Posted May 18, 2015 by Matt Chatham 

The Student Involvement Survey at Eastern Oregon University: Part I

Matt Chatham is writing a series on a student involvement survey undertaken at his institution, Eastern Oregon University. This first post provides an overview of the survey results; future posts will discuss evaluation and policy developments.

Eastern Oregon University has experienced declining on-campus enrollment beginning in 2012. With enrollment at just over 1,500 students as of fall 2014, many have raised concerns about the ability of the institution to maintain a vibrant student life, which is known to be positively related to learning outcomes and retention.

At the beginning of this year, the EOU Center for Student Involvement (CSI) initiated its first Student Involvement Survey to address some of these issues. The survey has been relatively inexpensive, costing about $1,000. The survey was designed for five purposes: to assess the present level of student involvement; to assess student satisfaction; to assess attitudes toward, motivations for, and perceived effects of involvement; to examine the relationship of involvement with other variables; and to identify common obstacles to involvement.

Of the campus population, 237 students, which is more than 15% of the campus population, completed the survey via Google Forms over the course of one month. Although respondents were self-selected, they appear to be demographically representative of the student body. 

Student Perceptions and Engagement

Students generally did not perceive themselves to be involved. However, most respondents had attended at least one event on campus in the past week, and half were club members. Most did not work or volunteer at all, on or off campus. The top three sources of information about campus activities were word of mouth, posters, and email.

Chatham Graph 1

 Chatham Graph 2

Facility and Event/Club Preferences

Respondents were satisfied with the Hoke Student Union Building, but most were dissatisfied with the campus engagement network, OrgSync. Students were also not satisfied with club and event offerings. Students were most favorable toward more outdoor activities and concerts, and they were most available to participate in co-curricular events later in the day and later in the week.

Motivating Factors for Involvement

The most common motivating factors for involvement were professional, personal, and community development. Professional development includes building work skills and developing one’s resume. Personal development includes socializing and building interpersonal skills, and community development was stated as a desire to “give back” to the university community.

Respondents were also not apathetic about campus involvement, as most rated co-curriculars, a sense of community, volunteer service, and paid employment as highly important. Students also believe that campus activities contribute positively to their general life skills, professional skills, interpersonal skills, academic work quality, overall experience of the institution, and their lives after graduation.

Chatham Graph 3

Chatham Graph 4

Obstacles to Involvement

Only one variable was consistently related to campus involvement, namely, on-campus employment. That this variable was significantly related is unsurprising; however, it was surprising to find that campus employment was negatively related to participation in campus life, given that prior literature has found the opposite. This may be due to methodological factors, but it may also indicate that students find work to be a competing obligation to involvement. Further research on this topic may be warranted.

Finally, respondents identified academic obligations, work obligations, and inconvenience as the most significant obstacles to involvement.

Chatham Graph 5

Going Forward

Given that analysis of the survey was only recently completed, few changes or proposals have yet been made based on these results. However, there are two broader conversations to which the survey will contribute.

First, it will act as a starting-point for CSI to develop a regular evaluation and assessment cycle. The purpose of such a cycle is to continually improve the organization and to ensure students are offered the clubs and events that they desire.

Second, we hope that it will spark a broader campus conversation about campus life. Several policy proposals are currently being developed based on the survey results above, and future posts on The Commons will discuss these and the evaluation framework as they develop. 

Matt Chatham

Matt Chatham is the Research Analyst at Center for Student Involvement at Eastern Oregon University.

Matt is the student research analyst for the Center for Student Involvement at Eastern Oregon University. His responsibility is to conduct research on student involvement and campus life under direction from CSI and Student Services. Matt is a senior at EOU pursuing degrees in philosophy, politics, and economics (PPE), mathematics, and economics. In his free time, he enjoys learning, playing guitar, and taking advantage of the many hiking trails surrounding EOU.

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