University holds third survey on participation

Among the many e-mails sent to students from the University on any given day, one e-mail put a new iPod Touch into the hands of senior Rebecca Katz. Rebecca won the iPod after having her name selected from participants who completed The National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) online. Last month, University President Daniel Fogel sent an e-mail to UVM freshmen and seniors requesting their participation in the survey, which is used to look at students’ experiences at their colleges and universities. The survey looks at factors of student life such as activities outside of class, advising and levels of academic challenge. The NSSE was first used in 1999 as a response to the US News and World Report: America’s Best Colleges. Institutions were frustrated with the ranking system used by these types of reports and sought a new way to evaluate colleges and universities. UVM first started using this survey in 2002 and has since continued in three-year cycles.This year’s survey will mark the third year UVM has participated. The NSSE looks more at students’ overall experiences and “outputs” of education rather that just “inputs” such as SAT scores and expenditures per student, UVM’s Director of Institutional Studies, Fred Curran, said. University officials use the NSSE as a way to gain insight into how students feel about their experiences at UVM, as a way to evaluate trends over time and as a way to see where more improvements need to be made. The survey also allows the participating schools the chance to see how they com?pare with similar type institutions. Curran said that the survey has “proven to be a very useful instrument” for UVM.Due to the fact that there has recently been more pres?sure put on colleges to show the outcomes of students’ educations, the NSSE results are taken very seriously by UVM.The 2002 survey revealed that UVM students did not at?tend campus events, such as special speakers and sporting and cultural events, in the same numbers as students of similar institutions. Because of these results, more money and efforts were put into on-campus activities such as lecture series, as well as the practice of setting aside sporting event tickets just for students. These efforts paid off, as the 2005 survey showed a significant increase in the number of students who felt as though UVM put an emphasis on campus events. One of the biggest concerns from the 2005 survey was that UVM students were significantly less likely to have “serious conversations with students of a different race or ethnicity” than respondents at similar institutions, although these numbers did increase since 2002. “UVM is really focused on this” and the promotion of diversity remains an “institutional commitment,” Associate Director of University Communications, Jeff Wakefield, said. Wakefield also emphasizes the point that this survey is unquestionably vital in creating goals for the University and is used in making sure those goals are met. A last reminder to complete the survey was sent to students on March 26. There is still another round of prizes to be given away, including a Wii System, a $200 JetBlue gift card and a $100 City Market Gift Certificate. Students interested in completing the survey have until June 1 to do so and should look for an e-mail titled “This is the last chance to give UVM your feedback.” Results from this year’s survey will not be available until late August.