March 04, 2010

Online survey seeks input from freshmen, seniors

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Are you a happy Saluki?

That’s what a Southern Illinois University Carbondale survey going on now is trying to find out. The online questionnaire asks freshman and senior students about their SIUC experience and involvement in an effort to determine how to make life, Saluki-style, even better.

The link to the National Survey of Student Engagement went out via e-mail on Feb. 15 and the 3,481 freshmen and 5,616 seniors have until April 5 to take part. There are two great reasons to participate in the survey, which is completely anonymous and takes about 10 or 15 minutes to complete. The answers are very important in helping a variety of campus programs and departments make improvements to better serve students. And, five lucky participants will win gift certificates to the campus bookstore.

“We really want to get a read on what their engagement is at SIUC and what their satisfaction level is. The more people who participate, the clearer view we’ll have and the more accurate we can make our interventions and thus, the better we will make life for students at SIUC,” said Mark Amos, associate professor of English. Amos and Julie Payne Kirchmeier, director of University Housing, are the co-directors of the new Saluki First Year initiative, one of the programs that will be using the survey results to make changes and improvements.

“We need a firm basis from which to make our programming decisions. Who better to provide that information than the students themselves,” Amos said. “We’re trying to find out from them about their attitudes and behaviors so we can build on what we offer and help meet their needs so they’ll be more successful at the University.”

The Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research is conducting the research study for SIUC. The Institutional Research and Studies office, the provost’s office and Saluki First Year are collaborating on the survey. It asks student about a variety of topics including their class work, homework, extra-curricular and off-campus involvement and their satisfaction with their experiences.

By comparing data to information collected from other universities of similar size and type and evaluating the answers themselves, various campus departments and organizations will be able to determine how to improve their programs and services to better meet student needs, officials said.

“This is really a survey that measures student engagement. Engaged and involved students are more likely to enjoy their university experience and stay in school. We’re looking for ways to improve, ways we can make the Saluki experience good for students and help them be successful at the University,” said Lawrence Schilling, director of Institutional Research and Studies. He said his office will analyze all of the data the survey gathers so other units on campus can best utilize it.

“At the moment, we don’t know who’s happy and who’s unhappy and why. We want this information to design student support programs to help provide the cultural, social and academic support students need as they transition to college and then complete their University education,” Amos said.

If you’re one of the students invited to participate in the survey and you haven’t gotten around to filling it out yet, don’t worry. It’s not too late to have a voice in improving SIUC while giving yourself a chance to win a gift certificate for books or Saluki merchandise. Unless students opt out of the online survey, they’ll get a total of five “SIUC Wants Your Feedback” e-mail reminders including the survey link.

“It really is all about our students and their success. This survey is a primary way in which our students can let us know what’s working and what isn’t, what they like and what they don’t like and what they need. We want to know the good and the bad so that, in the end, all of our students get the services, programs and assistance they need in order to achieve their goals,” Payne Kirchmeier said. “This is your chance, students. Tell us what you really think. If you do that, SIUC will make this an even better place for all students!”