January 24, 2011


B. Student Experience in a Research University (SERU).

Vice Provost Gretchen Ritter introduced Dr. Gale Stuart (director of assessment, Division of Student Affairs) to the Faculty Council. The vice provost said Dr. Stuart’s presentation pertained to a survey, Student Experience at Research Universities (SERU), which was piloted at UT Austin last year and is being conducted this year. She said many peer institutions to UT Austin, including the University of California at Berkeley, University of Michigan, and University of Florida, are conducting the same survey in order to determine how prepared students are in meeting the academic challenges they face at research universities. The information will be used to help research institutions provide improved support to help students achieve academic success.

After thanking Vice Provost Ritter, Dr. Stuart said she was pleased to share information about her yearlong involvement thus far with the survey. The handout distributed to Council members and the PowerPoint sides used by Dr. Stuart in her presentation are included in Appendix C. She first discussed the background regarding the development of the survey and invitation to other research institutions to utilize the instrument by the Center for Studies in Higher Education at UC Berkeley. She explained that the focus of SERU was the understanding of student experiences at large institutions and how this survey differed from the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), which is a standard research instrument widely used in colleges across the United States. She said the NSSE is designed, administered, and analyzed for colleges of about 8,000 students and does not include questions about the experiences encountered by students at larger, more research-oriented campuses. She said the SERU survey utilizes a more comprehensive, longer instrument than the NSSE and has provided extensive feedback to the University of California and other consortium institutions. She emphasized that the SERU survey is designed to provide an actual census at the outset with all students invited to participate rather than based initially on a sampling of undergraduates. In addition, the SERU survey is designed as a longitudinal study, which allows individual students to be followed over the entire duration of their time at the university, assuming they continue to participate.

Dr. Stuart presented a few of the findings from the UT Austin pilot study conducted last year, which is summarized in Appendix C for your review. She said she had worked closely with Ms. Lauren Ratliff, who was also present at the Council meeting to help respond to any specific data inquiries. She said Ms. Ratliff had done much of the analysis of data and presentation of results in PDF tables about student time allocation, academic and personal development, etc. Dr. Stuart reported that the results of the pilot study could be accessed for the overall University as well as by colleges/schools, and interested faculty and administrators at the following URL: http://wwwtest.utexas.edu/seru/tool/index.html. However, she cautioned that participation in some units had been too low to provide good comparison data. She said the survey was quite comprehensive and included 809 variables. The project here at UT Austin was a collaborative effort and had received strong support from the following administrative offices: president, provost, student affairs, and dean of students.

Dr. Stuart said that the success of this year’s survey, which will be launched on February 1, 2011, with plans for data collection to end by Spring Break if at all possible, depended on achieving a high student response rate. She said this was extremely critical in order to provide information to individual programs across campus. She asked the Council members for their help in talking to students about the importance of their participating in the survey and in informing their colleagues about the project and its usefulness to the University and its programmatic units. She also asked the Council members to provide feedback if they had ideas about how to encourage participation, to ask questions if they needed additional information about the project, and/or to notify her if they became aware of any problems with the survey or its administration that needed to be addressed.

Professor Douglas Bruster (English) said it would be helpful for faculty to receive a notice about the survey to show their classes a few days before the students were informed that the survey was actually underway. He added this would be a way for the faculty to let the students know about the survey, its approaching launch date, and the importance of their participating. Dr. Stuart said the idea was a very good one, and she would try to implement it. When she asked if there were a faculty listserv that she could use, Chair Neikirk volunteered that the Council office could help. Dr. Stuart said the subject lines would be something like the following: “We need your help,” “We want to hear your voice,” “Your opinion matters,” “Share what you know with Bevo.” She asked if there were any further questions or comments. When there were none, Dr. Stuart said, “Thank you.”

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