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scale of 1 to 5. “Appreciating the arts” was even, at 4.3 in both rankings; the other learned-at-Skidmore scores were just a few tenths of a point behind their importance rankings. As for the five skills rated lowest for being enhanced by Skidmore, Goodwin admits, “those are unsettling.” But she points out that Skidmore is emphasizing these same areas in its short- and long-term planning. Some have been tough nuts to crack for a few years and some have moved to the front burners more recently, but they’re no sur- prise to college leaders. “Working with people of differ- ent cultures” was one of these, with a 3.2 score. Ethnic diversity on campus wasn’t a major focus on many campuses until the past several decades, and older alumni scored this lower than the young - er ones did. But since the 1970s, and perhaps even more since the 1990s, Goodwin says, “diversity and intercultural literacy are recurring themes, which only grow more urgent as the world becomes more globally inter- connected, and as differences in ways of life, income, and fun- damental assumptions become more pronounced and con- tentious for more people.” She says, “It’s gratifying to see that our alumni view it as so important. Other responses in the sur- vey show that our alumni are interacting with colleagues and neighbors of different backgrounds and races quite regularly.” She says the 3.2 learned-at-Skidmore rating against its 4.3 in importance “validates the high priority Skidmore is placing on increasing its diversity and on helping students develop a ca- pacity to communicate and collaborate across differences”—as codified in Skidmore’s “Goals for Student Learning and Development,” draft- ed with Goodwin’s guidance and widely en- dorsed in 2009.


1


Maintain Healthy Living Habits


Manage the Practical Aspects of My Life


Work with People of Different Cultures


Communicate Well Orally Differences Between People


Present Ideas with Self-Confidence


Appreciate Cultural


Practicing “healthy living habits” got a 2.9 rating. Goodwin observes that “the classical liberal arts don’t traditionally incorporate this in the curriculum, and you might argue that it’s not in their purview.” But, she adds, “Western academic traditions also include the model of the Rhodes Scholar or scholar-athlete. In any case, do we think it’s OK that college is where students practice unhealthy habits? Should we let that happen without offering some corrective context to help guide better choices?” If not, she says, then “this is an area where strengthening our programming outside the curriculum will be crucial.” The “Goals for Student Learn- ing” cite skills related to making a successful postcollege tran- sition and building a satisfying, purposeful life. And new ad- vising programs on career development, alcohol and drug use, wellness, and other areas are being implemented this semester or are in the works.


Skills with Greatest Disparity Between Ratings of Importance and Enhancement by Skidmore


the skills whose importance rankings differed the most from their enhanced-by scores. Healthy living and practical life management, as well as appreciating and working with people of different cultures, scored at least a full point higher in im- portance than in being enhanced by Skidmore. Oral communi- cation and presenting ideas with self-confidence were the other two rated as highly important skills that weren’t as highly en- hanced by Skidmore.


2 2.9 3.4 3.2 3.7 3.4 3.8


3 45 Importance


Enhanced by Skidmore 4.4 4.5 4.3 4.7 4.4 4.7


A few other data points stood out. More than 80% of respon- dents travel to places with dif- ferent cultures at least some- times; 31% do it very often. Daily Internet lookups are con- ducted by 60%, and daily news- paper reading by 74%; at least weekly, 65% read a magazine and 55% read articles on scien- tific topics. One-quarter of the respondents read fiction or po- etry every day. More than 90%


volunteer at least annually; 34% volunteer daily or weekly. Master’s degrees are held by 54%, with another 14% planning to get one; 14% have doctoral degrees. The respondents’ un- employment rate is just 2.6%. More than 75% say their job is directly or somewhat related to their Skidmore studies, and 19% work in a business they started.


“WE’RE EAGER TO APPLY THIS RESEARCH TO FUTURE ADJUSTMENTS IN PROGRAMS, CURRICULA, AND POLICIES.”


For another angle on these findings, the survey firm charted


The Alumni Learning Census is just beginning, having sur- veyed 16 classes, from 1931 and ’36 up to 2001 and ’06. Good- win and company are eager to see more answers to the ques- tions in future survey cycles. The second cycle is now polling alumni from class years ending in 2 and 7. After five years, each alumni class will have been surveyed, yielding “very valuable, statistically credible data that will be closely analyzed as part of our broader assessment efforts,” says Goodwin. Speaking of broader efforts, while individ- ual programs and departments are conduct- ing assessments on a regular basis, Goodwin is helping coordi- nate research into more collegewide goals and outcomes. Writ- ing across the curriculum has been a focus over several years, and now she’s planning to begin a study of visual communica- tion. She says, “Today’s world is far more visual than ever be- fore—from TV and video to the Internet and PowerPoint—and students need to navigate and critically interpret this image-in- tensive world. Many faculty members are incorporating visual communications in a range of courses, but this year we’re thinking about it more strategically and broadly. We may de- cide to become as intentional and systematic about how and where we teach it as we are now with writing.” Meanwhile, she and her colleagues are waiting by the mail- box, as it were, hoping for a good return from the 2s and 7s in this year’s census. She says, “We’re eager to apply this research to future adjustments in programs, curricula, and policies.”


WINTER 2010 SCOPE 27


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