U lags behind in recent involvement survey

2008 National Survey of Student Engagement shows the U falling behind some Big Ten schools.

Results of the 2008 National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) show the University of Minnesota ranked below the 50th percentile in comparison to other 774 participating institutions in five categories of student involvement. The NSSE leaves it up to individual institutions to make their results public, Director Alexander McCormick said, but other Big Ten schools that released their results include the University of Michigan , Ohio State University , Indiana University , Purdue University , and Penn State University . The results of the five categories, which included level of academic challenge, active and collaborative learning, student-faculty interaction, enriching educational experience, and supportive campus environment, were each split into results for first-year students and seniors. In comparison to the other Big Ten schools who released their results, Minnesota ranked either fourth or last among the six schools in eight of the ten categories. The only relatively high area Minnesota scored was in the âÄúlevel of academic challenge,âÄù where it ranked third amongst first-year students, and second amongst seniors. Michigan placed first in both categories. According to the NSSE, âÄúlevel of academic challengeâÄù is measured by the intensity of course loads and how prepared students are for class. âÄúActive and collaborative learningâÄù is defined as asking questions in class and spurring discussion, as well as participating in group work. âÄúStudent-faculty interactionâÄù means students discuss grades and career plans with teachers outside of class. âÄúEnriching educational experienceâÄù is defined as participating in extracurricular activities like student government or Greek life. Finally, âÄúsupportive campus environmentâÄù is defined by the study as the general support system experienced by students at the institution. Michigan consistently ranked high in most categories. Malinda Matney , MichiganâÄôs senior resource associate for the Division of Student Affairs, credited MichiganâÄôs success to a variety of curriculums and a comprehensive first-year program in residence halls. Matney, who has been at Michigan for 13 years, said she believes student engagement comes from self-motivation. âÄúI have found that these students come here just really ready to challenge themselves and to challenge the status quo, and that they expect that from this institution,âÄù she said. At Minnesota, engagement means that students connect their own lives with their academic lives through things like talking with faculty and doing service learning âÄî and not dividing their lives with a time-consuming off-campus job, Laura Coffin Koch , associate vice provost for undergraduate education, said. Vice Provost for Student Affairs Jerry Rinehart said itâÄôs important for the University to establish an engagement baseline to compare with future surveys so it can track the effectiveness of its initiatives, like Welcome Week , an on-campus first year orientation program that debuted last fall. âÄúWe do care about student engagement,âÄù Rinehart said. âÄúYou measure those things you really care about.âÄù It was the first time the Twin Cities campus had participated in the study, but the Crookston, Morris and Duluth campuses have been involved in the survey since 2000 . McCormick said the NSSE was originated to help show the quality of the education at schools, as opposed to rankings by U.S. News and World Report . âÄúThe U.S. News rankings focus on reputation and resources,âÄù McCormick said. âÄúTheyâÄôre really virtually silent on what actually goes on in the classroom on the quality of the educational environment.âÄù The University has also signed up to participate in the 2009 NSSE. âÄîTiffany Smith contributed to this report