Samford University once again has scored high in the National Survey of Student Engagement, an annual assessment sponsored by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
Samford compared very favorably in the five areas of assessment when compared nationally with other doctoral research universities, the classification assigned to the university by the Carnegie Foundation. The 2007 survey was the first for Samford in the national doctoral category after several years of classification as a regional master's level institution.
The project surveys first-year students and graduating seniors to assess level of academic challenge, collaborative learning, student-faculty interaction, enriching educational experiences and supportive campus environment. Assessment is done in such basic areas as number of assigned books, number of written papers, discussions with faculty, interpersonal relationships with faculty and other students, participation in co-curricular activities and community service.
A total of 368 first-year students and 231 seniors participated in the survey.
Samford scored higher in all five assessment areas than the national NSSE averages and higher than Carnegie peer institutions. The scores were "statistically significant" in all five areas, according to Sarah C. Latham, Samford's assistant to the president and director of institutional effectiveness.
Another important factor is that student engagement and satisfaction remains high from the first year to the final year, based on consistent NSSE results over the eight years of the survey's existence, Latham said.
Among the areas where Samford scored particularly high were in the number of students involved in making class presentations, working with classmates on projects outside of the classroom, community service, practicums, internships or other field experience and foreign-language requirements.
These high scores are particularly rewarding since the university is celebrating the 10th anniversary of its core curriculum, Latham said. Samford's core curriculum is designed to encourage student presentations, reading of great texts and community service.
Diversity and technology were areas where Samford scored lowest, Latham said. Even before the survey results were announced, the university was involved in a comprehensive study led by a diversity consultant.
"Although there are opportunities for improvement in gender, ethnic and socio-economic diversity, it will be more difficult to expand our religious diversity because of Samford's historic Christian mission," Latham said. NSSE does not provide any allowance in the survey for faith-based institutions.
The university also continues to commit resources to enhancing technology on campus, although that is an ongoing challenge because of rapidly-changing technology, Latham said.
News reports about the 2007 NSSE have suggested that results are a better indicator of a university's quality than other national rankings. Although some participating institutions have not publicized their NSSE results, Samford has touted its positive responses, Latham noted.
"There are a number of indicators that prospective students, parents and alumni can and should use to assess an institution's value," Latham said. "Certainly, the U.S. News (& World Report) annual college rankings are the most publicized and probably the most popular. But, the results of NSSE undergird what we always have said about Samford – that students receive a high quality educational experience in the setting of a smaller university where faculty-student interaction is encouraged."