April 2,1998

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Student Services survey suggests that many students don't feel at home

Most students happy with teaching and access to profs

by Eve Krakow

According to a recent survey, 57.8 per cent of Concordia undergraduates are currently employed and another 22.7 per cent are seeking employment.

"This goes against what many people think of as the typical student," said Dr. Sup Mei Graub, director of Counselling and Development, one of the survey organizers. "It dispels certain myths. Today, teachers can't just tell their students to put everything aside to study."

This was one of the findings of the 1996 Survey of Undergraduate Experiences, which Student Services mailed out to a random sample of 600 undergraduates. A total of 314 students responded. Concordia was one of 10 Canadian universities to conduct the study.

"The purpose of the survey is to try and get information on different facets of the student profile, and to understand students better," Graub said. "It helps us in our strategic planning, and enables us to better design our programs and services."

Most of Concordia's students are local; 84 per cent of the survey respondents were from Quebec. Roughly 5 per cent were from Ontario, 5 per cent from other provinces, and 6 per cent from other countries.

In terms of student reactions and experiences at the university, results were quite positive. For example, in a section on the professor-student relationship, 88 per cent agreed that their professors encourage students to participate in class discussion.

As well, 85 per cent said their professors are reasonably accessible outside of class to help students, and 82 per cent said they are generally satisfied with the quality of teaching they have received.

The results also highlight Concordia's diversity and confirm its leading approach to racial and gender issues, Graub notes. For example, 95 per cent of respondents agreed that the university "treats students fairly, independent of their race," and 94 per cent agreed with the same statement regarding gender.

Similarly, 79 per cent of respondents felt their professors are sensitive to racial issues and 76 per cent felt their professors are sensitive to gender issues.

Another interesting fact is that of the 314 respondents, 42 per cent said the first language they learned was English and 19 per cent said French.

While respondents rated Concordia quite highly in many categories, on the negative side, only 52 per cent said they felt part of the university community. This is an important issue when it comes to student retention.

"Students tend to leave because they feel lost or alienated," Graub explained. "Academic failure is a contributing factor in fewer than half the cases."

Broken down by field, the feeling of belonging is high in engineering (75 per cent) and professional studies (66 per cent), but low in arts and humanities (56 per cent), biological sciences (36 per cent), business (43 per cent), education (36 per cent), physical science (15 per cent), social sciences (48 per cent) and other fields (53 per cent).

The low rates may be partially due to the fact that the majority of the survey respondents were first-year students (even though the mailing itself was random). First-year students are the most likely to drop out of university.

In response to this problem, Student Services is continually striving to make students more aware of available services and resources, and recently introduced Smart Start and the New Students' Program to help reduce students' sense of alienation.

Other demographic breakdowns among respondents were quite consistent with the overall university population: 66 per cent were full-time students and 34 per cent part-time; the mean age was 26.9 years, and 58 per cent were female and 42 per cent male.

Graub explores different aspects of the survey results in a regular bulletin called FOCUS, published by the Dean of Students Office. The first two issues have focused on studying time and student reactions to the university, while the next issues will look at student satisfaction with university resources, student participation in university life, and how students grade the university.

Student Services at Concordia are divided into six areas: the Dean of Students Office (including the orientation program and student residences); Counselling & Development (consisting of Counselling Service, Student Learning Services, Career Resource Centre, and Career and Placement Service); Health Services; Advocacy & Support Services (including the International Students' Office, Services for Disabled Students, Legal Information Services, Campus Ministry, Women's Centre, and liaison with the daycares); Financial Aid; and Recreation & Athletics.

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