Posted February 12, 2014 by Cooper Point Journal in Letters & Opinion

It’s Time to Advocate for Your Own Education

First-Years_webPlease Fill Out the National College Survey You Will Get

Student Submission


Greeners have a reputation as students who are interested and involved in the decision-making process here at Evergreen. But what if this isn’t actually true? Only 20 percent of our first year students and 28 percent of our seniors at Evergreen are providing crucial feedback the college uses to shape our education. How do I know this? The Office of Institutional Research and Assessment on campus publishes a report every two years on a national survey distributed by the Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research, called The National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE). This survey contacts first-year students and seniors during winter quarter at Evergreen and 500-plus other schools across the country. For some reason Greeners aren’t as involved with the survey these days, which is really a detriment to ALL of our education. Why would this be? Is the dynamic at Evergreen moving away from activism and engagement? Is it just that students don’t care anymore? Or, is it that students aren’t recognizing the importance of this survey because it isn’t administered by Evergreen, (or in other words, does it look like junk mail)? I ask all these questions because I honestly want to know why students have decided to stop advocating for themselves. If you received the NSSE survey and providing crucial input through email, will you respond?
This survey might surprise you. Let me list a few questions from the survey to spike your interest:

  • “During the school year, about how often have you attended an art exhibit, play, dance, music, theater, or other performances?”
  • “Which of the following have you done or do you plan to do before you graduate from your institution: Practicum, internship, field experience, co-op experience, or clinical assignment? Community service? Study abroad?”
  • “What is the quality of your relationships with other students? With faculty members?”
  • “How many hours per week do you spend relaxing and socializing?”


As you can see, the survey’s focus isn’t solely on your academics. Evergreen wants a well-rounded picture of what life looks like from a student’s perspective. This survey is also very important on a national level, because the results from all the surveyed schools across the country are used as a peer comparison tool and to study national trends in effective educational practices.
To show you how much the NSSE results affect Evergreen, here are a few examples of direct influences it has:

  • Assessment of students’ learning and experience, which helps draw the administration’s attention to areas that are strong and successful and areas that could use some help or revitalization.
  • Administration’s ability to understand students’ learning environment and approach to teaching in a peer educator context, with other colleges.
  • To compare students’ experiences and Evergreen’s curriculum to the college’s goals and mission for purposes of assessment for regional accreditation.

Being a student of an alternative college where the curriculum doesn’t really line up with most other schools, I personally often wonder how my education is comparing. To give you a taste of the results that Institutional Research and Assessment published, here are some findings (first-year and senior student findings are intermixed, please look at original report to see first-year and senior students findings separately):
Compared to other first-year and senior students, Evergreen students spend more time analyzing, synthesizing, evaluating, and applying learning; reading more assigned texts; write more short papers (less than 5 pages); and more frequently work harder than they thought they could to meet the instructor’s expectations.
Compared to other first-year and senior students, Evergreen students are more likely to ask questions and contribute to discussions in class and give class presentations; more often to work with other students on projects during class and outside of class; more often discuss ideas from reading and classes with others outside of class; more frequently participate in a community-based project as part of a course; and tutored or taught other students.
As I mentioned before, the response rate for the last NSSE was pretty low, meaning we are letting about a quarter of the students shape where Evergreen is headed for the next two years or so. I urge you to take back your power to enact change and take the survey when it arrives in your Evergreen student email account. Don’t instantly delete it when you see it is from Indiana University, and take a few short moments to share your Evergreen experience. I know that taking a survey doesn’t seem as exciting as protesting in a picket line, and it makes it hard to see the direct effect you are having, but taking this survey gives students back their voice and enables them to influence change working with the system, not fighting against it. If we’re not fighting for our voices what are we fighting for?

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