Adrift or Engaged? A Multi-Engagement Model of the Student Experience Using SERU Data

Tuesday, March 21, 2017
Tolman Hall - Room 2515 
Senior Research Fellow - Public Policy and Higher Education at the Center for Studies in Higher Education
Principal Researcher, Student Experience in the Research University-Association of American Universities Consortium (SERU-AAU) at the Center for Studies in Higher Education.

What are the advantages for a student to enroll in a major research-intensive university? What are the range of opportunities, and experiences, a student can gain from entering what are large institutions with a vast array of academic programs, cultural and social experiences? In the US and internationally, higher education institutions are being challenged to more fully engage students in their academic and professional studies, to find efficiencies in their teaching methods and administrative practices, and to prove learning outcomes of undergraduates, and to essentially document the value of public investment in their institutions. This comes at a time when many critiques of American higher education revolve around claims that students do not learn enough during the course of their university or college careers, the curriculum is not rigorous, that students on average do not spend enough time studying and gaining critical thinking skills. Often, the focus is on a limited or narrow sense of the student experience: time in the classroom, time studying, and time to degree. Based on SERU survey data of undergraduates at 15 major public universities, this presentation will provide preliminary results of research that explores the range of student engagement by introducing the concept of Multi-Engagement. Our exploratory analysis seeks to understand the interplay between various forms of engagement (academic, research, co-curricular, and civic) and shows that the student experience is complex and nuanced at these institutions; the classroom is one component in a rich array of experiences that include the key role of the disciplines in building learning communities, the socioeconomic background and the interaction of students, and their opportunities to engage in research, community service, and co-curricular activities. These interactions, and the fact that there are multiple pathways of student engagement within each research-intensive university, are thus far not fully captured in the research literature or in the public discourse over the role of these universities in public life. 


John Aubrey Douglass is Senior Research Fellow in Public Policy and Higher Education at the Center for Studies in Higher Education (CSHE), Goldman School of Public Policy, UC Berkeley. He is the author of The New Flagship University: Changing the Paradigm from Global Ranking to National Relevancy (Palgrave Macmillan), The Conditions for Admissions (Stanford Press 2007), The California Idea and American Higher Education (Stanford University Press, 2000; published in Chinese in 2008), and with Jud King and Irwin Feller (ed), Globalization’s Muse: Universities and Higher Education Systems in a Changing World (Public Policy Press, 2009). Among the research projects he co-founded is the Student Experience in the Research University (SERU) Consortium – a group of major research universities in the US and internationally, with members in China, Brazil, South Africa, the Netherlands and Russia. He is also the editor of the Center's Research and Occasional Paper Series (ROPS), sits on the editorial board of international higher education journals in the UK, China, and Russia, and serves on the international advisory boards of a number of higher education institutes.

Gregg Thomson is Principal Researcher, Student Experience in the Research University - Association of American Universities Consortium (SERU-AAU) at the Center for Studies in Higher Education. SERU is the comprehensive undergraduate census survey used by a consortium of more than 15 Association of American Universities member institutions and by the University of California (known as the University of California Undergraduate Experience Survey or UCUES). His interests are minority and diversity issues in higher education, the development and use of student surveys, and research on the undergraduate student experience using SERU data. Thomson is the retired Executive Director, Office of Student Research and Campus Surveys at UC Berkeley. He currently serves as the Director of Institutional Research at Saint Mary’s College.