CLEMSON, SC – September 15, 2009 – Seniors and freshmen at Clemson University say they would choose Clemson again if given the opportunity to start their college educations over.
According to the 2009 National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), 91 percent of seniors report they would choose Clemson again, compared to 88 percent at Clemson’s peer institutions. Ninety-three percent of the freshman would choose Clemson again, compared to 92 percent at peer schools.
Clemson’s peer institutions include Auburn University, Boston College, Iowa State, Miami University-Oxford, North Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, Texas A&M and the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.
One of the biggest improvements in the six years Clemson has voluntarily participated in the NSSE survey is in the supportive campus environment.
“We are able to see positive trends among freshmen and seniors with six years of data on Clemson and comparisons with our peers,” said Debra Jackson, Clemson’s vice provost and assistant to the president. “In 2004, 61 percent of seniors reported a supportive campus environment. This year that number is 66 percent.”
Jackson said the increase is due to various programs put in place as well as more students taking advantage of those opportunities that include the Academic Success Center, living-learning communities, Creative Inquiry and increased student/faculty interaction.
When asked to evaluate their entire educational experiences at Clemson, 95 percent of freshmen responded excellent/good, compared to 91 percent at peer institutions; and 94 percent of Clemson seniors evaluated their entire educational experiences as excellent/good.
“Clemson is doing many things well based on the NSSE results,” Jackson said.
Student Affairs began targeting opportunities for improvement based on NSSE results about three years ago, according to Clemson Vice President for Student Affairs Gail DiSabatino. Two areas identified for special attention were students’ level of interaction with people who are different from themselves and students’ character development.
“We recognized that these two areas are critical to Clemson’s success in producing graduates who are ready to be ethical leaders and productive global citizens,” said DiSabatino.
To address the challenge of interacting across differences, DiSabatino described Clemson’s expanded diversity education efforts, increased outreach to faculty, discussions following insensitive incidents and the “One Clemson” program for all incoming students that promotes mutual respect.
In 2006, 90 percent of Clemson freshmen NSSE respondents reported having serious conversations with students different from themselves. In 2009, that number improved to 92 percent for Clemson.
Responding to the question, “To what extent does your institution encourage contact among students from different economic, social, and racial or ethnic backgrounds?” 94 percent of freshmen in 2009 said that Clemson does a good job, compared to 85 percent in 2006. That compares to 91 percent of freshmen at peer institutions responding positively in 2009 and 83 percent in 2006.
“Our other focus is on helping students develop a personal code of values and ethics,” said DiSabatino. “We have taken a new approach to student conduct in attempting to be more proactive in educating students about how to be good community citizens. We have also partnered with student leaders to promote the core values of integrity, honesty and respect during new student orientation programs and throughout the year.
The National Survey of Student Engagement
The National Survey of Student Engagement obtains, on an annual basis, information from hundreds of four-year colleges and universities nationwide about student participation in programs and activities that institutions provide for their learning and personal development. The results provide an estimate of how undergraduates spend their time and what they gain from attending college. Survey items on The National Survey of Student Engagement represent empirically confirmed good practices in undergraduate education. That is, they reflect behaviors by students and institutions that are associated with desired outcomes of college. For more information about NSSE, go to http://nsse.iub.edu/.