Undergraduate experience examined

On a scale of one to 10, with one being the lowest and 10 being the highest, UCA students rate their undergraduate experience as an eight.

That was one of the conclusions a group of graduate students in the college student personnel services and administration program at UCA made after completing a research project last spring titled ?Students Perceptions of UCA Undergraduate Experience.?

Six graduate students who took a course titled, ?The College Student,? presented the class?s findings from their semester-long research project at a brown bag luncheon sponsored by the Instructional Development Center on Tuesday, Nov. 11.

The students conducted a qualitative survey of a cross-section of UCA students from each undergraduate classification representing the following populations: general student population, females living in resident halls, males living in resident halls, Hispanic-American students and Honors College students.

The group reported that students in each of the five populations said their social experiences were some of their best experiences at UCA. A freshman male said he enjoyed the sense of community on campus, while a freshman Hispanic American enjoyed ?meeting people from different places.?

While juniors and seniors ranked their social experiences high on their list of best undergraduate experiences, they also indicated other factors such as scholastic experiences and interaction with UCA programs and organizations. A senior student reported ?Chi Alpha has been the best experience for me.?

The graduate students? findings, students? worst experiences were as diverse as the students they interviewed. According to their report, ?Students? experiences can only be explained as emotion or mental development or for a better term ?growing up?. The responses range from losing loved ones, to fear of the changes of beginning college, to learning to take responsibility for his or her own actions.?

Undergraduate students who were interviewed were also asked why they chose to attend UCA. The majority of freshman, sophomore and junior responses could be placed in one of three categories of influence: friends and family, scholarship or program of study. A few juniors also mentioned selecting UCA over other Arkansas colleges and universities because they believe UCA is better. According to the report, seniors overwhelmingly stated that scholarships and financial aid were their reasons for attending UCA.

After discovering the average overall ranking of UCA students? undergraduate experience was an eight, the students tested to see if there was any significant difference among the different populations, genders or classifications.

The only significant difference discovered was among the classifications. Sophomores ranked their undergraduate experience significantly lower than students in the other classifications.

The graduate students hypothesized that by the second year the ?glamour of college? wears off. They also noted that student retention is focused on freshmen and perhaps should include sophomores as well.

The graduate students pointed out that their interviews revealed that sophomores found their classes to not be what they wanted them to be. They also noted that sophomores valued their social activities and social networks the most.

Students participating in the survey were also asked if a UCA employee has made a significant impression on him or her. Seventy-three percent of the students said a faculty member had made a significant impression, while 16 percent indicated a staff member and 11 percent indicated a resident assistant has made a significant impression.

-Jennifer Boyett