SES survey evaluates campus lifestyle

Credit: Eunice Mok Credit: Eunice Mok

Three years ago, Carnegie Mellon students received an email to participate in the Carnegie Mellon University Student Experience Study (CMU-SES). Now, they are being asked to participate in it again.

Dean of Student Affairs Gina Casalegno and Vice Provost for Education Amy Burkert sent out an email asking students to fill out this year’s CMU-SES survey, closing on April 2. The university uses the results of the online study, sent out to the entire student body, to understand the impact of various experiences in and out of the classroom.

The Office of Institutional Research and Analysis helps to create the CMU-SES surveys, according to Casalegno. The information will be used to understand how the demographics and experiences that characterize students relate to students’ perceived confidence and abilities.

Casalegno said in the email that the survey is designed to pinpoint how these characterizing factors affect students’ abilities. For example, the survey could help to show whether taking on leadership positions make students more confident at problem solving. The survey could also show whether certain characteristics of students affect their personal well-being.

This year’s survey is very similar to the 2012 survey, which will allow university workers to study and compare the answers from students who take the survey both years.

“This longitudinal group is very interesting to us as it will give an even fuller sense of the ‘Carnegie Mellon effect’ on the outcome areas,” Casalegno said via email. “Those who complete both surveys will provide us an additional cohort for analysis, providing a ... group for whom we have results that spans their Carnegie Mellon experience.”

About 900 undergraduate students and 450 graduate students who are still enrolled at Carnegie Mellon took the survey in 2012. The results of the 2012 survey were shared at many in-person meetings with groups such as the Undergraduate Student Senate and the Graduate Student Assembly. The survey results were also shared with campus members like academic advisers, staff in the Division of Student Affairs, and academic deans and associate deans.

“This allowed for robust discussion and reflection with the research team to further inform our reflections on the results,” Casalegno said in the email. The information will not be published online and will not be shared with anyone outside of the university.

“We are very careful with results such as these to ensure that they are not misinterpreted or generalized inappropriately,” Casalegno said in the email about reasons for not openly distributing the information. “When talking about people’s experiences and abilities, it is important to limit presumptions that one might draw from a cursory look at the material. I anticipate that we will use a similar strategy with this survey as well.”

Campus members can expect to know the results of the study early in the fall semester, according to Casalegno.

While the university does not distribute the study’s results for other national studies, the university uses the survey’s findings to prepare other reports and documents like accreditation reviews and board reports. Casalegno said that the 2012 survey has allowed the university to shift funding in order to support new programs, make changes to existing programs, and change staff and faculty development programs.

Students who complete the survey receive a free treat at Entropy+, as well as 100 points to spend at a Survey Thank You Shop on items like free food at local restaurants, movie passes at local theaters, and university gear.