For such a small community, Keene State College does a lot of interacting, particularly between students and staff. Results from the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) found that compared to 11 peer institutions, 67 percent of KSC seniors communicate with faculty about their futures. This is on average 20 percent higher than our peer institutions.
Director of Institutional Research and Assessment Cathy Turrentine said these peer institutions are not nearby schools such as the University of New Hampshire or Plymouth State University, but rather schools that are members of the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges. This includes schools such as Henderson State University in Arizona, Southern Oregon University in Oregon and Ithaca College in New York.
“It’s institutions that are like us. They are public institutions…and they have a liberal arts focus,” Turrentine said.
She continued that this survey is completed every two years and only looks at senior and first year students. “It’s a national survey. They want to see where students start and end up,” she said. “Both our seniors and our first-years continue (like last time, two years ago) to have more frequent interactions with their faculty than elsewhere,” she said.
Another statistic from NSSE showed that “51 percent of KSC seniors said they discussed their academic performance with a faculty member,” compared to 36 percent from our peer institutions.
However one thing these peer institutions might have that we don’t is more diversity. Turrentine said that the location of our school could be the result of KSC’s low ranking in interactions with those of a different race or ethnicity. According to the survey, our peer institutions ranked 71 percent while 45 percent of KSC seniors “said that they have had discussions with people from a race or ethnicity other than their own.”
Turrentine said, “This is a consistent finding from previous administrations of this survey; that we have a less diverse student body than the other institutions we’re compared to. It’s disappointing, but not surprising.” However, she explained that on a separate add-on part of NSSE, which compared KSC to 83 other institutions, we ranked highly in civic engagement. She said this survey asked questions about student confidence and leadership skills, as well as how involved students are with campus, state and global issues.
“[KSC students] care passionately about politics because we get to see candidates. They [also] care passionately about their student service projects. Our students are really actively involved in addressing the needs of our community,” she said.
Program Coordinator for Diversity and Multiculturalism Kim Schmidl-Gagne said that civic duty is all about “acknowledging that we are members of communities,” and questioning our responsibility to these communities.
She explained one of the ways we can stay engaged within our communities is by voting. “Democracy is ‘we the people’, so vote, that’s the minimum standard,” she said. Schmidl-Gagne said that civic duty is also about looking deeper into issues, such as hunger or homelessness and finding solutions together. “If we start looking upstream at the big issues and working together, that’s my goal,” she said.
Schmidl-Gagne said there are multiple opportunities on campus for students to get involved. “We’re lucky this campus is right on Main Street; it gives them a personal connection,” she said.
“We have courses that talk about really complex global issues and try to make connections and they’re not isolated in one discipline,” she said. Schmidl-Gagne also attributed KSC’s Holocaust and Genocide program “the only one in the country,” as a way for students to learn about the outside world. She said it’s not just about students eager to help, but also professors willing to encourage. “I think the faculty and staff here do an amazing job. It’s good they are equally passionate.”
Director of Academic and Career Advising Pat Halloran said it was pleasing to hear that KSC students get involved in civic duties.
“Civic engagement is a way for students, especially younger students, to become involved in ways that really expand their knowledge of a major, but also may lead to various career interests as they go along,” she said. Halloran said that with the Academic and Career Advising, they do encourage students to communicate with their professors. She explained that many faculty “know first-hand from personal experience,” and are in “professional circles that might help build careers” for students.
She also explained letters of recommendation from staff or faculty can go a long way. “We can’t write these, so the connection [there] is genuine,” she said.
KSC first-year Josh Degrenier said he feels his professors put in genuine effort. “My professors are readily available and ready to help or send me to someone else who can help me,” he said.
Degr enier said he participated in the Links program at the college, which offers students an opportunity to adjust to college classes and the college itself before they start in the fall. “It taught me how to manage my time because I missed the first week. So I did a semester in five weeks,” he said. Degrenier said it was a great program. “They really get you ready for the college experience,” he said.
Degrenier also explained that he also enjoyed doing community service and felt good about doing it during first-year orientation. “My group did roadside clean-up for about two to three hours. We cleaned up a lot of trash,” he emphasized. In addition, Degrenier is a basketball player and knows the team is intending to group with the Big Brothers, Big Sisters program.
Degrenier said he has had experience helping youth. “I was a coach for the [recreational] center and [a] Big Brother for grade-school aged kids,” he said.
Actions speak louder than words, and the actions of KSC students communicating and getting involved with both their professors and communities is what gives KSC a reputable ranking on a national survey of student engagement. The next evaluation will be done in 2018.
Dorothy England can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org