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46 percent of grad students take survey

Forty-six percent of graduate students responded to a recent online survey conducted by the Office of the Provost asking for their views on how to enhance the quality of life at the Institute.

The response rate of 2,700 students is much higher than response rates to past surveys, which have been closer to 10 percent, according to the survey team from Institutional Research, part of the Office of the Provost.

The strong student interest aligns with recent focus group research conducted by the Graduate Students Office in which students expressed the need for striking a new balance in the graduate experience. (An article describing that research was published as "News from the Dean" in the January/February 2002 issue of the MIT Faculty Newsletter .)

MIT administered the survey in cooperation with other research universities and included questions that overlapped with the Quality of Life surveys administered to MIT faculty and staff last year. For example, one open-ended question asked, "What three things would you like to see happen at the Institute level to enhance the quality of life for graduate students?" Another question was based on a statement from the 1998 report from the Task Force on Student Life and Learning: "An MIT education should prepare students for life through an educational triad of academics, research and community. How is this relevant for graduate students?"

The survey was heavily publicized and incentives were offered to students who participated. The Office of the Provost awarded 150 prizes to students selected by lottery, including three Palm Pilots and cash prizes ranging from $10 to $100 each. Fifteen departments with a participation rate higher than the average received a $100 award to support a graduate student event. The Department of Nuclear Engineering had the highest rate of participation.

The lottery and survey implementation were administered by Information Systems' newly created web survey service, represented by Jeff Schiller and Jag Patel.

The Graduate Students Office, the Office of the Dean for Student Life, the five deans, department heads and the Provost are all expected to take particular interest in the survey results and plan to use the data to make decisions about enhancing the quality of life on campus and better understand how the Institute stands in comparison with its competitors.

The survey team, led by Lydia Snover, assistant to the provost for institutional research, has set an aggressive schedule for analyzing the survey data in stages. The team will analyze one segment of the survey at a time, conduct peer comparisons and then share the results with senior officers. In addition, working closely with Chancellor Phil Clay, the survey team will plan and implement a series of presentations, probably in the fall, for departments and the Graduate Student Council.

For more information about the survey, contact Snover at x3-5838 or

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on March 6, 2002.

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