North Park Gets High Marks for Student Engagement

North Park student engagement

CHICAGO (October 8, 2009) – At North Park University, “distinctively Christian, intentionally urban, and purposefully multicultural,” are much more than weighty adjectives in an institutional tagline. According to the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), they are the reality of many North Park students’ college experience.

Each year the NSSE asks students at hundreds of schools to reflect on the time they devote to various learning activities, from academic to extracurricular. It measures not only the extent to which they excel in their classes, but also the extent to which they feel involved on their campuses—relating to faculty, interacting with peers of different backgrounds, and entering into community.

Students are surveyed at random—as incoming freshmen and as outgoing seniors—to measure the change in their perception of their school over time. This was the first year North Park participated, with 364 students taking the survey.

“The idea is that students who are engaged learn better,” explains University Provost Dr. Joseph Jones.

The NSSE compares North Park to a selected benchmark of 10 colleges and universities in the Midwest, as well as about 70 similar liberal arts institutions across the nation known as the Carnegie Class. North Park was on par with both groups in the Level of Academic Challenge (LAC), Active and Collaborative Learning (ACL), and Student–Faculty Interaction (SFI) categories, yet significantly outscored both groups when it came to Enriching Educational Experiences (EEE).

Of the North Park freshman surveyed, 63% said they “frequently have serious conversations with students who are different from them in terms of religious, political, or personal beliefs.” Moreover, 58% said they “frequently have serious conversations with those of a different race;” and 57% frequently “engage in spiritually enhancing activities such as worship, meditation, or prayer.” By the time they are seniors, 74% of North Park students have participated in community service or volunteer work.

“Our results confirmed that in those areas that make up our identity, our students really do affirm that ‘enriching educational experiences’ come from North Park’s diversity, our spiritual focus, and our urban milieu,” Jones explains.

Although it doesn’t boast the same mainstream popularity as the annual U.S. News and World Report college rankings, the NSSE is arguably much more telling in terms of how colleges and universities are succeeding at educating their students. Ultimately, it can provide prospective students with a more holistic picture of how they might learn and develop at a given college.

According to the NSSE website, the survey represents empirically confirmed "good practices" in undergraduate education. The NSSE was launched with support from The Pew Charitable Trusts and is currently self-supported through institutional participation fees. Project research is also supported by grants from Lumina Foundation for Education and the Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts at Wabash College.

The survey is administered by the Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research in cooperation with the Indiana University Center for Survey Research.