The Sage Project: Evaluating the Program

As part of a multi-year study, my research team at SDSU evaluated the Sage Project by identifying crucial areas for program improvement.

Impact of Our Work

Our research significantly influenced the Sage Project by shedding light on areas of improvement critical for its continued success. Specifically, our findings have been instrumental in shaping recommendations to enhance the program’s communication, project timing, and alignment with objectives.

The Design Problem and Our Approach

The need for UX research within the Sage Project arose from a clear design problem – understanding the experiences of students, faculty, and community partners to identify challenges and opportunities for refinement. Our approach involved a comprehensive study that combined ethnographic observations and semi-structured interviews, offering a holistic view of the project’s dynamics.

Learning from Previous Research

Our research built upon prior studies in 2013 that identified issues with communication, organization, and time management within the Sage Project. We also drew from a 2019 UK-based co-learning project focusing on sustainability and hands-on experience, as well as a 2019 study exploring universities’ contributions to sustainable development goals (SDGs) through student-faculty collaborations. These prior studies emphasized the criticality of effective project implementation and coordination, which guided our research approach.

Our Research Process

Our research process was multi-faceted. We conducted interviews with SDSU faculty, Sage Project staff, and SDSU students. The objective was to gain insights into their experiences, perspectives, and challenges regarding Sage Projects. Ethical guidelines were followed, and informed consent was obtained from all participants. The aim was to:

For SDSU Faculty:

  • Understand their project experiences and the impact on students.
  • Examine their communication with local communities and project organization.

For Sage Project Staff:

  • Evaluate expectations, project organization, communication practices, and challenges.
  • Examine alignment of student outcomes with community expectations and post-project follow-up work.

For SDSU Students:

  • Explore teamwork, communication, and time management experiences.
  • Analyze the practical application of acquired skills and their overall impact.

Artifacts Produced Along the Way

Throughout our research, we generated several key documents:
  • Comprehensive interview transcripts detailing the experiences and opinions of faculty, Sage staff, and students.
  • Observational notes from ethnographic observations in Journalism 434, highlighting the role of professor-student relationships.
  • A literature review summarizing relevant prior studies and their implications for our research.
  • A final document that includes recommendations for enhancing the Sage Project’s effectiveness, focusing on communication, project timing, and alignment with objectives.
  • A slide deck of research findings presented to the Sage organizers and other research teams.

Key Learnings

Our research yielded invaluable insights, some of which include:

  • The significance of faculty-student relationships in shaping students’ interactions with community partners. The need for clearer project guidelines and better communication between city partners, Sage, professors, and students. The pressure students feel due to tight project timelines and a lack of transparency. The strong appreciation for opportunities to work on projects addressing sustainability issues within local communities.

Leadership Growth

My most significant accomplishment in our research team was fostering a culture of trust and unity. Initially hesitant about being a leader, I learned the importance of open communication, avoiding assumptions, and confidently supporting the team. Going forward, I aim to maintain composure under pressure, promote transparency, and avoid unwarranted assumptions. This experience reinforced my belief in trusting the team’s capabilities when given the chance to shine.


Our research has directly impacted the Sage Project by providing a roadmap for enhancing its effectiveness. Through a thorough examination of the program’s dynamics, we’ve identified areas for improvement and proposed concrete recommendations. This work is instrumental in shaping the future of the Sage Project at San Diego State University, focusing on improved communication, project timing, and alignment with objectives.
Read the Final Report:

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