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’Deis up on diversity, down on faculty interactions

Published: October 8, 2010
Section: News


The Wabash College national liberal arts study team presented their findings at Thursday’s faculty meeting, showcasing both positive aspects of Brandeis’ educational values but also areas that may need improvement.

“We ask first-years for their college experiences in all parts of the institutions, including good teaching, academic challenge, diversity and deep learning to identify practices and conditions that promote liberal education,” Charlie Blaich, the study’s director, said.

“One of the factors that were rare, and specific to a few schools, including Brandeis, was the level of interactions with faculty,” he said, adding that Brandeis students are very satisfied with their experience with faculty.

The numbers, though, in comparison to other “small schools,” the designation category Blaich said the study placed Brandeis in, showed a lower frequency of those interactions.

Brandeis students in surveys said that they talked with faculty less about career goals and personal values and knew them informally less often compared to other schools in the category. Students of the class of 2012, including midyears, took part in the study both during orientation and later in spring.

“It’s a little low,” Blaich said. Faculty members hypothesized about the reasons behind the trend, with ideas including the high club involvement, busy Boston social life and students’ self-reliance as reasons fewer are personally involved in learning with faculty outside the classroom.

Blaich suggested another, more psychological explanation: “Students have a high regard for the faculty, but that may require them to be more courageous; they may be intimidated,” he said.

Brandeis excelled compared to other schools in terms of diversity issues.

Brandeis students surveyed said that they discussed diversity issues more often; met or had meaningful conversations with those of a different ethnic, religious or social background; and generally thought their university made more of a push to highlight the issues.

Provost Marty Krauss said that the study, which involved 49 colleges around the country, was “an opportunity to take a look in a very organized way at the experiences of first-year students.”

Her office plans “to develop action plans for future improvement” of the education Brandeis delivers based partly on results found in the study.