Spotlight for Career Services Professionals
The first time the University of Florida (UF) conducted its UF Graduation Survey in 2012, it was a voluntary instrument that netted a 70 percent completion rate. A suggestion from the provost’s office—to make completion of this survey mandatory—has boosted survey knowledge rates in subsequent years.
“The information from the survey is extremely valuable,” explains Ja’Net Glover, senior director of career services at the University of Florida Career Connections Center. “We now put holds on students’ accounts if they don’t complete the survey. A hold prevents students from receiving their transcripts until they complete the survey. The support from our provost and president has emphasized the importance of the data and the need for it.”
The UF Graduation Survey is open for graduating students to complete from two weeks before commencement through seven weeks post-graduation. This spring’s survey yielded a 97.3 percent knowledge rate.
The initiative also benefits from partnerships and commitment from UF’s Registrar's Office, which places holds on students’ accounts, and address their questions and concerns about the holds, and the Office of Institutional Research & Planning, which conducts the survey and reports its results. Data from the UF Graduation Survey are housed on the websites for the Career Connections Center and the Office of Institutional Research & Planning.
A sizable component of the success of the survey is the education and awareness that’s involved.
“We have worked with the registrar's office on an e-mail that explains to students that the UF Graduation Survey is a university-wide—not just a career center—initiative and expectation,” Glover says.
“Participation is an expectation, and the survey has become part of the fabric of our institution. The students and entire campus community need to understand the importance of this survey. This information helps to tell the university's story. In addition, when we started this initiative, our governor had started asking more questions about what higher education is doing in Florida to support students and their graduation outcomes. This survey provides those answers for UF.”
Despite buy in from the top and partnerships with key offices on campus, Glover acknowledges challenges with the survey.
“The data represent just one point in time for students concerning their post-graduation plans,” she notes. “We let our campus community and other stakeholders know that when we share the data in an effort to avoid the information being generalized. It’s easy to draw conclusions from a ‘single-point-in-time’ event on a particular population of students who were not employed when they completed the survey.”
Another challenge is keeping the survey manageable. The group at UF worked over the years to streamline and limit the number of questions that are on the comprehensive survey that all students are required to complete, knowing that colleges and departments typically also conduct their own surveys.
“Because we were the leads in this, the career center had an impact on the questions,” Glover says. “Colleges and departments wanted to add questions, but it's a slippery slope where the messaging of a question can be interpreted between different populations. We wanted to be confident that we created an instrument that we could compare data from year to year with similar language to avoid interrupting the comparison.”
She says the Career Connections Center encourages colleges and departments not to do a second survey that’s redundant. Instead, they encourage them to use the university-wide data and supplement it with data that addresses what's happening with their niche populations.
“We make sure that our campus partners in this initiative are part of the conversation as we greatly value their support and contributions,” Glover says. “We now have six years of excellent data as a resource that’s easily available and shareable when requested.”