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Quantifying Participation in Jewish College Life: Tulane Hillel Launches Innovative Evaluative Initiative

February 23, 2014 – Tulane Hillel has instituted new evaluative methods to gather data on student participation and degree of engagement. This information will help the organization better serve the Jewish student body at Tulane. The systematic approach is a significant change from the organization’s previous method, which relied on subjective observations by staff and anecdotal evidence. Targum Shlishi is helping to support this approach to quantitative measurement.

In order to develop the new quantitative data gathering system, Tulane Hillel partnered with Kevin Wilkins, founder and managing director of trepwise™, a company that helps entrepreneurs achieve sustainable growth. Why consult with a company that specializes in entrepreneurial start-ups? Rabbi Yonah Schiller, executive director of Tulane Hillel, views building the Jewish community at Tulane as an exercise in entrepreneurship, an “experiment” that requires Tulane Hillel to be flexible and open to new ideas and approaches in order to allow students to engage with the organization in a way they find comfortable.

“We are deeply impressed that Tulane Hillel is taking on this project to evaluate student participation. What is perhaps most heartening is that Tulane Hillel is already doing extremely well, with one of the highest percentages of engagement of Jewish students across all Hillels, on a campus that has a large population of Jewish students, a full one-third of the student body,” says Aryeh Rubin, director of Targum Shlishi. “This is an organization that is in no way hurting for constituents. Tulane Hillel is headquartered in a state-of-the-art new Center for Jewish Life, and attracts hundreds of students daily. This evaluative initiative signals that an already thriving organization wants to get to an even higher level, which is inspiring.”

Tulane Hillel’s ultimate goal is to engage the university’s entire Jewish student body. In working towards one hundred percent participation, the organization seeks to provide a range of diverse and dynamic opportunities for the students.

“We are modeling a new type of Jewish community that students feel inspired to be part of: a community where they develop life-time friends, a sense of accomplishment in a Jewish context, and a better understanding of the power of Jewish identity,” says Schiller.

Wilkins notes that in any rapidly growing organization such as Tulane Hillel, there is a need for structure and measurement. This helps the organization know what it is doing right, in the eyes of its constituents, and where there is room for improvement.

The evaluative process—which includes data capture, data management, and data analysis, is viewed as essential to help Hillel achieve its goal of engaging the full Jewish student body at Tulane.

About Targum Shlishi

Targum Shlishi is dedicated to providing a range of creative solutions to problems facing Jewry today. Premised on the conviction that dynamic change and adaptation have historically been crucial to a vibrant and relevant Judaism and to the survival of its people, Targum Shlishi’s initiatives are designed to stimulate the development of new ideas and innovative strategies that will enable Jewish life, its culture, and its traditions to continue to flourish. For more information on the foundation, visit its website at www.targumshlishi.org.

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