Centre College’s 2014 NSSE results once again exceed national averages

Posted by Centre News in Academics, Centre In The News, News, Rankings 19 Dec 2014

Alzheimer's research stock PSIf feedback from current students is an ideal indicator of institutional success, then the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) should be a go-to source for those on the college search. Its results, however, often get lost in the shuffle of magazine rankings and guidebooks.

Produced by the Center for Postsecondary Research at Indiana University, NSSE is now in its 14th year. The 2014 survey involves 86 questions divided into 19 sections. Sets of items are then grouped into 10 engagement indicators that follow four themes: academic challenge, learning with peers, experiences with faculty and campus environment. Students are surveyed in their first year and as seniors.

In addition, NSSE recently added a focus on high-impact practices that often occur outside of the classroom but complement the educational experience. These address student satisfaction with learning communities, service-learning, research with faculty, internships or field experiences, study abroad and culminating senior experiences.

Prospective students considering Centre College for their four-year educational journey who are willing to wade through the data will find that current students rate their experiences very highly, exceeding national averages in the majority of categories NSSE examines.

Above all, 94 percent of first-year students rated their satisfaction with Centre at “excellent” or “good” and seniors rated their satisfaction at 96 percent.

According to Vice President for Academic Affairs Stephanie Fabritius, no other ranking or guidebook offers the depth of analysis for prospective students and their families found in NSSE.

“Centre is a place that prizes great teaching,” she says, “and the 2014 NSSE results once again confirm that Centre faculty offer a deep and engaging educational experience not just in the classroom but also beyond it through the many learning opportunities we offer. Our professors end up being mentors as well as teachers, preparing their students for meaningful lives after graduation.”

The 2014 NSSE report makes clear that Centre is not for the faint of heart. Students work very hard, spending an average 20 hours per week preparing for class. By senior year, students report spending an average 12 hours per week reading for class.

Seniors also reported personal development in key areas such as thinking critically and analytically (98 percent responded “very much” or “quite a bit”), speaking clearly and effectively (93 percent), writing clearly and effectively (92 percent) and working effectively with others (86 percent).

Additional areas ranked highly by seniors include being an informed and active citizen, developing or clarifying a personal code of values and ethics, understanding people of other backgrounds, solving complex real-world problems and analyzing numerical and statistical information.

A high level of campus involvement is also evident, with 93 percent of students reporting active participation in co-curricular activities such as student organizations and student government, campus publications, Greek life or athletics.

Under the high-impact practices (HIP) area, participation in a study abroad program occurred at a far higher rate than regional and national benchmarks, which is not surprising given Centre’s current #1 ranking for this by the Institute of International Education.

HIPs also include internships, collaborative research and community-based learning. The College’s commitment to all these areas also received high marks, with students often doing one or more.

Seventy-seven percent of students reported completing an internship, for instance, with an additional 7 percent planning to do so by graduation. Fifty-eight percent of students reported participating in a community-based learning course, an area of recent focus for the College supported by a $500,000 grant from the James Graham Brown Foundation of Louisville. Half of all students surveyed also reported collaborating with a faculty member on a research project or planning to do so before they graduate.

Another noteworthy area where students rated their Centre experience highly involves institutional emphasis on attending campus activities and events.

Many of these experiences take place in the College’s Norton Center for the Arts, which has hosted national and international artists from Alison Krauss and Union Station, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Lyle Lovett, to Yo-Yo Ma and the Vienna Philharmonic since its debut as a performing arts facility in 1973. The Norton Center has also hosted two vice president debates, in 2000 and 2012.

A convocation requirement also insures that students attend a minimum 12 events each year, often featuring speakers such as David Brooks of the New York Times, as well as current authors, artists, academics and other thinkers contributing to important conversations affecting the nation and the world.

For more information about the National Survey of Student Engagement, visit NSSE’s website.

Review the complete data from Centre’s 2014 NSSE Report.

by Michael Strysick

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