If you need more proof that University of Virginia students are extraordinarily civic-minded, then take a look at this new nationwide survey.
In its latest findings, the Cooperative Institutional Research Program, known as CIRP, reveals some impressive numbers about the Wahoos who came to Grounds in the fall of 2016.
In rating the importance of community and civic engagement, 53 percent of the then-entering UVA students said it is important to become community leaders. That is a full 10 percentage points above the national average of students, 43 percent of whom agreed with the statement.
The UVA students said they were also eager and ready to engage with research and science. Eighty-five percent said they expected they would work on a professor’s research project. The national average was 20 percentage points below that assessment.
"I believe it is important to be a community leader."
The UVA students also apply complex thinking strategies. Eighty percent said they frequently support their opinions with logical argument. That is compared with the national average of 63 percent.
Sixty-seven percent said they always try to verify information. The national average is 49 percent.
UVA administrators said all these measures are good news. One measure that varied was “expect to use mental health services.” Fifty-five percent of the then-entering class said they anticipated they would seek personal counseling at the University. Nationally, 47 percent said they would seek that service.
In a recent report to the Board of Visitors’ Committee on Academic and Student Life, Patricia M. Lampkin, vice president and chief student affairs officer, noted this was a favorable number, since it means UVA students are likely to seek mental health services when needed.
"I expect to help with a professor's research."
The survey is administered by UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute; UVA has been participating for about 50 years. The latest results report on 2016’s national freshman class. Nearly 140,000 incoming students at 184 colleges and universities were polled.
Nicole Eramo, the executive director of assessment and planning in student affairs, said UVA uses the CIRP findings to inform how it serves students.
“We are really trying to think about data-driven decision-making and how we make decisions in student affairs to support our programming,” she said.
The other measures also help student affairs support students’ academic success, “so making sure that we provide information and resources so those eager students who know they want to do research know where to go to take advantage of those opportunities,” Eramo said. “We can’t be stagnant. We need to be thinking about who our students are and how we are targeting our programming in support to them and their needs.”
"I support my opinions with logical arguments."
The assessment does not stop there. The student affairs office continues to take the pulse of the student population with other surveys once they are Grounds. A particularly good tool for that is the Student Experience in Research University survey, which gives administrators data on aspects of student life, including everything from academic engagement to global skills and awareness.
“In general, our CIRP data over the past 10 years have been generally consistent in terms of what we know about our incoming first-time first years,” said Christina Morell associate provost and director of the Office of Institutional Assessment and Studies.
The latest numbers did not surprise Eramo. “We have a very impressive student body. Some of our students are running businesses in high school, so it’s not surprising that they are coming in and hitting the ground running and engaging in faculty research and be engaged in projects outside the University with the community.”