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Research: Holistic Student Success

News Story

Dyson Associate Professor Anna Shostya, PhD, and Gabriella Serebryanaya ’22 are evaluating college admissions standards and examining their correlation to student success.

Across America, the college admission frenzy is as competitive—and arguably, as scrutinized—as ever. Honors colleges, which comprise the most distinctive and high-achieving students at a university, often have an even more rigorous application process.

Long interested in the college admission process and the cascading effect an admission decision could have on an individual, Gabriella Serebryanaya ’22, sought to investigate honors admission requirements at private universities, and determine the vitality of particular admission decisions on longer-term success. Her professor and mentor, Dyson Associate Professor of Economics Anna Shostya, PhD, thought the topic would make an ideal academic research study.

“Personally, I’ve always had an interest in the college admissions process,” said Serebryanaya. “In high school, it was interesting to see where people with such different personal and academic backgrounds ended up going to college, and how their lives played out from there.”

Shostya, in addition to investigating a fascinating academic question, views the research as a way to potentially improve admission standards at Pace’s own Pforzheimer Honors College, where she is currently a faculty resident.

“Last year, I became a faculty advisor at the Honors College, said Shostya. “I could really see that the Honors College offered this unique educational experience to undergraduate students, and a lot of them are really talented.”

Shostya also notes that at many honors colleges throughout the nation, standardized test scores are heavily-factored into admission criteria. Yet, with a little investigation, Shostya notes that the correlation between standardized tests and student outcomes remains unclear.

“Studies actually show really mixed results. These indicators may not be good predictors of student success.”

The duo is currently in the data accumulation phase of the research. To start, Serebryanaya conducted an academic review, exploring papers within the domain of the research subject and gathered relevant facts and citations. Next came data collection, which consists of a quantitative evaluation of students; their admissions criteria, undergraduate achievement, and post-graduate outcomes, while accounting for a number of demographic variables to ensure a more balanced sample size.

Shostya notes that previous metrics of success were often criteria such as college GPA, or the probability of a student graduating with honors. Shostya and Serebryanaya decided to take a more holistic approach.

“Instead of measuring just success as college GPA and whether or not students graduated with honors, we composed a composite index of success that would include bunch of different aspects of the students’ lives—internships, research presentations, campus involvement—things that defined a well-rounded student,” said Serebryanaya.

The duo decided to apply points to the various categories and sub-categories that were created, to create a unique and original methodology regarding student outcomes.

“We started brainstorming a solution—we came up with an innovative idea, I think, something that has not been done before,” said Shostya.

While there is still an ample amount of work to be done, Serebryanaya and Shostya are excited to continue their research and present their findings. In just a few weeks, they will have an opportunity to showcase their work thus far at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, where Serebryanaya also just so has happened to have recently landed a prestigious internship, which will start later in the academic year. In the spring, the team aims to present their entire research findings at the 2020 Dyson Society of Fellows Conference, Dyson's annual conference that showcases faculty-mentored scholarly research.

Shostya, in addition to finding the process of mentoring Serebryanaya highly rewarding, thinks this particular project represents one of the immense strengths of the Universitynoting that there aren't many institutions of higher learning that empower undergraduate students to seek and create new knowledge in the research domain quite like Pace.  

“We are very excited about this opportunity to show what Pace students are capable of doing in terms of research,” said Shostya.