At a time when higher education is under the microscope, studies abound concerning which schools place the highest percentage of students in graduate schools and jobs, which lead to the highest annual income, and the list could continue. Instead of focusing on the names of institutions, however, what about looking into what students actually do during their four years?
A recent Gallup Poll did just that, finding students who “forged meaningful connections with professors or mentors” are the same people “who feel happy and engaged in their jobs [and] are the most productive” as a result.
At Waynesburg University, 93 percent of first-year students and 91 percent of seniors rated their overall experience as “excellent” or “good,” according to the University’s 2013 National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) results. Additionally, NSSE reported that Waynesburg students talked about career plans with a faculty member 28 percent more than students at other Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU) schools.
What exactly does that look like? Mike Cipoletti, Director of the Forensic Science program, said he knows every student in the program, from the freshmen to the seniors—a direct result of the University’s 14:1 student/faculty ratio. Cipoletti said the seniors spend plenty of time in his office, especially close to graduation.
"That’s why most of us are here,” he said. “We come to a small institution like this, so we can have more face time and interaction with the students. It’s not even just on the academic side of things—it’s the personal interactions, too. It’s trying to help these students figure out how to become leaders, how to become service-oriented people, how to give back to their communities, and you know, that’s the best part about it.”
Provost Dr. Jacquelyn Core agrees, citing the University’s commitment to service as another way students and faculty forge close ties with one another.
“When a student is serving right alongside a faculty member, it adds more depth to the relationship, and it’s all about that ability to form relationships,” Core said. “I also think it goes both ways because it helps faculty members to feel more invested in the students, too.”
As the survey undertaken by Gallup—which polled 30,000 graduates of all ages in all 50 states—proved, Waynesburg’s mentor-like approach to teaching, academic advising and career counseling works. And the institution’s 96 percent career path rate (for those still wondering about those buzzwords) further illustrates that point.
Students are not only furthering their education in graduate schools and obtaining jobs in their respective fields, they are excelling in whatever path they choose.
Take Ryan Devlin, for example. A 2007 Waynesburg alumnus, Devlin received the honor of Pennsylvania’s 2013 “Teacher of the Year” and also became a finalist for the 2014 National Teacher of the Year Award. He, too, cites the holistic approach to a Waynesburg education as a major factor in his success.
“[Waynesburg is] just a great place where everyone is a mentor to you, and it’s not just about having a great college professor—it’s about everyone here,” Devlin said. “One of the things that’s really unique about Waynesburg University is that it really educates the entire student.”
Part of how the University “educates the entire student,” as Devlin put it, is through the school’s liberal arts philosophy. Core, in her role as Provost, is of the opinion that this approach to education is simply invaluable.
“I truly believe that you cannot put a price tag on the type of well-rounded person you can become through a liberal arts education,” Core said. “It’s really easy outside of a liberal arts background to get pigeon-holed in your field of study. You may become an expert in that field but not get the background needed to become a good citizen in all parts of society, whether that is servant leadership, environmental stewardship or whatever that might be. I think there’s a level of knowledge with a liberal arts education that makes you more conversant in a wider range of societal issues.”
For those still interested in a few of those buzzwords and rankings mentioned above, check out http://www.waynesburg.edu/ranking to learn more about Waynesburg’s recent distinctions.