Undergraduate students lend their voices to shaping CSU’s student experience

Editor’s note: Heather Novak, director of Institutional Research, Planning and Effectiveness, wrote this guest column for SOURCE.

Did you know that students at CSU engage in high-quality educational activities at higher levels than students at peer institutions do? Our students participate more in learning communities, undergraduate research, internships, and experiential course work than their peers, which enriches their student experiences both inside and outside of the classroom. We measure this kind of success via the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE).  These data not only help us understand how amazing our undergraduate students are, but also gives them a voice in how we serve them. The survey supports our work at every level and contributes to our data-informed approaches to Student Success Initiatives, the upcoming University Accreditation, and our program review process.

The NSSE helps describe students’ experiences on campus from their perspective and measures the skills they gain here. These data can inform discussions on campus that influence improvement efforts and give a critical perspective to faculty, staff, and administrators. NSSE data have informed advising, tutoring, undergraduate research, and learning community development at CSU in past years. CSU has also included additional survey questions specific to our context on advising to help academic success coordinators provide even better service and mentorship to students.

Active learning and student engagement is positively correlated with degree completion

Students who are actively learning and engaged tend to be retained in school more often and, therefore, complete their degrees more often than other students. The NSSE indirectly measures active learning and engagement, which helps CSU evaluate and improve the campus environment and academic curriculum to support student retention and graduation.

We have a great history with the NSSE at CSU. Our typical response rates exceed our peer groups and our respondents reflect the demographics of our student body. Together, these two indicators provide us with large, demographically representative samples to support discussions at the unit level among specific populations. The office of Institutional Research, Planning and Effectiveness provides reports in interactive formats to assist units with program review and support Academic Master Planning efforts.

NSSE data provide an outlet for us to benchmark against peer institutions and to evaluate internally to find where differences exist between groups of students. For example, in the last survey, nearly 77% of our first years and 72% of our seniors reported feeling that CSU emphasizes demonstrating a commitment to diversity. These rates are significantly higher than students at peer institutions (for reference the rate for first year students in the peer group is more like 68% and seniors are more like 66%).

NSSE data are especially powerful because we do not have to stop at that comparison and be satisfied (because it is a higher rate compared to peers) that 77% of seniors at CSU think we demonstrate a commitment to diversity. Among seniors that identify as a race other than white or international, only 64% feel that CSU demonstrates a commitment to diversity. Our disaggregated results clearly indicate populations that have differing opinions on our institutional emphasis for demonstrating our values and commitments and knowing these differences exist can inform how we can engage in continuous improvement as we strive to create positive experiences for all in our campus community. We also include additional questions on inclusiveness and engagement with diversity on CSU’s NSSE survey.

This spring, we will once again look to our students to help us understand their experiences through the NSSE. This survey is only conducted once every three or four years so student participation is a rare and extremely important opportunity. Participation is incentivized by offering the chance to win one of five 9th generation 256GB iPad tablets.

As an institution, we are committed to continuous improvement, especially as it relates to student success and learning. Data collected from students, coupled with this philosophical commitment creates powerful combination to strategically inform the work we do on behalf of the outstanding undergraduates who give us the privilege of overseeing their learning and student experiences

Please encourage the eligible students you teach and work with to complete the NSSE survey so we can offer our best support to students as  they  do all the amazing things they are destined to do. Institutional Research will be keeping campus updated on our participation rates by providing rates by college, residence hall, and other categories as requested. And in Fall 2022, we will be excited to support campus through sharing the results.

Get involved

The National Student Survey on Student Engagement will be open to Senior and Freshman-level students via RAMweb and email from March 1 to April 10. Please encourage students to participate so that we can continue to provide tremendous educational experiences that lead to their success. Participants are eligible to win one of five ninth Generation iPads.