Survey results find that most students see UI as caring, safe, friendly, and tolerant of diversity
Friday, October 17, 2014

The University of Iowa is one of 16 major research universities nationwide using a unique online survey designed to broaden the understanding of undergraduate experiences and promote a culture of institutional self-improvement.

Tell Us is the UI's name for the Student Experience in the Research University (SERU) survey administered to all undergraduates by the Office of the Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education. UI is a member of the SERU Consortium, which includes other Big Ten universities, such as the University of Michigan, Indiana University, and the University of Minnesota, that also administer the survey.

“It’s a concerted effort to gain a campus-wide understanding of undergraduate experiences and perceptions of UI,” says Wayne Jacobson, assessment director for the Office of the Provost. “SERU asks about a number of factors that are known to be important for student learning and success.”

In the spring of 2013 and 2014, UI undergraduates participated in the survey, which provides an extensive overview of the student experience by gathering information on academic and community engagement, experiences in their major,overall satisfaction, as well as perceived campus climate for diversity. Jacobson says the response rate was strong in both 2014 (24%) and 2013 (30%), and the profile of respondents broadly represented the undergraduate population in both years.

Jacobson and Georgina Dodge, UI chief diversity officer and associate vice president, shared the SERU findings on one of the survey areas — campus climate for diversity — at the President’s Forum on Oct. 16.

Looking at the institution as a whole, SERU suggests the following characteristics of campus climate for diversity at UI:

  • At an institutional level, there is a consistent pattern of student agreement that the UI climate is caring, safe, friendly, and tolerant of diversity.
  • Across all segments of the student population, the majority of students agree that they personally feel respected on campus, but there is variability among groups in how strongly they agree.
  • The majority of students report rarely or never hearing negative or stereotypical statements from students, faculty, or staff. Relatively few students report ever hearing them from faculty or staff.
  • Students report gaining a deeper understanding of other people’s perspectives in a wide variety of settings, including academic, co-curricular, and work experiences.

“While the data show that the majority of UI students who took the survey believe the climate is positive and diversity is important, we know that much more work remains to be done and climate is seen and experienced differently by various groups,” says Dodge. “If any one student expresses discomfort, we must continue striving to create a more welcoming climate.”

Dodge says UI’s Chief Diversity Office will assess the information and in collaboration with the Collegiate Diversity Group and use the results to kick off conversations within each of the UI’s 11 colleges, which will lead to plans and strategies to enhance the climate for diversity.

The release of the SERU findings on campus climate for diversity comes as the UI welcomes its most diverse first-year class in history, with 19 percent — 886 students — identifying as African American, American Indian, native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, Asian American, Latino, or two or more races. The percentage of minority students grew from 17 percent last year and is up from 12.6 percent in 2010.

Access the full Campus Climate for Diversity analysis and other SERU findings about the student experience at the UI at the Office of Assessment website.