Samford University The BelltowerOctober 2003

Kuh Praises Samford Faculty

“...In terms of learning, it's not who comes in the door, but what they do while they're here...”

A leading specialist on learning among college students is impressed with much of what he sees happening in Samford University classrooms. “I’m taken with the way Samford seems to personalize education for its students,” George Kuh said during a preschool faculty workshop in August. “I like the simplicity of what you’re about, even though it’s extremely complex.”

Kuh is chancellor’s professor of higher education at Indiana University-Bloomington. He also is director of IU’s Center of Postsecondary Research, Policy and Planning, which houses the National Survey of Student Engagement [NSSE], the Institute for Effective Educational Practice and the College Student Experiences Questionnaire Research Program.

Kuh compared Samford student responses to the NSSE with those from five peer institutions—Berry College, Elon College, Furman University, Mercer University and University of the South—and found that Samford does most things well, although it has a few areas that may require attention. According to Kuh and the NSSE data, Samford students make more class presentations, more often work on papers with other students, more often work in community-based projects in connection with a class, are on an even par when it comes to discussing readings with classmates and with faculty outside of class, rank high in working effectively with other people and, in their senior year, give Samford high marks for helping them acquire job-related knowledge.

However, Kuh also found that Samford students do not rank as high as their peers at other institutions in understanding people of different backgrounds, and report having fewer serious conversations with students of different race, ethnicity, political and religious backgrounds. “These are areas that warrant consideration,” he said.

Noting that Samford has a “clear, well-understood mission and philosophy,” Kuh challenged faculty to more often incorporate the community of Birmingham in their teaching plans. “There are many ways Samford can benefit from and make a difference in Birmingham,” he said.

Kuh saluted the overall efforts of Samford faculty to make sure students graduate with the capabilities to perform successfully. Faculty must actually engage the student, both inside and outside the classroom, in complementary ways, he said. “Simply getting a degree today doesn’t wash,” he added. “In terms of learning, it’s not who comes in the door, but what they do while they’re here.”

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