SU gets high marks from grad students
SU gets high marks from grad studentsMarch 05, 2003Mark Owczarskimaowczar@syr.edu
According to data gathered in a recent national survey, the majority of graduate students at SU rate their graduate education and experience very positively.
Among the survey results: Just under two thirds of all SU graduate students judged their overall academic experience to be “very good to excellent.” The overall student life experience was also positively rated, with nearly three quarters of SU graduate students saying it was “good to excellent.” And more than two thirds of students would “probably” or “definitely” choose SU again for graduate studies, a proportion that rises to 84 percent for those choosing SU again for graduate studies in the same field.
“These findings are very encouraging,” says John Mercer, who was recently promoted from acting dean of the Graduate School to dean. “We’re making progress on the Academic Plan’s goal to strengthen graduate education and research at the University. I believe graduate students have begun to see results of our efforts to improve an already good graduate experience.”
Last year, SU was among 23 colleges and universities that participated in a graduate student survey organized by the Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium, a group of 140 institutions including SU. Approximately 1,100 SU graduate students participated in the survey, which covered a wide range of academic matters and experiences, as well as student life and services.
“The findings can help us fine tune our initiatives as outlined in the Academic Plan,” says Mercer. “There is a tremendous amount of helpful data that we need to thoroughly examine and review with the leadership in the schools and colleges, as well as student groups such as the GSO and others.”
The survey found that 90 percent of SU graduate students described their relationship with the faculty as “good to excellent.” Eighty percent judged the intellectual quality of the faculty to be “very good” or “excellent,” and 60 percent judged the intellectual quality of their fellow graduate students as being “very good” or “excellent.”
A substantial majority of students (83 percent) gave the library a positive rating, judging it to be either “adequate” or “more than adequate.” Of those students who used on-campus computer facilities, 88 percent rated them as “adequate” or “more than adequate.” The availability of assistance at computer labs was also seen positively; among users, 72 percent found this help as “adequate” or “more than adequate.”
Though much of the survey data is positive, Mercer points out that some of the survey findings illustrate issues that are currently being addressed by the University and Graduate School and the Academic Plan.
For example, just under half of the graduate students intend to pursue a career in academe, and about the same proportion do not (nine percent gave not applicable as their response). However, when asked about receiving advice about employment inside academia, half of those responding said they did not receive advice. For those who responded about advice regarding employment outside academia, fewer than half did receive such advice. Advice on the actual job search was received by only 51 percent, and 43 percent received advice on how to prepare for interviews.
“These findings reinforce what graduate student leaders have told us, and further indicate to me that this is an area that needs close attention,” says Mercer.
Another area requiring attention, says Mercer, is academic advising. For example, when doctoral students were asked about the receipt of advice on preparing for oral exams, almost as many said “seldom/never” (35 percent) as “usually” (38 percent). The proportion of graduate students who received advice on preparing for written exams was higher, but remains a concern to Mercer.
As acknowledged in the Academic Space Plan, the University will continue to improve program space for graduate students, though almost three quarters assessed program space and facilities positively. Just under half judged the facilities to be very “very good” or “excellent,” another 28 percent said they are “good.”
Fewer than 10 percent of graduate students were frequent users of health care services, and only three percent said they were users of childcare services. On the other hand, 45 percent said they used the Financial Aid Office, but only 16 percent said they did so frequently.
Almost two thirds of students said they never used career and placement services. Use of the Bursar’s Office was relatively high, and nearly one third of the students were frequent users of athletic facilities. Another campus office frequently used by graduate students is the Slutzker Center for International Services, and of those respondents who judged its quality of service, over half rated it as excellent.
Other findings included:
- 81 percent agreed or strongly agreed that the amount of course work in their program seems appropriate;
- 70 percent agreed or strongly agreed that their program activities foster a sense of intellectual community;
- 75 percent agreed or strongly agreed that program content supported either research or professional goals;
- 68 percent agreed or strongly agreed that program structure encourages student collaboration;
- 62 percent agreed or strongly agreed that program structure provides opportunity for interdisciplinary work.