Mikaila Arthur and Francis Leazes
Dr. Mikaila Arthur, Associate Professor in Sociology, and Dr. Francis Leazes, Professor in Political Science, have joined together on a research project sponsored by The Collaborative to explore the following policy question: What is Higher Education’s Role in Shaping the Workforce in Rhode Island? Their findings will be disseminated to state policy makers in print and online form through The Collaborative. However, Dr. Leazes and Dr. Arthur are particularly interested in conducting this research to provide information they hope will be informative to the RIC community. Specifically, they are investigating what happens to graduates after they leave RIC and how those experiences may or may not align with the popular perception of the long-term impact that higher education plays in shaping the workforce. With little research yet done in this area, Drs. Arthur and Leazes also hope that other institutions, with profiles similar to RIC’s, view their research approach as a viable model to be able to accurately describe student outcomes and the role that higher education plays in people’s lives.
“This research project has multiple purposes,” said Drs. Arthur and Leazes. “It answers policy maker questions and involves students in a meaningful research experience.”
Dr. Arthur and Dr. Leazes are working with five “wonderful undergraduates” representing varied majors, including sociology, public administration, political science and justice studies. The students are helping to create and analyze the data set. “We are pleased to be able to offer the students a remarkable experience, “said Dr. Leazes “They will gain valuable research experience and add important skills to their resumes, while either earning class credit or wages.”
Dr. Rupayan Gupta, an economist at Roger Williams University, also has contributed to the research project.
By creating and analyzing a data set, Dr. Arthur and Dr. Leazes will be looking at the professional trajectory of RIC graduates, who have received divisional or departmental alumni awards for their careers. They will be able to speak to the different paths alumni may take from graduation to career.
“There is limited current research on what happens to graduates from comprehensive colleges, such as RIC,” they pointed out “The research is often limited to the post-graduation period (1-2 years after graduation) and typically doesn’t identify what happens to individuals 10-15 years later. That longer term view is what makes this project unique.”
Dr. Arthur and Dr. Leazes also want to demonstrate how institutions like RIC prepare undergraduate students to move on to graduate programs that provide additional preparation for today’s workforce.
“Higher education should never be complacent with what it is thinking it is doing” said Dr. Leazes. He went on to say that changes in workforce expectations challenge educators and institutions of higher education to think differently than they have in the past.
“RIC students are really being taught to educate themselves in how to navigate a rapidly changing, challenging world, that is also an exciting world full of opportunity,” said Dr. Leazes.
“We can prepare [students] to successfully navigate the changing landscape they will find as they go through 20, 30 and 40 years of a career,” concluded Dr. Arthur.
As one primary purpose of this project is to inform policy, Dr. Arthur and Dr. Leazes will publish their results in a report appearing in print and online.
The print and online policy report documenting their findings “will help executive and legislative branches of state government make informed decisions,” they said. Drs. Arthur and Leazes are hoping that their research will have an impact on the way the state forms policy around public higher education and will inform public perception on its economic impact.