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“Tell Us What You Really Think”

Freshmen, seniors asked to take national survey assessing BU


Got 15 minutes to take a survey that will earn you cash and improve BU?

University officials hope the answer is yes. From today through April 2, freshmen and seniors are being asked to complete the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), which assesses students’ participation in academic and extracurricular life at participating universities across the country.

“We really do use this information, so it’s not just something we do because we need to check off a box,” says Laurie Pohl, vice president for enrollment and student affairs. “We use the information from student satisfaction surveys to help us provide better service and think about the quality of the student experience.”

More than 600 four-year colleges and universities and 370,000 students participated in the NSSE last year, including roughly one third of institutions affiliated with the Association of American Universities, which BU belongs to. Survey results “provide an estimate of how undergraduates spend their time and what they gain from attending college,” according to the NSSE website, and tell participating colleges and universities the areas they are performing well in and the ones where they are not meeting students’ expectations.

Boston University last took part in the NSSE survey in 2001 and has since commissioned other surveys in 2004 and 2008 and conducted focus groups to assess students’ satisfaction. This time around, Pohl says it was time to revisit the NSSE. Her office has launched an internal advertising campaign to promote the survey, with posters around campus and on the BU Shuttle urging students to “Tell Us What You Really Think.”

“People want to feel like they’ve been heard, and we want to make sure they have a chance to do that,” says Daryl Healea (STH’01, SED’10), Residence Life associate director for student and staff development and one of the survey organizers.

Freshmen and seniors will be told about the NSSE survey and invited to participate through their University email. Pohl says the two classes, representing nearly 7,900 students, were chosen because younger Terriers could potentially benefit from the changes suggested by their responses, while older Terriers could comment on those aspects of their education they think added value to their time here. Responses from the two groups will be compared, she says, “to capture the beginning and end of the experience” at BU.

The University wants to ensure that “there’s truth in our advertising,” Pohl says, and that students’ expectations when they enroll match what they find once they arrive on campus. For many undergraduates, she says, that means having a top-notch faculty and a challenging and enriching curriculum.

The survey is in bullet-point format and takes about 15 minutes to complete. Questions range from academic and extracurricular participation to the quality of faculty and access to mentoring and learning resources.

Students who complete the survey will automatically receive $5 in convenience points loaded onto their Terrier Card. That means a day’s lunch, laundry, or latte is on BU.

The University will receive NSSE results in May, giving Pohl and her staff, school and college administrators, and Dean of Students and ResLife representatives the opportunity to analyze the information over the summer. Students can expect to see survey data when they return next fall.

“It’s really important that we get this feedback,” Pohl says. “We want to emphasize that we are listening and we will take what we learn and try to act on it as much as possible.”

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Leslie Friday, BU Today, Boston University
Leslie Friday

Follow Leslie Friday on Twitter at @lesliefriday.

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