Survey shows Ozarks excels in student engagement

Release Date: 11/10/2009

Clarksville, Ark. --- Ninety-five percent of seniors would choose University of the Ozarks again if they could start their college career over, according to the 2009 National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), a national survey designed to measure and encourage the teaching practices and campus environment that best enhance student learning.

Released on Nov 9, NSSE (pronounced "Nessie") surveyed 360,000 randomly selected first-year and senior students at 617 four-year colleges and universities across the nation. The annual survey, conducted by the Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research, provides comparative standards for determining how effectively colleges are contributing to learning. Five benchmarks are measured: 1) level of academic challenge; 2) active and collaborative learning; 3) student-faculty interaction; 4) enriching educational experiences; and 5) supportive campus environment.

For the ninth consecutive year, Ozarks scored above both the national averages for all colleges and universities and the averages in its peer group --- baccalaureate-diverse institutions --- in all five categories for both first-year students and seniors

Ozarks scored particularly well in several areas, including senior student satisfaction and first-year student advising. In student satisfaction, 95 percent of seniors said they would choose Ozarks again, compared to a national average of 82 percent. In advising for first-year students, 99 percent of Ozarks students rated the quality of their advising as good or excellent, compared to a national average of 78 percent. U of O was praised for the quality of its advising in an article on the 2009 NSSE report by USA Today earlier this week.

"I am very pleased with the NSSE results again this year," said Ozarks President Dr. Rick Niece. "Two areas that really stand out are a great source of pride for us. Ninety-five percent of our students would choose Ozarks again. That says a great deal about the quality of their educational experience and the personal satisfaction they have received at Ozarks. Second, having 99 percent of our freshmen express such high satisfaction for advising during their first year is a tremendous tribute to our faculty who mentor and guide students during the most critical time of their college education."

Ozarks also stood out in several other categories. In a question asking first-year students whether their college provides support for them to succeed academically, 94 percent of Ozarks students said yes, compared to 77 percent nationally. Also, 80 percent of Ozarks seniors have participated in community service or volunteer work, compared to 60 percent nationally.            

Ozarks not only excelled in first-year advising, but in advising seniors as well. Ninety-five percent of Ozarks seniors said they talk to an advisor or faculty member about career plans, compared to 83 percent nationally.            

"Seniors most certainly need strong advising and mentoring," said Dr. Elissa Heil, the assistant academic dean and a professor of English and Spanish. "They’re getting ready to graduate, and their majors and minors have to be all settled, so there is some technical work that needs to be accomplished. But more importantly, this is a group that needs the most advice before leaving the safe confines of the university. Although this is an exciting time for students, it's a daunting time, one fraught with fears, apprehension, and perhaps naive preconceptions about the career world or about graduate school. The faculty advisors, whom these students have gotten to know fairly well, are often the ones they trust to discuss these life-changing possibilities."

Studies have shown that student engagement is a strong predictor of how well a student learns. The more engaged students are in college, the more likely they are to develop the habits that are keys to success after college, including participation in civic affairs.

More information on the 2009 NSSE report can be found at www.nsse.iub.edu.