Last week I wrote about the way that our seniors’ responses to the question “Who recommended the Community Engagement Center to you?” might reflect the values that we communicate through out actions even if they aren’t necessarily the values that we believe we have embraced. At the end of my post I promised to dig deeper into our senior survey to better understand the students who said that no one recommended the Community Engagement Center to them. During the past several days my students and I have been peeling the data back in all kinds of ways. Based on prior findings on students’ experiences with major advising and its connection to post-graduate planning, we thought that we might be able to identify some pattern in the data that would give us some big answers. So we laid out a couple of hypotheses to test for the students who said no one recommended the CEC to them. We thought:
- These students would be more likely to intend to go to graduate school
- These students would be more likely to major in a humanities discipline
- These students would be less involved in co-curricular activities
- These students would be generally less engaged in their college experience
Here is what we found.
First, these students weren’t more likely to be headed to graduate school. This hypothesis was based on an earlier finding that students who intended to go to grad school were more likely to work with a professor to guide them through the application process while students planning to get a full time job would be referred to Career Services. But our students were distributed across the post-graduate plan options of grad school and work just like everyone else. So this first hypothesis was a total bust.
Genius IR Shop : 0 – Data : 1
Second, these students were not significantly more likely to major in humanities disciplines. This hypothesis evolved from some earlier conversations with students that suggested less of a natural connection between the career center and the more “pure” liberal arts disciplines. In the end, while some of the humanities disciplines did seem to appear slightly more often than most pre-professional degrees, there were plenty of students from the natural and physical sciences who also said no one recommended the CEC to them. So even though there was an initial glimmer of possibility, the reality is that this second hypothesis was also a flop.
(Aspiring to be but clearly not yet) Genius IR Shop : 0 – Data : 2
Third, we couldn’t find much in our data to support our assertion that these students were less involved in co-curricular activities. Our originating hypothesis was based on the idea that students who are less social might not end up in situations where the CEC would be recommended as often. Although these students found slightly fewer student groups that matched their interests, they were still involved in at least one student organizations and clubs as often as other students. Despite looking at this data through the most friendly lens, we just couldn’t say that this group of students’ responses was a function of their lack of co-curricular involvement.
(Nothing but a bumbling shadow of a) Genius IR Shop : 0 – Data : 3
At this point in the story, you ought to suspect some stress on my part. It’s not all that much fun to be wrong repeatedly. Furthermore, our last hypothesis about a general passivity is qualitatively more difficult to test than simply looking at differences across one particular question. Nonetheless, my minions and I soldiered on. We looked across all of the questions on the senior survey, identifying significant differences and looking for trends. Thankfully, we found a host of evidence to support our last hunch.
We found that the students who said no one recommended the CEC to them were less plugged in to their college experience across the board. Their responses to every one of the advising questions were significantly lower, their responses to many of the co-curricular experiences questions were significantly lower, and their responses to a number of curricular experience questions both in the major and across the curriculum were significantly lower.
(Salvaging the crumbling remains of my) Genius IR Shop : 1 – Data : 3
What jumps out to me as a result of this exercise is the importance of our informal educational efforts. There will always be a subset of students who simply, magically do the things we hope they would do, take the initiative to ask the next question, and get themselves ahead of the curve simply because they are the cream of our crop. However, there will always be a subset of students who stumble out of the gate, drift passively into the fog, and avoid choices simply because they are . . . human. Because we have many cream of the crop types, its all too easy to miss those who suffer from being, well, normal. So to me, this is why we must take the initiative to ask students if they’ve done the things that might seem completely obvious to us, like recommending to them that they should check out the services at the CEC early in their college career – and tell them exactly why this can matter in the broader scheme of their life’s journey. If we want all of our students – no matter if they are already perfectly formed adults or if they are bumbling, stumbling, grumbling prepubescents masquerading as undergraduates on the cusp of adulthood – to wring every developmental drop out of their college learning experience, then we have to take on a proactive role to ensure that no one gets left out in the cold, especially those who are more susceptible to float off with the current du jour.
Remember, this study isn’t about who did and did not use the CEC. The question we examined asks “who recommended the CEC to you.” We asked the question this way specifically to give us feedback on the nature of the experience we are delivering to our students – not just to find out what our students did. And as it turns out, the degree to which we are proactive educators may be one of the most crucial ways in which we might purposefully guide our more passive students. Not rocket science? Maybe. Worth remembering as we bustle through our own madcap world? Absolutely.
Make it a good day,