Survey attempts to help students stay at GVSU

Hannah Lentz

Since 2007, Grand Valley State University has seen a decrease in student retention, and with an increasing amount of students who come to the university their freshmen year, more and more are not coming back to continue their education.

According to data found through GVSU’s Institutional Analysis, 86 percent of new undergraduate FTIAC (First Time in Any College) students in 2007 came back to GVSU the following year. The first-year retention rate for FTIAC students in 2012 was 81.4 percent.

“Keeping students here at Grand Valley is always one of our top priorities,” said Nancy Giardina, vice provost for Student Success.“We pay attention because we care about our students.”

Conducted the first three to six weeks into the fall semester, the freshmen MAP-Works survey is given to provide student feedback for university advisers. The survey collects data to customize a student response report to gage the college transition and to pinpoint trouble areas that could result in students dropping out of school.

“MAP-Works is a great way for us to find out what we as a university need to do to help the student body as a whole,” Giardina said. “We want students to come here and be engaged and supported throughout their college experience.”

According to the fall 2012 MAP-Works survey results, GVSU students rated themselves higher than their peers on their communication and analytic skills, but lower on several social scales, including peer connections, social integration and homesickness—which means GVSU students are more homesick than peers.

GVSU students also rated themselves as having higher test anxiety than peers.

“In reference to the pressure of testing and social concern, Grand Valley looks very intensively into these matters, especially when they show up on survey results,” Giardina said. “We can learn what we need to focus on more through the Academic Success Center so that we can provide any resources that students feel as though they need. We are always concerned about students not being connected because, as a main goal, we truly want all students to be involved and feel as though they have a place at Grand Valley.”

The main goal of the survey is to help students figure out how to engage with the vast variety of resources that are available at GVSU.

“MAP-Works looks at a number of factors and behaviors that we at the university know successful students engage in,” said Colleen Lindsay-Bailey, of GVSU’s Office of Housing and Residence Life. “The goal is to help all students connect and engage in all the university offers them in terms of resources and support. We know that students are interested in making a successful transition to Grand Valley, and this is one of the many tools that help students to do that.”

If students rank certain elements in the survey below average, they are pinpointed to their “dashboard,” a function in the survey that shows how students are doing in relation to their peers. Students are then directed toward resources available on campus, such as tutoring or counseling services with professional advisers and Housing and Residence Life staff, who have a connection with students because of their major or where they live.

“The survey is a retention tool,” Lindsay-Bailey said. “It provides personalized information based on a student’s responses. The personalized report can be incredibly valuable to students to figure out how to navigate the university. All professional advisers and housing staff follow up with students on an individual basis to be sure that suggestions for engagement are designed specifically for the student they are working with.”

After results are calculated, they are reviewed by individuals related to the topic at hand, and students are sent an email addressing any topics that may need further assistance. The survey helps to describe the student experience early on in the semester to introduce resources to those who need them before things get out of hand.

“Ultimately, we want students that need help to get the help that they need,” Giardina said. “Our goal is to help students to the best of our ability and MAP-Works is a key element in this goal. The quicker students feel connected and have their questions answered, the more quickly they consider Grand Valley to be the place to be.”