Alumni characteristics, job market, employment, satisfaction, educational plans, major, time to degree, education plans
Since 1990, Western’s Office of Survey Research (OSR) has surveyed alumni every other year. Alumni who are one to two years past graduation are invited to participate. They are asked to reflect on their experiences at Western, and about their current situation regarding family, education, and employment. OSR uses a mixture of online and telephone survey methodologies, then, when applicable, links survey results with Western’s student records, thus expanding their usefulness to researchers. The 2008 alumni survey was administered to graduates earning their bachelor’s degrees between the summer of 2006 and spring of 2007. Of the 3,028 eligible alumni, OSR received valid responses from 1,093 (response rate of 36%). The full survey asked questions regarding financial status, plans for postgraduate education, and issues of employment search and job characteristics. Alumni were also asked retrospective questions regarding their Western experience, including the challenges they faced, their level of satisfaction with Western’s student services, their satisfaction with their major, and the ways Western might expedite time to degree. In addition, they were asked to rate their academic competencies when they entered Western, and how they rate those same competencies now. A second report based on the same Alumni survey, entitled “Western Washington University 2008 Survey of Alumni who Graduated between Summer, 2006, and Spring, 2007,” presents the full complement of responses to these questions and may be accessed at: http://www.wwu.edu/socad/osr/AlumniSurveys.shtml. Because individual colleges and departments can frequently benefit from data derived from their own graduates, this report presents a portion of the alumni survey data divided by academic unit. Presenting the entire set of survey results by department is possible, but in hopes of creating a more accessible report, the data presented here are those likely to be of most use to campus leaders in evaluating and improving their programs. OSR will be happy to provide individuals with more detail or analysis upon request. As with any survey, readers should be concerned with sample selection bias; that is, bias which arises because survey responders are not a random selection from the population. While sample selection bias for Western’s alumni survey has been mitigated through proper survey techniques, its presence should always be considered when evaluating data. With that said, each subsection of this report presents descriptive statistics of all alumni (based on Western’s student records) compared to alumni survey respondents for the university as a whole and for each college. These comparisons occur in the first two tables of each subsection and generally reveal that survey respondents are similar to the population of alumni. For instance, 58% of all graduates between summer, 2006, and spring, 2007, were women—as were 58% of alumni survey respondents. Similar comparisons can be found for minorities (all graduates=16% v. survey respondents=15%), transfers (43% v. 42%), Running Start students (9% v. 9%), and average age at graduation (24.5 v. 24.4). These figures suggest that there is little reason to believe significant sample selection bias occurs on observables at the university level. Generally speaking, this survey confirms beliefs about Western’s overall strengths and suggests areas of improvement. For instance, alumni highly commend the knowledge, expertise and teaching ability of the faculty and rate the challenge level of their courses as being very high. The 88% of alumni who are currently employed also appear highly satisfied with their job. At the same time, alumni were not as satisfied with opportunities for involvement in faculty research, department internships and departmental career advising. When asked about factors that delayed their graduation, alumni most frequently responded with “scheduling conflicts” followed by “full courses.” The tables found in this report present means and percentages for 14 questions submitted to alumni, separated by college and department. At least two caveats are in order when considering this data. First, although all departments had graduates counted in the tables derived from Western’s student records, some departments had no valid alumni survey responses and were not included in the departmental data. Second, while it is tempting to compare one department or college with another, statistically significant differences depend not only on the differences in means, but also the number of observations in both comparison groups; most importantly, when the numbers are disproportionate, the meaning of statistical significance can be misleading. Nearly all data sets can have more finely honed statistical analyses—this set of Alumni Survey data included. That being said, the analyses in this report are sufficient for most of those who rely on findings to help their decision making. For help with understanding the data as presented in this report, or with delving deeper into the data, please contact OSR.
Digital object produced by Office of Survey Research, Western Washington University, and made available by University Archives, Heritage Resources, Western Libraries, Western Washington University.
Subjects - Topical (LCSH)
College graduates--Washington (State)--Statistics; College graduates--Washington (State)--Attitudes
Title of Series
Technical and research reports (Western Washington University. Office of Survey Research) ; 2009-03
Hartsoch, Beth; Clark, Linda D. (Linda Darlene); Krieg, John M.; McKinney, Gary (Gary Russell); and Trimble, Joseph E., "Western Washington University 2008 Survey of Alumni Who Graduated Between Summer 2006 and Spring 2007 - Department Report" (2009). Office of Institutional Effectiveness. 697.
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