Civic engagement survey shows limited first-year understanding

Jen Kochaver, Staff Writer

AugSem students were surveyed by Augsburg’s Assessment Committee on their understanding of civic engagement in fall of 2016. The goal was to deepen institutional understanding of how students reflect on civic engagement, a concept deeply tied to the University’s mission statement. Students responded to five essay questions. These responses were then quantified using emerging theme analysis, which means that each response was identified as falling into one or two of the three to six different themes per question that the committee identified. There were 254 responses collected, representing 53% of the class of 2020.
When asked if there were any hopes or expectations the Assessment Committee had for the results, Faculty Director of Assessment Kristen Chamberlain expressed that they were open to whatever results they found, but she did hope students would recognize that civic engagement is not just logging volunteer hours and calling it a day. Rather, it is a way of engaging with the world and one’s own community.
That said, 64% of responses identified volunteer work as the way they saw themselves as an active participant in society working with others towards public service. 42% identified volunteering as how they imagined being civically engaged during their time at Augsburg and beyond. However, this result could be related to the Service Day component of AugSem in which first-years complete a volunteer project with their class. As taking the survey was one of the last things they did in their AugSem course, they may have associated civic engagement with AugSem’s Service Day project, which may have led to an increased association between the concept of civic engagement and volunteer work.
This survey also reported that 74% of students felt that civic engagement led them to have a deeper knowledge of themselves or of their community, and 43% of students reported that they learned self-awareness through community engagement.
This survey was a pilot study; the results will be used to inform changes in future surveys.

This article first appeared in the Friday, February 23, 2018, Edition of The Echo.