Assessment, Evaluation, & Research

ACUI offers resources to help members conducting assessment on campus and guidelines for the work of those researching the profession.

Program Review Collaborative

In 2024, ACUI announced a partnership with ACUHO-I, NASPA, and NIRSA to form the Program Review Collaborative (PRC).

The joint initiative is aimed at enriching departmental reviews through the guidance of seasoned experts. For ACUI, it will become the next generation of its College Unions and Student Activities (CUSA) Evaluation Program. These associations bring together a wealth of knowledge, resources, and a unified commitment to advancing the work of campus professionals and institutions alike.

What benefits do PRC reviews provide?

PRC reviews focus on appraising the strengths and opportunities of a department, with particular emphasis on staffing, administrative processes, programmatic offerings, student engagement mechanisms, and collaborative ventures within the broader campus community. PRC reviews can serve to endorse exemplary practices, instigate constructive evolution within departments, and foster innovation.

What distinguishes PRC reviews?

The PRC offers expert-led comprehensive departmental reviews tailored to the unique needs of your institution. Reviewers are identified and vetted through our organizations and serve as trusted advisors as you navigate the review process.

To learn more about how the PRC can support your campus or how you can apply to become a PRC reviewer, contact Steve Chaplin.

EXAMPLES OF projects

Potential projects you may consider:

  • Evaluating how current facilities, services, and procedures are meeting student needs and are aligned with trends in the college union field.
  • Completing a comprehensive departmental external review using functional area standards as part of an institution’s assessment schedule.
  • Assessing staffing resources, organizational structure, departmental alignment, and position descriptions to best achieve the unit’s mission.
  • Recommending programmatic needs to support increased demands related to student organizations, leadership training, and risk management for campus events.
  • Identifying how a department can improve communication and collaboration to prepare for the opening of a new student union facility.
  • Providing objective insights on how to manage financial resources to achieve the strategic goals of the organization.

Research Agenda

ACUI’s research agenda is focused on the development and dissemination of knowledge that supports the work of college union and student activities professionals, creates theoretical frameworks that inform practice, addresses gaps in literature, and links practitioner and scholar.

The Association’s research agenda is aligned with the strategic direction of the Association and responsive to issues facing the profession with the goal of contributing to and improving the work of college union and student activities professionals. If you are interested in conducting research, you can find more about the guidelines and contact Steve Chaplin to get started.

To better understand how college unions and student activities influence student learning, retention, completion, and other factors of student success.

Potential questions for consideration related to this topic:

  • What role does the college union play in students’ sense of belonging and connection to the campus?
  • What are students learning through engagement in student union/activities programming?
  • What is the relationship between student engagement and student success?
  • How does satisfaction with the college union (i.e. facility, services, and programs) contribute to student retention?
  • What is the impact of student employment in the college union on retention, academics, and student learning?

To identify the ways in which the college union can be most successful in building campus community.

Potential questions for consideration related to this topic:

  • How can physical space best be used to facilitate community building?
  • What barriers exist to building community in the college union?
  • Is the physical structure still necessary to building community on campus?
  • How do college union professionals build community beyond a building?
  • How do college union professionals build community beyond a building?
  • How does the college union compare to other community building spaces on campus and what are opportunities for collaboration and partnership?

To investigate the relationships between technology and the college union.

Potential questions for consideration related to this topic:

  • How has technology changed the role of the college union?
  • What role does social media play in the college union/programming? In student employee training? In program promotion? In wayfinding? In operations?
  • How does technology influence college union service delivery and/or student involvement?
  • In what ways can technology enhance the sense of community within the college union?

To understand how the college union can enhance the sense of belonging for increasingly diverse student populations and contribute to a more inclusive campus overall.

Potential questions for consideration related to this topic:

  • What role does the college union have in the development of diverse populations (e.g., graduate students, veteran students, and other diverse and growing populations)?
  • What are best practices for engaging diverse student populations through the college union/programming?
  • In what ways might the college union contribute to a sense of inclusiveness on campus for diverse populations?
  • In what ways are staff prepared to work with an increasingly diverse student population?
  • How do different audiences use the college union and what are the future needs of each?

To understand how student engagement in organizations, campus programming and student employment contribute to students’ learning and development.

Potential questions for consideration related to this topic:

  • How does participation in various student organizations influence student learning outcomes?
  • What role does the college union play in student activism on campus? How might college union/student organization policies enhance or deter student activism?
  • In what ways is student employment contributing to student’s leadership development? Or to the development of “soft skills?”
  • What are the current models of student employment and training and how do they contribute to student learning or success?

To identify the role college union facilities and operations play in supporting the mission of the institution.

Potential questions for consideration related to this topic:

  • How do certain operations policies/procedures assist or hinder community building?
  • What standards and benchmarks should be met when planning and maintaining a college union facility?
  • How does the physical condition of the college union positively and negatively affect student satisfaction?
  • How do facilities and operations shape the campus environment and ecology?

CAS Standards & Guidelines

CAS creates credible standards, guidelines, and self-assessment guides that help campus leaders design and evaluate programs and services.

With increased scrutiny over campus resources and department budgets, CAS tools help you benchmark current facilities and staffing, identify opportunities to improve student learning and operational success, and communicate the value of the union and activities to senior administrators.

  • CAS Professional Standards for Higher Education (11th Edition) provides standards for more than 40 functional areas, including timely revisions to the CAS general standards, which guide effective practices in student affairs.
  • CAS Self-Assessment Guides are downloadable assessment resources, reformatted in 2015 to help measure progress toward meeting the standards.
  • ACUI members have access to download three relevant standards at no cost. Access to these standards will be available again soon.

    Research Request Guidelines

    ACUI is committed to supporting and advancing scholarship in the college union and student activities field.

    To that end, the following guidelines and procedures have been established for researchers interested in accessing ACUI’s membership for scholarly purposes. These research procedures guide requests for the process of systematic inquiry into the college union and student activities profession, acknowledging that some other assessment, evaluation, and data analysis projects might not apply.

    Researchers seeking permission to conduct research using ACUI membership lists (mailing or email addresses) must submit written requests to the ACUI Research Program Team. Requests must include the following:

    • A clear definition of the ACUI member information the researcher wishes to use.
    • Brief biographies of the lead researcher and any co-researchers, including ACUI affiliation.
    • Contact information for the lead researcher and ACUI membership status, if applicable.
    • Title, objective, and purpose of the proposed research project, including research questions, background information and brief overview of pertinent literature, and need for the research or statement of problem.
    • Value of proposed research to ACUI, the ACUI Research Agenda, and/or the college union and student activities profession.
    • Detailed description of proposed methodology (research design, proposed research population and sampling plan, overview of data collection procedures, assumptions, limitations, key operational definitions).
    • Proposed project timeline including data collection start date and end date.
    • Copies of all cover letters/invitations, follow-ups/reminders, and data collection instruments, as well as any other documents that would be sent to ACUI members or used to guide interviewer-administered data collection (e.g., conducting telephone surveys).
    • Estimate of time required of ACUI members to participate.
    • Evidence of Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval for any human subject research proposals.

    Research requests must fit within the ACUI vision and purpose, be culturally appropriate, and comply with ACUI’s code of ethics. Research supported by ACUI must be conducted in a timely fashion in relation to the request, preferably within a year’s time.

    The process must provide assurance that ACUI members will not be unreasonably burdened by research participation requests. As such, the ACUI Research Program Team will closely monitor the number of requests and will not approve more than three research requests per academic semester.

    Researchers granted member access will be required to provide, at a minimum, a one-page summary of the findings of the research for possible publication by ACUI, while it is encouraged—and may be expected—that the complete results will be shared broadly with the ACUI membership though conference programs and ACUI publications.

    Upon obtaining permission for using the membership information to conduct research, the lead researcher inherently understands and agrees to adhere to all ACUI policies regarding the use of ACUI member address lists for the purpose of conducting research, as confirmed through the request process.

    Requests, as well as questions regarding these procedures, shall be submitted to the leader and Central Office liaison at