Claflin University, and employers who supervise interns can take to increase participation rates, access, and program quality for internship programs in the Orangeburg area in South Carolina. Full report.


Documenting Higher Education for Refugees in Wisconsin

Documenting Higher Education for Refugees in Wisconsin

Matthew Wolfgram, Isabella Vang, and Chelsea Blackburn Cohen (2018)

Abstract: This report presents preliminary findings from a study documenting the obstacles and pathways to higher education for refugees in Wisconsin. The study is based on interviews and observations with refugee resettlement service providers and educators who support the college goals and attainment of refugees.

The findings indicate
(1) policy goals and constraints that complicate and obstruct efforts to support higher education for refugees, and
(2) obstacles and networks that present barriers to refugees in accessing and succeeding in higher education.

We discuss how resettlement services providers access various social networks to support refugees in overcoming such obstacles. The report concludes with a discussion of practical implications and future research directions to support higher education for refugees.


Results from the College Internship Study at University of Wisconsin-Parkside

Results from the College Internship Study at University of Wisconsin-Parkside
Matthew T. Hora, Matias Scaglione, Emily Parrott, Zi Chen, Matthew Wolfgram and Arun Kolar (2018)

Abstract: This report includes preliminary findings from the first round of data collection for The College Internship Study, which is a mixed-methods longitudinal study of internship programs at University of Wisconsin-Parkside.

The study includes an online survey of students with junior standing or above (n=525), focus groups with students who have and who have not had an internship experience (n=25), and interviews with career advisors and faculty (n=6), and with one area employer involved in internship program administration. The research questions guiding this study focus on how stakeholders conceptualize the idea of internships, participation rates by certain demographic characteristics, and the relationship between internship program structure and student outcomes. 

This report concludes with recommendations for specific steps that students, faculty and staff at UW- Parkside, and employers can take to increase participation rates, access, and program quality for internship programs in southeastern Wisconsin. 


Results from the College Internship Study at Madison College

Results from the College Internship Study at Madison College
Matthew T. Hora, Matias Scaglione, Emily Parrott, Zi Chen, Matthew Wolfgram and Arun Kolar (2018)

Abstract: This report includes preliminary findings from the first round of data collection for The College Internship Study, which is a mixed-methods longitudinal study of internship programs at Madison College.

The study includes an online survey of students in the second half of their academic programs (n=395), focus groups with students who have and who have not had an internship experience (n=14), and interviews with career advisors and faculty (n=12), and area employers (n=18) involved in internship program administration. The research questions guiding this study focus on how stakeholders conceptualize the idea of internships, participation rates by certain demographic characteristics, and the relationship between internship program structure and student outcomes.

This report concludes with recommendations for specific steps that students, faculty and staff at Madison College, employers and policymakers can take to increase participation rates, access, and program quality for internship programs in the Madison area.


Documenting the Aims of Higher Education in Wisconsin

Documenting the Aims of Higher Education in Wisconsin
Bailey B. Smolarek, Matthew Wolfgram, Micayla Darrow, Cassandra Duernberger, Cassidy Hartzog, Kathryn Hendrickson Gagen, Ryan Mulrooney, David Singer, and Isabella Vang (2018)

Summary: This report presents a community-based participatory action research project conducted by a group of University of Wisconsin–Madison undergraduate students to document how Wisconsin residents view the aims of higher education in the state. While questions regarding the purposes of higher education have long been debated, recent reforms in Wisconsin regarding higher education funding, governance, and objectives have brought new attention to these issues. Namely, there is an increased emphasis among Wisconsin’s elected officials to restructure the state’s public higher education system to be more tightly aligned with business interests. These reforms have garnered considerable outcry from those who oppose them, which has contributed to the state’s deep political polarization. In the midst of this context, our research team developed a qualitative research study to better understand how Wisconsin residents currently view the aims of higher education, which we conceptualized as any schooling past high school. Our research team is unique in that the people arguably most affected by higher education policy—students—are the researchers. We contend that this model offers promising avenues for higher education policy research because of its capacity to include perspectives that are often excluded. After conducting in-depth interviews with a diverse sample of Wisconsin residents (N=40), our research team found that participants discussed an eclectic variety of aims rather than only one aim for higher education. The aims most commonly discussed included economic development and employment, civic and community engagement, social mobility, personal growth and enrichment, and critical thinking and interpersonal skills. Additionally, participants discussed concerns regarding obstacles that impede access to and achievement in higher education, such as affordability and institutional supports. Our study indicates that Wisconsin residents do not want higher education to be focused on a single aim. Rather, it demonstrates the need to value the multiple aims higher education serves and support higher education students.

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