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Classic Signals: College encourages students to be involved

As the end of the semester draws near, students still have time to become proactive on campus in an effort to get the most out of their college experience. Many students are not even aware of what events are going on campus or what they are eligible to receive for either no charge or for a discount from many departments on campus, including career programs and health services. 

In a December 2010 issue of The Signal, a reporter wrote about how students even almost a decade were not as involved as they could be. 

Thanks to a steady flow of infomercials, the word “proactive” may conjure up images of Jessica Simpson’s now-flawless skin. However, at the college-level, when graduate applications and the job search begin to demand greater attention than the occasional break-out, students of the School of Culture and Society are being advised to reclaim the old sense of the word when it comes to seizing educational opportunities that will set them apart from other applicants. 

This is in light of the results of a preliminary study conducted from Sept. 20-Oct. 12, by the School of Culture and Society, which suggested that the ambitions of freshmen Culture and Society majors to take advantage of “transformative learning”  opportunities — like study abroad, internships and faculty-led research — may not be matching up with actual outcomes by senior year. 

The voluntary study, which was administered to freshman and senior Culture and Society majors via Qualtrics, a provider of online survey software, was responded to by 665 students. The study found that while 80 percent of this year’s freshman class reported planning to participate in study abroad before graduation, only 21 percent of today’s seniors had done so, 88 percent of freshmen want to participate in an internship, and 71 percent plan to participate in an undergraduate research project. However, only 56 percent and 35 percent of seniors had respectively participated in these “experiential activities” as an undergraduate student. 

While psychology professor Jason Dahling, who was asked by Culture and Society dean Benjamin Rifkin to analyze the data, emphasized the importance of remembering that “these are not the same people,” he also felt that the results of the survey are “worth looking into.” 

However, in separate interviews, both Dahling and Rifkin expressed interest in pinpointing the other causes of the possible discrepancy and finding ways to encourage students to be “proactive” about their ambitions. 

“A lot of students wrote that they are interested in these activities, but they’re not sure how to make them happen,” Dahling said. “So part of it is making people aware of the available resources (like Career Services, which helps students find internships, and the Center for Global Engagement) and part of it is encouraging students to seek them out … It’s a proactivity sort of thing. If you don’t express any interest, it’s kind of hard for us to get this information to you.” 

“None of these opportunities will fall in your lap,” Rifkin said. “I understand that it’s easier for students to register for next semester’s classes and not go to Career Services, etc., but I think that it is so important to be purposeful about your college experience.” 

In one respect, Dahling and Rifkin both admitted that there may have been other constraints on today’s seniors, like the recession and time constraints, which may have impacted their ability to study abroad. 

“When there’s a recession, it’s harder to find an internship, it’s harder to find money to go abroad,” Dahling said. 

According to a national Institute of International Education survey, which was published in the Nov. 14 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education, 32 percent of participating institutions saw a decrease in study abroad participation this year over last year.


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