EdConnect Student Spotlight: Shivani Kochhar ’14

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Name: Shivani Kochhar
Class year: 2014
Major: Economics and Sociology
Summer work: Contractor for the National Center for Education Statistics at the American Institutes for Research

I became interested in education because of several classes I took at Wesleyan, particularly Schooling and Scarcity and the Sociology of Education. In particular, I am interested in combining my interest in education with my interest in statistics to work in education research in the future.

This summer, I applied to the Joint Program in Survey Methodology Junior Fellows program, which is a great opportunity for those interested in statistics and potentially pursuing a Master’s or Ph.D. Once you are accepted to the fellowship, you are placed at an internship at a federal statistical agency.  I’m working at the American Institutes for Research (AIR) as a contractor for the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), which means I get to experience work both at AIR and NCES. AIR is a private research organization with a variety of program areas, such as education and international development. NCES is part of the Department of Education and the branch of the federal statistical system that collects and disseminates data dealing with education both in the U.S. and internationally.

Primarily, I am working with the National Household Education Survey (NHES), which is actually a group of questionnaires administered at the household level to provide descriptive information about family’s opinions of education in the U.S. My team is working on redesigning an NHES questionnaire on after-school activities, and I am currently using 2012 NHES data to create a descriptive report looking at school choice (traditional public vs. charter school, did the student choose the public school they currently attend, etc.) by various student and family demographic characteristics.

Through my work this summer, I have been exposed to the field of survey methodology, which includes designing samples from the population and constructing questionnaires. Essentially, education research requires using existing data datasets to answer research questions, while survey methodology provides the background that is necessary to create these datasets. While I am not sure if this field is for me, I’m very glad that through my work this summer, I became more aware of the time and work that goes into designing samples and surveys that eventually become data sets used by researchers to influence policy decisions.

Student Spotlight is a new feature on EdConnect where we highlight current Wesleyan students who are doing work in education over the summer. If you are a current Wes student doing something cool in education this summer and want to be featured on EdConnect, email us at wes.edconnect@gmail.com!