Survery probes intellectual atmosphere

Erica Dolson

As part of an ongoing University-wide study called “Transforming Hearts and Minds,” students at Villanova University took part in a focus group and a series of interviews this week. This study hopes to act as a “reality check on the way the University is accomplishing its primary academic mission as experienced by the students,” said Dr. Edwin Goff, director of the University’s Honors Program.

On Monday night, a focus group discussion took place with students in the Honors Program. This was a time for students to share their academic experiences and to discuss non-academic experiences, such as dorm life and extracurricular activities.

Two sets of interviews were conducted on Wednesday and Friday. One group of interviewees consisted of students who have seriously considered transferring or are definitely planning to transfer. The second group was made up of students who have never thought about transferring. These focus group discussions and interviews were meant to highlight the “experiences that they [students] have had here so far that have engaged them intellectually,” said Dane Hewlett, director of training and organizational development and project manager for this study.

The planning for this project began a month ago. The data collection will be taking place during May and June, and the results will be written up in July. The results will be sent to the vice president of academic affairs, Jack Johannes and the deans of each of Villanova’s colleges. These findings “will hopefully suggest and indicate ways to make the Villanova experience even better,” said John Kelley, executive director of the “Hearts and Minds” study. These results will become a baseline to create “a more effective way of drawing students into the academic life,” added Goff.

Beginning in 1990, Villanova developed a strategic planning program to improve in areas including faith, diversity and facilities. The Office of Planning, Training, and Institutional Research is integral in conducting this study.

“Villanova is really on the move,” said Kelley. The campus, the goals of the student body, and the accomplishments of the alumni are improving. “Transforming Hearts and Minds” is the academic strategic plan, concentrating on improving the academic climate at Villanova. The entire study consists of seven parts: the focus groups and honors interviews, faculty interviews (taking place in a few weeks) in which faculty members will discuss a time they felt their class was intellectually engaged, a literature review in which Villanova will compare its results to similar studies conducted by area universities, student cohort groups in which the same group of students will be tracked throughout their four years at Villanova, special CATS reports, and a series of questions which will be added to the Senior Survey.