• Donald Tetto

For the sixth year in a row, students at Southwestern University have ranked above students at peer institutions – and significantly above the national average – when it comes to being engaged in their academic endeavors.

The findings come from the 2007 National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), which was sponsored by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and administered by the Indiana University Center for Survey Research.

The NSSE is given annually to first-year students and seniors. This is the sixth year that Southwestern has participated in the study. Forty-five percent of eligible Southwestern students responded to the 2007 survey. Nationwide, about 298,000 students from 587 four-year colleges and universities participated in the survey.

The survey measures five areas that are associated with high levels of learning and development: level of academic challenge, active and collaborative learning, student-faculty interaction, enriching educational experiences, and supportive campus environment.

Among both first-year students and seniors, Southwestern was in the top 10 percent of schools nationally in the areas of student-faculty interaction and enriching educational experiences. It also ranked in the top 10 percent in level of academic challenge, an increase since the 2006 survey was released. Southwestern continues to rank above its peer groups in the other areas as well.

The section on student-faculty interaction asks students questions such as whether they have discussed ideas from their classes with faculty members outside of class, worked with faculty members on research projects outside of class or talked about career plans with a faculty member or advisor.

The section on enriching educational experiences asks students whether they have participated in complementary learning opportunities such as co-curricular activities, internships, community service or volunteer work, study abroad or a senior capstone project.

The section on level of academic challenge asks students about their academic workload, as well as asking questions about how often they are asked to analyze or synthesize information, make judgments about the validity of information, or apply theory or concepts to practical problems.

“The survey gives us an idea of how well we are doing from the students’ perspective,” said Alicia Betsinger, director of institutional research. “Overall, Southwestern scores consistently high on the NSSE.”

The NSSE also is one of several new instruments that can help consumers differentiate between schools. For the first time this year, USA Today compiled NSSE results from 257 colleges and universities that were willing to share them. Southwestern was among these institutions, and the results can be found at

For the results of other surveys taken by Southwestern students, visit http://www.southwestern.edu/planning/IRHome/Surveys_Reports/Students/studentsurveys.html.

For more information on the National Survey of Student Engagement, visit www.nsse.iub.edu.


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