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Bentley Grads Score High in Gallup Study
This article originally appeared in the Bentley Magazine.
How do you define success? Salary and job title may lead the list: They do for rankings organizations that aim to measure return on investment in a college education. But how many of us are fully invested at work, while also attaining high levels of motivation, community involvement, financial security, physical health, and support by family and friends? A recent partnership between analytics and consulting giant Gallup Inc. and a handful of schools, including Bentley, argues for this more faceted, long-term view of success.
The university’s work with Gallup includes a survey of about 3,600 graduates, conducted in 2014. It showed Bentley alumni are more likely to be engaged by their work as compared with graduates of other schools.
They also report impressive levels of well-being in other areas of life — higher than both the national average and those of peers in relevant comparison groups.
“We already know that about 98 percent of our graduates are employed or enrolled in graduate school within six months of earning their Bentley degree,” says President Gloria Cordes Larson. “Gallup is helping us define alumni success in a different, equally important way.”
Experience Makes the Difference
The new proxies for success are workplace engagement and well-being. Gallup defines the former as “feeling intellectually and emotionally connected to work,” noting that “engaged workers are the lifeblood of their organizations.” Well-being in the Gallup study has five facets: purpose, financial, social, community and physical.
Bentley graduates are thriving across the board, according to survey responses from 3,593 alumni who earned a bachelor’s degree since 1970. Alumni beat the national average on all five measures of well-being. Data from the Gallup survey are informing work across the institution. Top of mind for Andrew Shepardson, dean of students and vice president for student affairs, is exploring the impact of co-curricular experiences for students and the alumni they will become.
“The Gallup results show that participating in co-curricular activities correlates with long-term well-being and workplace engagement. This includes involvement in student organizations, community outreach through the Bentley Service-Learning Center, and leadership roles like resident assistant,” he says. The same correlation holds true for semester-long class projects, internships, and even attending campus events such as basketball game.
The research does point to some areas for growth. For example, Bentley alumni were below the national average in agreeing they had a mentor who encouraged pursuing their goals and dreams. Survey respondents who graduated from Bentley in the 1980s were least likely to cite mentoring relationships during college. Starting in the 1990s, more alumni reported receiving support from staff in Student Affairs and other campus departments.
Support is a critical element of outside-the-classroom experiences, says Shepardson, noting that all new graduate and undergraduate students participate in Gallup’s StrengthsFinder program.
“Faculty and staff can now sit down with students and help them understand their strengths … and how an experience such as an internship was successful or not,” he explains. “The guidance is essential for building the resiliency that will see them through life.”
Gallup found that Bentley alumni are employed full time at a higher rate (84 percent) than the national average (59 percent). Moreover, these professionals are highly engaged by he work they do.
As Shepardson puts it: “Our students are prepared to know what they want to do, and have the tools to match their skills with who they want to be.” The preparation he cites takes place over four years. Through Bentley’s Career Services, students take a deep dive into understanding their skills, interests and abilities.
Bentley alumni are more likely to be engaged by their work as compared with graduates of other schools.
“We believe that competence, confidence and community lead to meaningful careers and lives,” says Susan Brennan, associate vice president for university career services. “Work is where you will spend a majority of your time, so you want a job where you’re bringing your whole self and making a difference.”
Brennan sees more companies moving to boost employee satisfaction with a focus on personal strengths. “Having engaged workers makes good business sense,” she says. “Then employees will be committed to doing their best work, which ultimately leads to greater attention and more productivity.”
The work with Gallup identifies some areas where the undergraduate experience can be refined to enhance students’ post-Bentley prospects for success, in life and career. Toward that end, a concurrent survey polled current students on the relevant issues and experiences.
The effort continues in a pilot program for the classes of 2018 and 2019. Incoming freshmen have used Gallup’s StrengthsFinder tool to home in on their skills and develop strategies for applying them to best effect.
“It’s our job to help students figure out what they do best, instead of telling them to follow a career path because they’ll make lots of money,” says Shepardson. “It’s about where they can contribute and be happy.”
Plumbing the Well
The five types of well-being that Gallup identified are alive and well in the lives of these alumni.
Kristen Walsh is a freelance writer, editor and project manager with expertise in higher education, health care and small business. Her stories about Bentley alumni and students appear regularly in our pages.
Bentley University’s nationally recognized career service department is the best in the country, earning the number one ranking in The Princeton Review’s newly-released guide, “The 384 Best Colleges, 2019 Edition.”