National Survey Shows Denison Students Get a Superior Education

Posted: April 4, 2018
Students walking from chapel walk to academic quad

GRANVILLE, Ohio—Denison University students have an extraordinary college experience — and the college has the data to prove it. In the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), a highly respected survey of college students across 1,600 institutions, Denison seniors say they are excited about how and what they’ve learned. They are ready to use their skills, values, habits, networks and experiences to launch into successful lives.

In comparison to seniors at other elite institutions, Denison seniors are significantly more likely across all survey topics to say their college experience was game-changing — especially in education, faculty mentorship, well-being, and skills development. Looking back at their time on campus, 93 percent of Denison seniors rate their entire educational experience as “excellent” or “good,” a rate that surpasses seniors' ratings at other elite institutions.

What kind of skills do you develop in college?

Denisonians are especially well prepared in the skills that employers place at the top of their wish lists: critical thinking, written and oral communication, analyzing quantitative information, working in teams, understanding people of other backgrounds, and solving complex, real-world problems.

Denison seniors also give top marks to the job- and work-related skills they acquired, their clarification of personal values, and their ability to be informed and active citizens.

What do college seniors say about their educational experience?

Classroom learning isn’t about rote memorization — it’s about seeing how different concepts and ideas are interconnected.  Denison seniors report their education helped them integrate their experiences. They especially connected learning to societal challenges and were excited when professors prompted them to include diverse perspectives into course discussions and assignments.

Provost Kim Coplin says, “This shows the one of the primary strengths of a Denison education — students are prompted to integrate new ideas with concepts from other courses and to apply what they’re learning in the classroom to societal issues.”

Why does mentorship matter at college?

One of the defining characteristics of a transformative college experience is having a good mentor. Faculty mentorship is especially crucial, and Denison seniors report high-quality relationships with faculty. Students build strong, enduring relationships with faculty, talk with them about career plans, and discuss course concepts, topics and ideas with faculty outside of class.

Denison faculty are committed to student learning. One senior writes, “My interactions with faculty have been the most satisfying experience at this institution. I love being in the classroom and developing my own ideas, but I would not be as prepared to enter the post-grad world without the help of our faculty. My one advisor in particular has set me up with dozens of opportunities and has pushed me to believe in myself.”

What does well-being look like at college?

Denison students thrive inside – and outside — the classroom. Students are encouraged to take advantage of an abundance of intellectual, financial, social, personal, and community resources. Students interact with those who are different from them, have opportunities to be involved socially, and are supported in their overall well-being.

One senior says, “The most satisfying thing at this institution is the access to the faculty and staff. Support for Denison students is everywhere, whether you reach out to friends, coaches, professors, or the counseling and medical staff at Whisler Health Center. Everyone is always eager to help students and provide thoughtful responses to students’ needs. While the academics at Denison are challenging, it pushes every student to reach their potentials and the professors are just as excited to see the results of students’ hard work. Denison staff is always there to help.”

Vice President for Student Development Laurel Kennedy says in addition to skill development, mentorship, and a supportive campus environment, other interesting findings include the following:

  • Our Denison community is diverse in a multitude of ways — politically, economically, racially, religiously, and geographically. Our seniors report at significantly higher rates than students at other liberal arts schools that they are engaging in conversations with others who are different from them.
  • During their time at Denison, 73 percent of students completed an internship, 58 percent worked with a faculty member on a research project, while one of every two studied abroad.
  • Denison students are passionate about things outside the classroom, spending significantly more time than students at other schools volunteering or completing service, Eighty (80) percent have held a formal leadership role in a student organization or group.

“I believe that Denison had just the amount of support I needed to succeed and grow into who I am today,” says one senior. “Denison's faculty pushed me to participate and formulate my own thoughts on the world creating me into a critical and autonomous thinker.’

“Through Denison, I was able to enter discussions regarding many topics and with people very different from myself,” they added. “Denison's career center helped me edit my resume and my boss helped tailor my internship to my future job position. I cannot recommend Denison enough to others.”

“College should be a place where students are immersed quickly into strong academic and residential communities, develop a close mentoring relationship with a faculty member, and get involved in co-curricular activities that allow them to find good friends and develop strong life skills,” says Denison President Adam Weinberg. “Once again, our NSSE data demonstrate the power of a Denison education to provide the kind of experiences that lead to life-changing skills and outcomes.”

For detailed information about Denison’s NSSE data and other student outcomes, visit “The Denison Difference.

Denison University unlocks the potential of our students to be architects of their own lives. Our college is built on a foundation of academic prestige and lasting relationships. We create pathways for our students to quickly make friends and find mentors. We help them figure out what kind of lives they want to lead and develop the skills, values, habits, networks, and experiences to launch into professions so they can build those lives. Denison students become the architects of their own lives. As Denison continues to build upon its strengths, our focus is on deepening mentorship; expanding the liberal arts curriculum; reinventing the career exploration process; and leveraging our close proximity to Columbus, one of the nation's best cities for the arts, internships, and entrepreneurship.

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