Counseling students develop program evaluation for Hope Alive

HUNTINGTON, IN In Huntington University's graduate counseling program, students have the opportunity to apply knowledge gained in class and contribute to the community. Students in the research methods class were able to work with the residential program of Fort Wayne, Indiana's Hope Alive, Inc., through an assignment from Dr. Michael Cook, associate professor of counseling.

Hope Alive functions as a counseling center and group home for women with various mental health issues. The residential program offers women a place to stay, life coaching and counseling sessions, group activities, and opportunities to grow spiritually.

For their assignment, students performed an evaluation assessment of the residential program. They examined various pieces of literature offered by the program in order to determine what variables might contribute to recipients' thoughts regarding the program. After discovering the variables involved, each student set to work to find the research tool that would best assess the program's effectiveness.

Cook chose to have his students conduct research for Hope Alive because many of them are familiar with the organization, and some have completed counseling internships there.

"Hope Alive will be able to locate new funding sources by using the research my class conducted," Cook says. "I think the students appreciate how the work they were doing was actually being used by an organization one they were already quite familiar with."

Cook has received positive feedback from the students involved in this project. As they learn the ins and outs of the research program design process, they gain first-hand experience of how this research can enhance the service of an organization.

"My students are looking at real-life problems and applying methods of research to find a solution," Cook says.

For future classes, Cook says that students will be able to research a problem they have an interest in and then develop a mini proposal as if they were doing research to be published in a professional journal.

"I'm finding that this new approach is a rather effective way for them to learn," he says. "I think conducting research and understanding the process can ignite a passion for research within students once they see the practical benefits of their research."