Fun Times in the “Academia Nut”

I’ve been teaching Questionnaire Design at the University of Michigan’s Summer Institute in Survey Research Techniques, and I’m finding it hugely fun for a few reasons:

1. My students are fantastic. The Summer Institute is always an eclectic bunch. There are a lot of PhD students from other departments (public health, education, sociology…) who are using surveys as part of their own dissertations, and there are also a significant number of international students: I have 5 students in my class from the National Statistical Agency of Barbados (still hoping they will invite me down to consult, preferably in February).

2. I’m an extrovert, but I spend a lot of my time working independently. Getting to spend 5 hours a week with 25 other people is my idea of a good time.

3. I love to laugh and to make people laugh. Instead of showing a million disconnected slides of data, I try to make everything a story, and I get to tell a lot of hilarious stories about my own work.

4. It’s great to see how much my students have learned in such a short time. (It’s an 8 week course.) They work on a project throughout the course, first writing some draft survey questions, then offering feedback on each other’s work, revising their questions based and finally presenting their final questions to the class this week.

5. The (small but mighty) Survey Methodology community is great. I had two friends come and talk to my class about their own work (in cross-cultural survey administration and surveys for mobile devices) and their enthusiasm was contagious not
only to my class but also to me— now I can’t wait to do more international work, and explain the benefits of optimization for mobile to all my clients.

Three cheers for academia– nutty as it is, I love it (in small doses).

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Founder of Southpaw Insights