Smaller Concentrations Receive Highest Satisfaction Ratings

Concentration Satisfaction Surveys
Jake Freyer

In general, seniors last year gave smaller concentrations higher ratings than larger ones. Women, Gender and Sexuality, which yielded the most satisfied graduates, boasted only nine concentrators in the Class of 2012.

The humanities reigned in the latest round of concentration satisfaction ratings, followed closely by the social sciences and life sciences. As was the case in previous years, smaller concentrations generally outperformed larger ones in the survey, which is taken every spring by graduating seniors.

Women, Gender, and Sexuality achieved the highest satisfaction rate among members of the Class of 2012 with a 4.78 out of 5. Only nine graduating seniors last year concentrated in WGS.

“Our students receive a lot of one-on-one attention,” said director of undergraduate studies in WGS Caroline Light.

Government and Economics, which boast two of the largest pools of concentrators in the College, placed in the bottom five in the most recent ratings.

The results did not surprise the government department’s Director of Undergraduate Studies Cheryl B. Welch, who said that satisfaction is usually inversely correlated with the size of the department.

“That doesn’t mean that a big department can’t do better,” Welch said.

The government department is in the process of implementing changes in the advising system that were approved last year, but it has been too soon, Welch said, to see their impact reflected on the satisfaction survey.

But according to Jeffrey Miron, director of undergraduate studies for the economics department, concentration size may not be the only factor behind the student satisfaction.

“I think some majors tend to get students because the students love those disciplines, and other majors get students because it’s a useful thing to do, and it’s probably going to be useful in terms of getting a job,” Miron said.

MOVERS AND SHAKERS

In last year’s survey, several humanities concentrations experienced jumps in ratings, while the average score of life science concentrations has decreased.

History and Literature and English—the two largest humanities departments—both scored above a 4.1 out of 5 in the concentration satisfaction surveys.

History and Literature has seen a steady upward trend in the past 3 years, which Jon W. Oakes ’13 credits to small class and tutorial sizes. Other humanities departments, including Literature, Philosophy, Classics, History of Art and Architecture, and Comparative Study of Religion, all scored at least a 4.2.

East Asian Studies saw the greatest increase in ratings—from 4.18 to 4.58. The department’s Director of Undergraduate Studies Michael Szonyi attributes the jump to recent efforts to develop a sense of community within the department.

On the other hand, life sciences’ average satisfaction score has decreased steadily from 4.31 in 2010 to 4.14 this past year. Faculty and concentration advisers in the life sciences said they hope to maintain and improve the experiences of their concentrators, while noting their jump in ratings relative to their scores from a decade earlier. Between 2009 and 2010, the mean rating shot up from 3.52 to 4.14 after the splintering of the life sciences into what are now nine specialized concentrations.

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