New Survey Aims to Measure Success of Colleges’ Inclusion Efforts

With the release of a new survey, colleges and universities across the country — many of which increased their diversity and inclusion efforts over the last year due to student protests — will now have a way of measuring their success toward creating more inclusive campuses.

Released last month by Indiana University at Bloomington’s Culturally Engaging Campus Environment (CECE) Project — an initiative focused on helping campuses become more inclusive — the survey was designed to help institutions better define their goals and determine whether their efforts are having an impact.

“One of the issues with diversity efforts and conversations is they lack focus. They’re all over the place,” Samuel Museus, director of the CECE Project, told Inside Higher Ed. “You ask 50 people what that means, and they’ll tell you 50 different things.”

To develop the survey, Museus conducted extensive research to determine what factors help diverse populations thrive in college. From that, he created what he calls the CECE Model, which includes nine elements that reinforce inclusivity on campus. He says that students at institutions that exhibit all nine end up “being more engaged, feeling more connected to their campus, feeling like they belong, and then ultimately succeeding.”

Divided into two categories — cultural relevance and cultural responsiveness — the nine elements are broken down even further. The first five, under cultural relevance, focus on how well a campus environment reflects students’ backgrounds. This may mean that a college provides opportunities for students to connect with others of similar backgrounds, as well as learn about their own culture.

The remaining four elements, part of cultural responsiveness, have to do with how well campus support systems respond to the needs of diverse students. Culturally responsive campuses have support systems that are available and visible and are places where students feel connected with faculty and comfortable asking for help.

Museus created a scale to measure all nine elements, which he tested on three campuses. Researchers found that the factors he developed correlated with positive student outcomes. While results were promising, Museus said that additional testing could increase the strength of correlations.

The final survey, which will be available to schools, includes 30 questions based on Museus’ scale; it also includes another set of questions to measure demographic characteristics, student motivation, learning outcomes, and more. Students will have to indicate the extent to which they agree or disagree with certain statements, such as “It is easy to find people on campus who understand me.”

Colleges can begin registering to administer the survey — which will be distributed to all undergraduate students — beginning in the 2016-2017 academic year. In addition to being able to analyze efforts and determine areas for improvement, institutions can compare their scores to those of their peers.

The survey costs between $2,100 and $8,000 to administer, depending on a school’s enrollment. A separate graduate version of the survey is also available.

Museus said he hopes the survey will provide colleges the critical information they need to move forward.

“Nationally, conversations about student success do not meaningfully incorporate what we know about diversity into the conversation,” he said. “The model and survey are designed to provide a road map.”