UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- As part of a research initiative on gendered differences in higher education, Penn State’s Division of Undergraduate Studies (DUS), with grant support from the National Academic Advising Association, is surveying male students about their beliefs and behaviors as they may relate to academic success. Approximately 34,500 male undergraduate students at University Park will receive an email soon with a request to complete survey questions about their individual characteristics, college experiences and pre-college academic abilities. Results of the survey will help researchers understand why male students may be less likely to engage with academic advisers and perhaps more likely to be dropped from degree status than female undergraduate students.
Lead investigator and undergraduate studies programs coordinator in the College of Agricultural Sciences Terry Musser explained, “As educators, academic advisers in the Division of Undergraduate Studies are concerned with literature findings that indicate our male student population is diminishing over time, especially males within minority subgroups.
“We hope to assess the factors contributing to this imbalance,” she continued, “and then address and resolve issues related to any academic distress young men may face to help this population of at-risk students succeed in college.”
The full DUS study on gendered differences is composed of four phases: the first was a statistical analysis of student demographics, pre-college attitudes and abilities, and college academic performance, which quantitatively demonstrated that male students are disproportionately at risk for academic difficulty; the second phase is the current survey of male students to determine factors that literature suggests are related to academic success; next will be a planned qualitative inquiry consisting of interviews with individual male undergraduate students to explore how they interpret masculinity norms in an academic context and conform their behaviors to these norms; and, finally, team members will develop and assess specific advising practices targeted to engage male students by supporting their distinctive identity development.
With the implementation of such new practices, DUS researchers hope to change the climate of higher education so that young men are more prepared and more motivated to succeed.
The Division of Undergraduate Studies, a unit within the Office of Undergraduate Education, is Penn State’s largest unit of enrollment for first-year students, leads the development of advising policies and practices, manages the University-wide academic information network, and provides general academic advising for any current and prospective Penn State student.