UC Survey Aims To Grasp ‘World Of Students'





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A first-of-its-kind survey to help researchers better understand the undergraduate experience in the UC system will enter its "final window of opportunity" next week.

UC President Richard Atkinson invited 60,000 UC students to participate in the survey, which is being conducted by a team of UC researchers.

This is the first time a systemwide survey has ever been attempted, said Gregg Thomson, director of the Office of Student Research at UC Berkeley.

All freshmen, seniors and some transfer students in the UC system were encouraged to take the survey, while a concurrent study at UC Berkeley attempts to survey all other undergraduates at the university.

The focus of the survey, which began last month, is on freshmen, said UC Santa Barbara professor Richard Flacks, the faculty principal investigator for the survey.

The researchers will track the experiences of a group of freshmen throughout their academic careers.

"Faculty don't understand much about their students' world," he said. "I'm not sure students understand each other."

The survey asks students to rate and describe aspects of their academic and social experiences as undergraduates, such as how many hours students spend partying or studying per week.

The data collected from the survey will be used to look into new policies to help improve undergraduate education, Thomson said.

"We will present the results to the campus administration, who will then make the necessary judgments about what we need to do," he said.

The survey will also be used to create a database to encourage new research into the undergraduate experience, Flacks said.

"We want to understand the world of students, but we saw a vacuum in research of undergraduate students," he said. "We want to know what they share and how they differ."

The higher the turnout for the survey, the better the researchers can compare different groups and situations among undergraduates, Flacks said.

The survey will allow researchers to compare students from different majors and campuses, as well as the "experience in the same majors across campuses," said John Douglass, senior research fellow at UC Berkeley's Center for Studies in Higher Education.

Thomson said that about 6,000 students from UC Berkeley have responded to the survey so far-more than any other UC campus.

"I've seen a few responses, and I'm extraordinarily enthusiastic about the responses students have been able to provide us," he said. "The students are very eloquent about how they feel."

While the survey does not officially end until May 22, Thomson said he expects this to be the final week with any significant returns from UC Berkeley students because finals are approaching.

Many students said they either did not receive any notification of the e-mail or did not have the time to complete the 20 to 30 minute survey.

"I did not receive any e-mail," said UC Berkeley junior Gillian Yu. "And even if I did, I don't have any time."

It is up to each UC campus to make sure that students who did not receive the e-mail are still aware of the survey.

"Campuses differ about how accurate their e-mail databases are," Flacks said. "Just reaching students through e-mail would be naive. Some campuses are sending out postcards or other advertising."

In order to increase student participation, rewards are being offered to those who participate. Twenty UC Berkeley students will be selected to receive $100 gift certificates for the ASUC Student Store. One student who completes the systemwide survey will win $2,002, while one UC Berkeley student who completes the UC Berkeley survey will win two round trip airline tickets.

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