Defining and Achieving University Student Success: Faculty and Student Perceptions
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Qualitative methods were employed to conduct this research within the population of undergraduate students and faculty within the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech. Eight focus groups were conducted in the spring of 1997 with a total of 27 students participating and two focus groups were conducted the following spring with 7 faculty participating. Questionnaires and the transcripts of the focus groups were analyzed for this study.
Findings showed that faculty and students have somewhat dissimilar perspectives on student success. Faculty participants were more interested in the academic elements of being successful, while students placed more weight on what they felt were personal indicators of success, such as happiness. In terms of the barriers to student success that were discussed, students were much more likely to discuss barriers that were outside of their control, such as the classroom environment. Faculty, on the other hand, concentrated on the personal characteristics of students, feeling that students ultimately had personal responsibility for their own success. Based on the questionnaires, the groups were fairly well balanced and represented a fairly wide range of collegiate experiences.
Faculty and students have demonstrated through this study that they are quite valuable as a resource to consult when conducting needs assessments or developing student interventions. Many of the solutions that were suggested, interestingly, dealt not with the creation of new programs but with improving communication within the university to ensure the awareness of programs that already exist. Participants also felt that orientation activities for new students should be extended well into their first semester at the university.
From a research perspective, this study provided a great deal of insight into the ways that faculty and student perspectives are both similar and different. It would be interesting to see whether perspectives are similar across colleges within the university, or even similar between universities with similar characteristics. In trying to determine the nature of the collegiate experience, few would deny that no groups are more intimately involved in that experience than the faculty and students. Ultimately, then, the answers concerning the nature of student success must lie with them.
- Masters Theses 
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