Graduate students surveyed

Tim Sampson and Tim Sampson

Each year the department of institutional research issues six different surveys to gauge the opinions of undergraduate students. But until now there have been no such surveys for the more than 3,000 graduate students who attend the University.

That changed over the weekend as the department of institutional research e-mailed a 110-question survey to the entire graduate student population. They hope to gain insight into a group that has historically been left out of the internal studies of universities across the country.

The survey, which will remain available online until March 16, is designed to address all aspects of graduate students’ academic, professional and personal experiences at the University.

Graduate Student Senate leaders initiated the idea after viewing a presentation on a similar survey conducted at Miami University.

‘Miami’s survey received a lot of attention,’ said Luke Nichter, GSS vice-president. ‘And we ask, ‘why can’t we do that here?”

Although GSS has conducted its own studies in the past, this is the first time they have worked with institutional research to conduct a comprehensive survey of the entire graduate student population.

According Nichter, it’s not uncommon for universities to neglect their graduate students when conducting internal research.

‘It’s not just a phenomenon at BGSU,’ he said. ‘Miami had never had a survey, and when they completed theirs they got all sorts of national attention.’

Graduate students tend to be forgotten because they make up such a small portion of the total student body, said William Knight, director of planning and institutional research.

Graduate students comprise just 14.5 percent of the University’s total enrollment.

‘Generally the attention for these things is on the undergrads,’ Knight said, ‘probably because there are so many more of them.’

Although graduate students have been left out of past studies, Deanna Vantan Woodhouse, GSS president, does not feel the University has deliberately neglected their concerns.

‘I don’t think that they were ever blatantly disregarding the graduate student experience,’ Woodhouse said. ‘I just don’t think it was ever a priority.’

Even though results from the survey won’t be available until the end of the semester, Woodhouse hopes the survey will generate empirical evidence of graduate students’ concerns. She hopes this data will help guide the GSS agenda and serve as a tool for better representing graduate students’ needs in the future.

‘Right now we can give you all sorts of anecdotal stories about this happening to one student or this happening to another,’ she said. ‘But if we can get a survey structure it might be more powerful for our arguments.’