Around Tappan Square
Oberlin Students Yesterday and Today.
"Doing good" versus "doing well"--it's a distinction used often to epitomize the priorities of Oberlin students and graduates. New research confirms that while in college, Oberlinians, when compared to graduates of peer institutions, were much more likely to rethink their political and religious beliefs, moral and ethical values, and tenets about alternative sexual orientations.
by Ross Peacock, Director of Institutional Research
Until recently, Oberlin held little data on the aspirations or attitudes of its alumni. The College knows plenty about its students, however; freshmen are surveyed each fall about their personalities, educational goals, and life objectives. The Survey of American Freshmen, administered at 500 institutions annually since 1973, provides a useful snapshot of college students nationwide.
To get a handle on alumni attitudes, the College joined 29 other highly selective institutions in surveying the classes of 1979 and 1989 about their careers, graduate education, and activities since graduation. The results, although not representative of the alumni body as a whole, paint a valuable picture of two alumni classes at different stages of their lives. For the first time, Oberlin can compare data from the freshman and alumni surveys to examine how students have changed--or stayed the same--over time.
EMPLOYMENT AND EDUCATION
Not surprisingly, graduate education is a common path for Oberlin grads. Two-thirds of the alumni body report having master's degrees, and the College continues to produce more future PhDs than any other predominantly liberal arts college. However, recent surveys of graduating seniors show them more likely to delay their entrance to graduate school in favor of other activities. Responses from the alumni survey suggest that this tendancy is not so new:
View Survey Result: Primary Activity Immediately Following Graduation
Class of 1989 alumni were far more likely to choose employment over grad school. But when alumni reported on their current primary activity, graduate school percentages for the class of 1989 catch up:
View Survey Result: Primary Activity Now
The inclination to delay grad school has not gone unnoticed by Oberlin faculty. A survey of the Class of 2001 revealed that 24 percent of respondents chose graduate school, whereas 72 percent headed directly into a job. Some faculty worry this is due to diminished preparedness for graduate education and, therefore, a student's reduced chance of admission. However, given alumni survey results, which show that 1979 and 1989 alums equal out in graduate school rates over time, we have some evidence that a lack of preparedness is not to blame.
View Survey Result: Reasons for Selecting Employment Immediately after Graduation
As for degree aspirations, freshmen in the fall of 2000 indicated plans to seek an advanced degree more so than surveyed alums had as freshmen. Oberlin students also report post-baccalaureate aspirations to a greater degree than those at many peer institutions.
View Survey Result: Degree Aspirations for Entering First-Year Students
Clearly, education is a common thread among Oberlin graduates; it's the most frequently cited career choice listed in the alumni database. Survey results concur:
View Survey Result: Career Type
PERCEIVED INSTITUTIONAL PRIORITIES
Of particular interest to Oberlin is the extent to which alumni perceptions are congruent with institutional priorities.
The hallmarks of a liberal education: teaching undergraduates, intellectual freedom, a broad-based education, and maintaining racial and ethnic diversity are a priority for alumni, and are areas in which they believe Oberlin places proper emphasis. The largest difference between alumni preference and institutional emphasis involves workforce skills. This is not surprising, as respondents have been out of college for at least 12 years and might have benefited from more workplace lessons as students. Alumni are also sensitive to the necessity for need-based scholarship assistance and to keeping Oberlin as affordable as possible.
Interestingly, graduates rated alumni concerns as having more emphasis by Oberlin than they themselves desired. This could mean that alumni are more than satisfied with current levels of alumni emphasis, or simply that other things are more important.
Alumni and freshmen answered questions about personal goals and objectives they considered essential or very important:
View Survey Result: Goals and Objectives
IMPORTANCE OF A RACIALLY/ETHNICALLY DIVERSE CAMPUS
The Alumni Survey gauged responses that would help Oberlin understand the extent to which diversity contributed to the personal and intellectual development of our graduates. These questions were designed to collect information on the extent to which alumni questioned or re-thought their beliefs in seven areas, and in which areas they gained the most understanding.
View Survey Result: Did You Ever Re-Think Your Values in Following Areas?
Compared to graduates from the other institutions administering this survey, Oberlin alumni were much more likely to question or re-think their values while at their alma mater and to view this questioning as very positive.
We then asked which activities contributed the most valuable insights to this questioning. While lectures and classroom learning are most frequently cited, racial and ethnic diversity is the second-most cited contributor to the questioning and re-thinking of values. Again, Oberlin alumni were far more likely to cite these activities then were graduates of the other institutions. Though obvious to many of us, evidence such as this has become important in defending consideration of student backgrounds in the admissions process.
View SurveyResult: Which of the Following Contributed to Most Valuable Insights