This week, I was assigned to work on data collection and research for a new project. With hype in Congress about increasing the number of foreign STEM worker visas in the US, I began assisting an employee with research on the numbers of foreign students enrolled in STEM |science-technology-engineering-math| graduate programs in US institutions. I had originally thought this would be easy to finish in a couple days. To start, I focused on computer science, to get a general idea of a popular STEM program. I used the US News and World Report to find a list of all the US graduate schools that have a computer science program and divided them up into quartiles using ranks. Then next step was to find the total program class sizes each institution had. This was a bit difficult but through calls, e-mails, and the internet it was possible.
Now, for the nearly impossible part. You would thinking finding the number of foreign students at each of these graduate schools, and specifically in the computer science program would be simple. I mean, my boarding school and college both proudly display their numbers of international students all over the place. Nonetheless, I searched far and wide and even contacted the Institute of International Education, who pretty much has data on everything international and education related. Well, that was a fail and specific school data wasn’t found there. However I did learn other cool stuff like how many international students chose to study Math and Computer Science at U.S. institutions in the 2010/2011 and 2011/2012 academic year:
2011/2012 % of total: 9.3
% of change: 10.5
Upon calling the institutions, I found that I only got an approximate response 1/3 of the time. Unfortunately, I hit a dead end.
This was a good lesson in understanding that research takes patience and that the answers you are looking for cannot always be found. I will continue to search until I exhaust all my outlets, but I know now that there is a good possibility that I won’t reach a concrete conclusion.
This experience reminded me of my Foundations class at Dickinson. Prof. Hoefler, in helping us write up policy briefs, always told us to include a “status quo” option because some things may just be better as they are, and a different concrete conclusion may not be easily reached.
On a side note, I just bought J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy as one of my goals this summer was to read more again, and I’m super excited to start it!