Mason student investigates if adult students’ needs are met

Mason student and employee Tracy Shevlin recently surveyed students over 25 to ask about their experience at Mason for her final research project, titled “Identifying Adult Student Needs and Expectations at George Mason University.”

The survey asks students questions about how many classes they take per semester, what made them choose Mason, what is motivating them to finish their degree and what class time is best for them.

Shevlin, who has been the department manager in the school of Health Administration and Policy for the College of Health and Human Services since 2008, is also finishing her degree in business communication through the Independent Studies major at Mason.

“My personal thought was that I wanted it to be meaningful in some way- to myself, to the University, to someone. But not just to be an academic exercise,” Shevlin said about choosing this topic. “With all the things that Mason is going through, are we servicing the adult students? That meant something to me, hopefully it means something to the university.”

The purpose of the survey was to “investigate if Mason is meeting the needs of their adult student population” and took 15 to 20 minutes to complete. The results were anonymous, and participating students were asked about their academic experiences and attitudes about their classes.

The first survey was open to all students over 25 who are attending Mason, regardless of their major. Shevlin then opened the survey only to other Independent Study majors over 25, to act as a control group.

“The only demographic I really took was age, and broke them down. But you have multiple programs in here in this adult student group, and right now it looks like just under 60 percent of adult students are taking three or more classes on average, and that’s a big number,” Shevlin said. “[That’s] the reason why I went back to try and look at this a little bit differently.”

According to information Shevlin received from the Institutional Review, there are 22,343 degree seeking undergraduates at Mason, and 4,893 of those students are over 25. These students make up 21.9% of all undergraduate students. According to the Department of Education, 38% of all college students in the United States are over 25.

Although Shevlin has only looked at preliminary data from the study, she said that 429 people have already participated.

“I thought I would be lucky if I got a hundred. I was told by several people that Mason students are really tapped out on surveys, they’re not very responsive, don’t get your hopes up,” Shevlin said, “So when I first got over 200, I was like holy cow! But now it’s up to 429.”

The survey is only the first part of Shevlin’s final project. The second component is creating a marketing plan based on the results of her study.

“What I hope to be able to do is to provide some sort of feedback that’s tangible in some way…but then also in a very practical way. If the answer to the scheduling questions are about people being dissatisfied, then maybe it affects someone in a positive way,” Shevlin said.

Shevlin will present the results of her survey on May 15 at the BIS Senior Capstone presentations.

Photo Credit: Ellen Glickman