Bass Connections Evaluation

The Bass Connections leadership is dedicated to evaluating the program in order to improve it and to understand its impact on students, faculty and the societal issues addressed through the projects.

The 2015-2016 evaluation report, a summary of which is below, addresses the following questions:

  • Which students and faculty are participating, in terms of departments/majors, level, gender, etc.?
  • What is the experience of faculty and students participating in project teams?
  • What outcomes do Bass Connections projects produce?
  • How are students weaving Bass Connections into their Duke experience, particularly in relation to other signature programs?

See also the Bass Connections developmental evaluation report for 2014-2015.

2015-2016 Highlights of Student and Faculty Experiences

To better understand the experiences of faculty and student participants in the 2015-2016 project teams, Bass Connections administered an end-of-year survey in April 2016. Survey response rates were 53% for undergraduates, 71% for graduate students and 81% for team leaders.

Participation Trends

Since its inception, Bass Connections project teams have engaged more than 240 faculty members, 560 undergraduates, 230 graduate students and 15 postdoctoral scholars. They represent all of Duke’s schools, nearly every department and all demographic groups.

We aim to continue increasing participation, with a particular emphasis on groups that are currently under-represented, including faculty from the humanities and natural sciences departments in Trinity College of Arts & Science; faculty in the School of Medicine; and faculty in the Divinity, Law and Business schools.

In addition, there are a large number of Ph.D. programs that have not had any students participate yet, particularly in the basic and biomedical sciences. Undergraduate students are most likely to participate in Bass Connections as sophomores and juniors, and major in a wide variety of topics that largely mirror the overall distribution of undergraduate majors at Duke. Women are more likely to participate than men among both students and faculty.

The Undergraduate Student Experience

The vast majority of students who participate in a Bass Connections project team have a positive experience. In fact, 97% said that they would recommend the program to a friend (up from 94% last year).

My Bass Connections experience has been, by far, the best learning experience I have had in my life. The multidisciplinary team approach helped me learn in new ways. I have formed close friendships with everyone on my team. This experience has led me to find a topic of study I am truly passionate about.

The top three reasons why students participate include:

  • To gain research experience (77%)
  • To be part of a multidisciplinary team (48%)
  • To be part of something innovative (40%).

It’s an awesome opportunity to get involved with research, even if you have no background.

After participating, students report that the program helped improve their skills and abilities in a range of areas including communicating with a team, working with team members with diverse knowledge and comfort working with faculty and graduate students, as shown below:

When asked how Bass Connections helped shape their future plans, the top reasons cited by students were “it provided a story to tell prospective employers,” “it provided valuable experience for my resume” and “it got me interested in new topics.”

The Graduate Student Experience

Graduate students cite the same top two reasons for participating as undergraduates: “to gain research experience” (42%) and “to be part of a multidisciplinary team” (40%). Other top reasons cited include: “to work closely with faculty” (32%) and “to engage with a new research project” (32%).

When asked whether they planned to continue work related to their projects, 72% of graduate students indicated that they intended to continue related work in a multitude of ways including through their dissertations and master’s projects, integrating research and team-based learning into courses they are teaching, presenting findings at a conference and/or authoring a publication.

I got invaluable experience mentoring undergraduates and leading them as a team. I also established new interdisciplinary collaborations that allowed me to learn new skills and new topic areas, and was important for my professional development. Finally, I hope to be publishing multiple first-author publications based on our team’s research, which will help boost my CV.

Graduate students reported the lowest levels of satisfaction among all survey populations with 88% of graduate students saying they would recommend the program, and a mean satisfaction rating between “somewhat” and “very” satisfied (mean score of 3.5 on a 5.0 scale). Comments indicate that some graduate students would like clearer roles that are more distinguished from the roles of undergraduate students and more structure to the teams.

Graduate students report a range of benefits to participating, although the degree to which they report benefiting is more muted than undergraduate students:

The Faculty Experience

Faculty are highly satisfied with their experience, with 92% saying that they would recommend the program to other faculty, and a mean satisfaction score of 4 out of 5 (“very satisfied”). The top reasons why faculty participate in Bass Connections include: “to mentor students in a different way” (58%), “to be part of a multidisciplinary team” (58%) and “to be part of something innovative” (43%).

I got to know these students far more deeply than I would have otherwise … I could view it as my most profound connection not with a pre-selected community but with Duke students AT LARGE; I have never ranged as far from my own socio-academic group in sustained contact.

Ninety percent of faculty intend to continue work related to their team both through Bass Connections as well as other means including seeking grant funding, authoring publications, presenting at conferences and integrating research and team-based learning into their teaching. While 64% of faculty say that they are “extremely likely” or “likely” to participate in Bass Connections again in the next three years, the most common challenge cited in written comments was the time burden of leading a team.

Leading a Bass Connections team has been energizing, intellectually stimulating and fun. I truly believe that vertically integrated, interdisciplinary teams are the best way to address complex research problems.

Team leaders report that they benefited by developing new connections, teaching/mentoring, and gaining leadership experience, as shown below: