UCO Receives National Recognition for Student Engagement
Students interact with SPB on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016 for “Wacky Wednesday” by the Clock Tower. Students had the opportunity to how off their wacky talents to receive a ‘UCO’s Got Talent’ button. Photo by Cara Johnson, The Vista.
The University of Central Oklahoma’s effort to help students engage with each other and the community around them has brought national recognition among prestigious colleges and universities.
The Wall Street Journal Times Higher Education College Ranking ranked UCO sixth place in the Top 10 list compiled for student engagement. UCO was the only public-regional university ranked on the Wall Street Journal’s Top Schools for Engagement list.
“It was a very prestigious recognition that we received, and we were absolutely delighted that other people discovered it. It was really a testimony to what goes here with our students, our faculty and our staff to receive this ranking,” said Jeff King, executive director of Center for Excellence in Transformative Teaching and Learning.
Over 100,000 colleges and universities around the nation were surveyed on questions over student engagement with staff, faculty, organizations and programs offered by these institutions. Other questions highlighted students’ satisfaction with their college experience.
For each institution, 50 students were given a survey. The institutions, however, were not notified about these censuses.
“What I like about this is that it’s based on not just data, but also on interviews. We didn’t know they were interviewing our students. We had no idea,” UCO President Don Betz said.
The engagement ranking was derived from seven questions. Survey questions included how challenging classes were, the level at which classes prompted critical thinking, the students’ connections to the school, and interactions in the community.
“What these people were trying to do with their particular survey was to get more of a read on what [a UCO student’s] actual experience was like, among all other indicators that they were collecting. And as it turns out, the University of Central Oklahoma ranked extremely highly in how much students are engaged with their education, with their faculty, with other staff on campus, with organizations and service learning, and so forth,” King said.
Governor Mary Fallin has complimented UCO’s administration for being recognized nationally for helping students connect with each other and the world around them. Fallin said UCO efforts are similar to her Oklahoma Works initiative, which aims to ensure Oklahoma students have the necessary education and skills to enter the workforce prepared and well-equipped.
Betz believes education is the single most significant factor in the long-range development of the opportunities for students, along with the development of character, which is influenced by education.
Betz said he receives feedback from employers articulating that UCO students are very engaged, alert, adaptive and eager to learn.
“But ultimately what it is, to me, is affirmation and encouragement that the pathway we are on is a pathway that is worthwhile. [A pathway] that serves not only our students, but our society, our communities, the metro area and the state of Oklahoma. And if we do that in the right way, especially with our costs here compared to many across the country, we think that we are, in that way, serving students as best as we possibly can. So we are encouraged; we have to be,” Betz added.
It’s noted that the results show a clear divide between public and private institutions, highlighting that private colleges are more prompt to receive high rankings, as public schools have more restrained spending.
“We are just again very, very pleased, and hopefully we can continue to serve our students and the community very well,” Betz said. “I can thank the entire faculty and staff of the institution—those people that get up every day and come here with a passion for what they do and a belief in the possibilities of creating opportunities for our students. And I also thank the students. They were the ones that did the reporting.”