Survey: Precollege life influences how seen students feel – Inside Higher Ed – DC Initiative on Racial Equity
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No pandemic-era discussion of whether students feel seen and understood by their higher ed institutions would be complete without pointing out one fact: the pivot to virtual learning resulted in students literally being seen more.

“Faculty could see the background where students were on a Zoom call,” says Delana Gregg, director of academic learning resources, assessment and analysis with the Academic Success Center at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. A professor might ask a student if he’s at work and learn he needs to attend lecture while on a break.

“We all became like we were in each other’s homes. That gave us a sense of connecting with students in a more holistic way,” Gregg says.

Thanks to the 2015 report on the Gallup-Purdue Index, higher ed leaders and educators know college graduates who have achieved success in work and life were more likely to have been personally engaged with a faculty member during college. “The belief that someone at the institution knows them, gets them and is rooting for them … matters, not just now but for years to come,” says Kristine Goodwin, who has worked in public and private higher education and recently began a role at Western New England University as vice president of student affairs.

The latest Student Voice survey from Inside Higher Ed and College Pulse, presented by Kaplan, found a significant percentage of students agree at least somewhat that employees, especially faculty members, at their college or university “see” them, defined as understanding personal challenges they face due to race, gender identity, socioeconomic class or childhood experiences. Among the findings:

  • Nearly two-thirds of 2,003 students surveyed feel at least somewhat that professors see them.
  • When asked about student services office employees, that number dips to 56 percent.
  • Even fewer students, 43 percent, feel seen by university administrators (with president, provost and dean given as examples).

Conducted Jan. 5 to 10, the survey also asked students to select the types of campus professionals and other employees who understand them best, with professors and academic advisers identified the most. That list also included some job functions rarely thought of in terms of having an impact on student success, such as security guards, janitors and dining hall workers. (Spoiler alert: More students feel dining hall workers understand them than deans, and janitors and deans emerged with a tie.)

An analysis of survey results by demographics such as first-generation college goers, students who experienced specific childhood traumas and students with learning disabilities found that these groups are more likely than others to disagree that their college understands the connections they have to family and their home communities. Only 12 percent of the full survey sample strongly agreed with that statement. Similar demographic factors influenced the percentage of students who have recently experienced issues with time management, anxiety and financial insecurity as well.

In other words, helping students through challenges they’re going through now requires a deep understanding of where they’ve been. Read on for a glimpse at trends related to individual students’ stories and what faculty, staff and administrators need to know about those stories to better support students in their learning and life journeys.

Whom Students Feel Seen By

Professors can feel good about being the group that students feel most understands the


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