Return on Investment

What if a college instructor could appreciably increase the likelihood of the long-term well-being of a student by simply having a few conversations with the student?

Great Jobs Great Lives, the recently released 2014 Gallup-Purdue Index National Report, links the quality of one’s college experience with subsequent well-being and with workplace engagement. This report is an eye opener concerning the potential for wide-ranging consequences when college students feel supported by faculty.

Interestingly, the report finds that current well-being and workplace engagement of college graduates do not show a strong relationship with the colleges’ levels of selectivity, or public vs. private not-for-profit status.  However, among the random sample of 30,000 college graduates (bachelor’s degree or higher) interviewed nationally for this study, those who strongly agreed with any of the following three statements were approximately twice as likely to report that they are now engaged with their work and at least 50% more likely to report that they are thriving in all 5 key areas of well-being (purpose, social, financial, community and physical):

  • I had at least one professor at [College] who made me excited about learning.
  • My professors at [College] cared about me as a person. 
  • I had a mentor who encouraged me to pursue my goals and dreams. 

Wow! Yes, wow!

Notably, none of these three practices costs even a dollar, and none of them requires adopting new technology, upgrading infrastructure or implementing new curricula. None of these practices takes a new state law or federal regulation; none of them requires a university-wide initiative. These three practices only require educators to effectively communicate their excitement about learning, their care for students as people, and their encouragement for students to pursue personal goals and dreams.

The Gallup-Purdue report strongly suggests that a comparatively small personal investment by faculty to nurture today’s college students could have a huge societal return. Kudos to those of you who already make this investment in your students as part of your regular teaching practice. We would all do well to remind our teaching colleagues how meaningful their work is in shaping the future well-being of their students.

There is much more to glean from Great Jobs Great Lives; check it out!

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