How a good professor can change a student's life

Gallup: Supported students turn into productive alumni

Having a professor who provides true support and a rewarding learning experience as an undergraduate can lead to lifelong success, according to a new study.

Gallup and Purdue University surveyed 30,000 college graduates about their campus experiences. Researchers found that few alumni experienced elements linked to life-long success while still in school.

Business major blues: Lack of purpose and guidance

The report found graduates were more than twice as likely to be engaged with their work when their professors acted as:

  • A mentor;
  • Someone who excited them about learning; and
  • Someone who encouraged them to work toward their goals.

The trend held true across all graduation years. How supported students feel while in school is "a career- and life-trajectory game changer," says Brandon Busteed, Gallup Education's executive director.

Despite its significant effect, only 14% of respondents said they felt supported in all three ways, and just 22% said they had a mentor in school.

The survey also found the odds of being engaged at work doubled if graduates, while still in school, had taken part in experiential learning, such as interning, participating in extracurriculars, and finishing a long-term project.

Only 6% of respondents said they participated in all three—and just 29% said they completed an internship or job that allowed them to apply classroom knowledge.

Read more: Study says meaningful internships are a critical factor for student satisfaction

Overall, only 3% of graduates said they experienced all six manners of experiential learning and support.

Colleges and universities have an advantage over online course providers in "fundamentals like mentoring, caring professors and deep and experiential learning," says Busteed. However, he adds, "institutions will only capitalize on these advantages if they intentionally invest in them. So far, most are not."

Busteed also stresses that the traditional professor-student relationship should never get overlooked, even as universities and colleges embrace new innovations. "In a world entrenched in technology, we need to work harder to be more human," he concludes (Busteed, Gallup Business Journal, 12/1).


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