GVSU graduate school evaluates faculty, student experience

GVL / Kevin Sielaff - The University Academic Senate (UAS) convenes Friday, Jan. 29, 2016 inside the DeVos Center on Grand Valleys Pew Campus.

Kevin Sielaff

GVL / Kevin Sielaff – The University Academic Senate (UAS) convenes Friday, Jan. 29, 2016 inside the DeVos Center on Grand Valley’s Pew Campus.

Hannah Lentz

For three years, Jeffrey Potteiger, dean of the graduate school at Grand Valley State University has been speaking to the University Academic Senate (UAS) about the school’s progress and status.

At the most recent UAS meeting, Potteiger’s talk focused on the results gathered from the graduate exit survey administered to all students finishing up their continued degree at GVSU.

The survey began in 2013 in order to evaluate student success and faculty performance.

“What we do is we send out an invitation to any graduate student who has applied for graduation for the fall semester or the winter semester,” Potteiger said. “We do this with the intent of getting feedback on our graduate program. In other words, we wanted to try and do an assessment.”

From fall of 2014 to winter of 2015, over 950 initiations were sent out to students with an above average response rate of 44 percent.

From those responses, the majority of feedback was positive.

“Basically, our graduate students think that the overall quality of our faculty is pretty good,” Potteiger said. “Assisting students in finding a job was one area that needed work.”

One element of the problem area lies in the misconception about career services provided at GVSU through the Career Center. Based on collaborative focus groups, most graduate students think that career services are geared toward undergraduate students, Potteiger said.

Due to this inaccurate association, Potteiger has worked with Career Center Director Troy Farley to create a full-time employee position in the office geared primarily toward graduate students.

“A lot of our graduate students aren’t going into a job for the first time,” Potteiger said. “They want to move up so that’s a little bit of a different conversation that you have with a student. They want to look at how they can move up in their current position and how to develop as a professional and we are acknowledging that.”

Another problem looked at student debt.

Of all GVSU graduate school alumni that completed the survey, 38 percent came away with around $30,000 of debt from their graduate program, a statistic consistent with the debt of graduates from other schools’ programs.

“This number is a little troubling,” Potteiger said. “However, it is currently in line with national trends.”

All data gathered from the survey, especially areas that need improvement, are sent on to graduate program directors, unit heads and respective academic deans so they can use this information to improve the quality of their program, Potteiger said.

For more information about the graduate school at GVSU go to www.gvsu.edu/gs.