National Survey: URI Leader in Learning Experiences

URI students like to live and learn together in learning communities, help others through community service, learn more about their fields and themselves through internships, speak foreign languages, and visit foreign countries. In fact, when compared to students at the 609 other colleges and universities that participated in the 2007 National Survey of Student Engagement, URI students led the pack in these four categories.

The national survey asks first-year and senior students about the nature and quality of their undergraduate experiences. The results were announced last fall.

Some 886 randomly selected students participated in the Web-based survey. Institutions use the information to gauge aspects of the undergraduate experience inside and outside the classroom to see what works and what needs improvement.

“We know that students will be more successful and more satisfied with their University experience if they get involved in and out of the classroom. Many times peer support is an important piece of this involvement. When we organize their classes and even their living arrangements as learning communities, students are more likely to get to know each other better, form study groups, and try new challenges,” explains Jayne Richmond, dean of University College, the academic home of first- and second-year students. The college offers students a broad range of services, programs, and opportunities.

Learning Communities: Each learning community consists of 20 first year students who take three or more courses in common organized around a major as well as a URI 101 class that introduces them to the importance of community service, internships, and international study as well as diversity, learning strategies, and campus resources. Exposing students to these learning opportunities in their first semester has been proven to encourage their eventual involvement in each. URI began offering Living Learning Communities in residence halls four years ago. Each year, the number of these communities has expanded to include other majors.

Community Service: Community service is an essential component of life at URI beginning with the freshman year. Since 1995, all freshmen (about 3,000 this year) are required to participate in a one-credit URI 101 course with a service-learning component called the Feinstein Enriching America Program. The course gives students a chance to provide help to the larger community and to relate it to their studies. URI seniors have displayed a continuing commitment to community service; in the survey 66 percent of them reported participating in community service compared to 59 percent of seniors from other institutions.

Internships and Practicums: By their senior year, 71 percent of URI students have participated in some form of practicum, internship, field experience, or clinical assignment compared to 53 percent of students in the other schools.

Foreign Language Courses: Seventy-two percent of URI seniors have studied a foreign language compared with 41 percent of students at the other schools. Last fall, 3,109 URI students were enrolled in various language courses, most predominantly in French, German, Italian, or Spanish.