Having just returned from a Disney cruise, I am intimately aware of Disney care and the experience of being “their guest,” as Lumière sings in a song from Beauty and the Beast. My recent Disney cruise is the experience I will focus on in this post and since this is not my first cruise with Disney, I am confident in these reflections as every cruise has provided the same quality experience. I am reflecting on this experience not so much to tell a Disney story, but rather in an effort to identify what contributes to this experience and discuss how/whether this experience can that be translated to higher education and our experience in serving students.
The APUS class of 2017 is a diverse group of nearly 11,000 men and women, with roughly 20% earning associates degrees, 50% bachelor’s degrees and 30% masters degrees. Of this total, approximately 80% are American Military University graduates and 20% American Public University graduates representing 24 countries worldwide. About one-third of our total graduates earn their degree with honors. Overall, they are amazing women and men dedicated to service, to advancing their lives and their careers, and to learning.
University commencements are always special events. Charged with emotion and excitement, there is an overwhelming feeling of growth and change, people moving from one important phase of their life to another, with new and promising challenges. This year at the American Public University System commencement, the feeling was no different.
Does higher education prepare students for the workforce? Should it? If so, how? These questions, resounding clearly across higher ed, government, and employers over the past few years, have existed for as long as I can remember. On a decision tree, they would branch off from the trunk of the question, how is the quality of higher education defined?
The Center for Postsecondary Research at Indiana University School of Education administers the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) in partnership with the Indiana University Center for Survey Research. In November, they released the 2016 annual report, based upon survey results regarding the engagement of first-year students and seniors on campus and compares institutions to all 1,600 participating schools as well as to a defined group of “peer institutions.” The study assesses contributions to student success, including time and effort of students in the learning process and institutional resources provided to support them. The report provided to each institution contains valuable information for internal review and discussion and contributes to continuous improvement of both the student experience and student success.
Recently, I was privileged to attend an APUS-sponsored “Persistence and Resistance Roundtable,” hosted by Dr. Gwen Hall. Both full- and part-time instructors, current students and alumni offered their perspective on what is needed to ensure the students’ experience is not only enjoyable and fulfilling, but one that ensures that their educational and professional goals are fulfilled. Although several suggestions and proposals were offered, a few seemed more prevalent than others.