Student Profile: Melissa Gordon Wolf explores validity (and takes on Grad Slam)

Tuesday, April 16, 2019
Melissa Gordon Wolf

This week we caught up with Melissa Gordon Wolf, as we sort of had to--she's headed to the Finals for the 2019 UCSB Grad Slam this Friday, April 19 from 3-4 pm in Corwin Pavilion! Melissa  is a doctoral student in the Department of Education focusing on quantitative research methods under the guidance of Dr. Andrew Maul.

GGSE: What's your undergraduate degree and where did you get it?

Gordon Wolf: My undergraduate degree is from the University of Delaware. I majored in Communications, and minored in Psychology, Philosophy, and Anthropology. It sounds like a lot, but the sum of all of those credits was probably still less than the requirements for an Engineering degree!

GGSE: What drew you to measurement of ontologically subjective attributes as your field of study?

Gordon Wolf: I didn't necessarily come here with the intention of studying validation and ontology; I was broadly interested in the application of statistics to the social sciences. However, having the opportunity to work with my advisor, Andy Maul, and his other two graduate students, Anthony Clairmont and Danny Katz, has been really influential for me in that regard. I've also been lucky enough to work on two grants about subjective attributes: the Social Emotional Health Survey with Mike Furlong, Karen Nylund-Gibson, and Erin Dowdy, and the Inventory of Non-Ordinary Experiences (INOE), with Ann Taves. When I first learned about validity during my first graduate degree, it seemed like a settled issue. Andy essentially gave me permission to think outside the box and be more critical of validation processes and the concept of validity. I think I'm interested in subjective attributes and self report surveys because of how personal it is to all of us; we all want to be heard and to be accurately identified, and that's hard to do if surveys aren't culturally sensitive and responsive to the population of interest.

GGSE: You are about to compete in the UCSB Grad Slam Finals. Why did you decide to take part and what's the process been like so far?

Gordon Wolf: I didn't really know what I was getting into with Grad Slam; I didn't even know prizes were awarded. It just seemed like something that everyone cared about, and I felt like I had a topic that most people could relate to, so I went for it! I was really excited to share my work on a method I developed with my colleagues on the INOE grant called "Response Process Evaluation," and this seemed like a great platform to share that work. It's been a great experience so far. Everyone is so friendly and supportive, and they're all studying amazing, meaningful, complex topics.  

GGSE: What do you hope to do after earning your Ph.D.?

Gordon Wolf: Something related to the design, validation, and analysis of self report surveys. I'm not sure what sector that will be in; I just want to be able to work on the topics I'm passionate about.

GGSE: In your student profile on the website, you say you can often be found at Santa Barbara's off-leash dog beach. What do you like about this spot?

Gordon Wolf: The dogs. The beach is pretty great, too!