To find career success and experience long-term well-being, students need a network of adults who support their development, academic success, and access to opportunity, writes Steve Crabtree for Gallup. Students who report having supportive relationships are also more likely to be confident that they will “graduate with the knowledge and skills to be successful in the job market,” Crabtree notes.
But students majoring in the arts and humanities are significantly more likely to have these relationships than students majoring in business, science and engineering, or the social sciences, according to a Strada-Gallup survey of more than 32,000 undergraduates across 43 U.S. universities.
The survey found that arts and humanities students were more likely to agree that they have a professor who cares about them as a person (39%), a professor who makes them excited about learning (73%), and a mentor who encourages them to pursue their goals and dreams (35%).
In fact, field of study was the biggest determiner of whether students have support networks—even more so than gender or racial/ethnic background, Crabtree writes.
Why? Crabtree speculates that smaller class size could play a role. Plus, arts and humanities majors are more likely to attend smaller universities with higher faculty-to-student ratios. For instance, 61% of arts and humanities students who attend institutions with 5,000 students or less strongly agree that their professors care about them as people, compared to 28% of arts and humanities students who attend institutions with 20,000 students or more.
Crabtree adds that some arts and humanities programs also lend themselves to student-faculty relationships. For instance, a separate study of college professors suggests that some fields, such as education or communications, place a heavier emphasis on developing rapport with students than others, such as chemistry or computer science.
However, not all arts and humanities students have the same experience; there were significant differences in responses from black students, compared to students from other racial backgrounds. Black students were less likely to feel they have a professor who makes them excited to learn (64% vs. 76% of white students) or to strongly agree that their professors care about them as people (26% vs. 43% of white students).
Due to the positive outcomes associated with supportive faculty experiences, several institutions—especially large universities—are implementing strategies to encourage faculty to spend time with students outside the classroom.
For example, the University of California, San Diego‘s mentorship program connects first-gen students with peer and professional “coaches,” and it has led to increased student satisfaction among those participating, writes Natalie Schwartz for Education Dive. And Ivy Tech Community College pairs low-income students with remote coaches during their first year on campus, raising retention rates 10 percentage points over a three-year period.
For STEM students, these mentorship efforts are of particular importance, as just 12% of science and engineering students reported having all three components of the mentorship experience: a professor who cares about them as a person, a professor who makes them excited about learning, and a mentor who encourages them to pursue their goals and dreams.
To deliver mentorship opportunities for STEM students and to increase diversity in the field, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County‘s Meyerhoff Scholars Program pairs students with local industry mentors and advisors to help with academic planning and social support (Crabtree, Gallup, 1/24; Schwartz, Education Dive, 1/22).
Under any definition of student success—from retention metrics to life-long fulfillment—research has demonstrated a strong link between faculty activity and student outcomes.
We sat down with leaders from Florida State University to discuss how FSU provides comprehensive, holistic support for first-generation students. Learn how they built unique programs that give first-gen students not only academic support, but a sense of pride and belonging on campus.