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College Matters, Even After College

Posted by Dr. Michael Bitzer, Provost and Professor of Politics & History

June 11, 2014

Category: Faculty Blogs


As Catawba prepares to welcome its Class of 2018, an interesting survey by the Gallup Poll caught my attention about life after college and what graduates thought about not only themselves, but their lives as a whole.

In the web survey of nearly 30,000 college graduates, Gallup asked about the relationship between the college experience and the lives of college graduates.  In it, one of the major findings was that the type of school that graduates came from--whether public or private, large university or small college, even variations on selectivity--did matter when the graduates were asked about their current well-being or their engagement in a career.

On the other hand, the kind of support and experiences that graduates had during their collegiate years did make an impact: for example,

"if graduates recalled having a professor who cared about them as a person, made them excited about learning, and encouraged them to pursue their dreams, their odds of being engaged at work more than doubled, as did their odds of thriving in all aspects of their well-being."

In addition, if students participated in an internship, or were actively engaged in extracurricular activities, or worked on a project that took more than a semester, the likelihood of being engaged in their work doubled as well.

Yet, only 14% of graduates 'strongly agreed' that they were supported by professors "who cared, who made them excited about learning, and who encouraged their dreams." 

With class sizes of no more than 30 students and a student-to-faculty ratio of 14:1, Catawba's educational experience allows for that kind of interaction between faculty and students that are at the hallmark of engagement later in life.  

Having the opportunity to get to know my students within the first few weeks, and getting to know what challenges them, is one of the best aspects of being at a small institution for a faculty member like myself.  I know that many of my colleagues on the faculty share the same excitement and interest in seeing their students not just grow intellectually, but expand their learning beyond the classroom and find themselves challenged and engaged in ways that stay with them throughout their lives.