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Campus makes grade with grad students, survey finds

Two-thirds of graduate students are satisfied with the resources available on campus and the great majority are pleased with their advisors, according to the 2004 Graduate Student Life Survey.

The survey, sponsored by the Provost's Office, the Graduate Student Office and the Graduate Student Council, represents the views of close to 3,000 graduate students, a response rate greater than 50 percent.

"We wanted to base our decisions on real data," said GSC President Barun Singh, who helped present the findings to about 150 students, administrators and faculty members on Feb. 21 in a town-hall-style meeting.

"While we have room to improve, 85 percent of students are happy with their advisors," said Singh. Still, about a third of the respondents wished for more contact with their advisors, according to the survey. Students ranked their advisors third, above even their parents in terms of whom they turn to when they are in need. "It is an important relationship," said Singh.

Seventy-five percent of students reported satisfaction with the resources available on campus, asking for improvements only in both dining and parking. Yet, not all students are aware of the wide variety of services available to them, said Singh. For example, only 4 percent of students reported using the Ombuds Office in the Office of the President, a service designed to aid in conflict resolution. Those who had used it found it to be enormously helpful, but many did not even know what it was. "There needs to be greater focus on publicity for such services," said Singh.

The online survey, filled with detailed questions geared toward assessing general satisfaction level, was administered last fall. Additional focus groups were also convened during that time.

The questions ran the gamut, from assessing the advisor/advisee relationship to gauging how many of the Institute's resources--things like the gym, dining halls, MIT Medical and MIT Health--were actually being used.

Graduate students expressed an interest in seeing greater emphasis placed on peer-to-peer counseling and advising, said Singh. Some departments are stronger than others in that area, he said. "We really need to help students help one another."

According to Lydia Snover, assistant to the provost for institutional research, the data will be especially helpful in program reviews. Every department will receive its own data to analyze, said Snover, who was pleased by the large number of respondents. "It went quite well," she said.

The results from the 2004 survey will also be combined with the results from a similar survey administered in 2001. "These sorts of surveys are given out every three to four years to measure the effect of changes," said Snover, who was pleased by the high level of satisfaction with the athletic facilities as compared to past surveys. "A lot of money has been put into those changes," she said.

Surveys like this help to inform the Institute where attention is needed, said Snover. "The data is really used quite a bit in many different areas of the Institute," said Snover.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on March 16, 2005 (download PDF).

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