If a stranger asked you to talk about your sexual health, weight and mental health, would you do it? What if it only took 30 minutes and was completely anonymous? What if they offered you the opportunity to win a gift card?
For the first time, PLNU students have the chance to participate in the American College Health Association’s (ACHA) National College Health Assessment (NCHA). Through this survey, students can voice their experience on issues ranging from sexual orientation, alcohol, drugs, mental health and personal safety. In addition, 15 participants will be randomly selected to win an Amazon gift card.
“Student Development has got a pretty holistic view of the student body,” Jeff Bolster, dean of students, said. “What I don’t feel like we’ve had is a good kind of data-driven perspective on the topics that are covered in the survey.”
According to the ACHA’s website, the organization has surveyed over 1.4 million students from more than 740 colleges and universities in the United States since 2000. In addition to PLNU’s results, our students’ responses will contribute to the national data reflecting the health behaviors of college students nationwide.
“We just wanted a pipeline to a more informed perspective of the actual student experience,” Bolster said. “These are students reporting on their experiences, in very specific, very intimate in some ways, and that’s just what becomes more difficult to get access to.”
Before the survey, the Office of Student Development used the annual residential life survey and other focus groups as a few ways of gauging student lifestyle habits. Bolster said that he is anxious and excited to see where there may be gaps in student services offered and the data will show where they need to make changes.
“What this survey is really good at, is it assesses perception versus reality,” Bolster said.
Many of the questions on the survey challenge students to compare their own experience to that of a typical student at their university. For example, a question might ask how often the respondent consumed alcohol in the past 12 months. Another question asks the student to estimate what percentage of their peers consumed alcohol in the past 12 months.
“I thought that some of the questions were very specific and somewhat graphic, and possibly triggering for people who have been in those situations,” said sophomore Amy Ely. “But, I didn’t feel uncomfortable because the survey was anonymous and I had nothing to hide.”
For any students who feel uncomfortable by issues addressed in the survey, the email sent by NCHA advises students to contact PLNU’s vice president for student development and Title IX coordinator, Caye Smith.
According to Bolster, almost 400 PLNU students have taken the survey as of Thursday, Oct. 19. One reason students are itching to join the conversation is the chance to win an Amazon gift card. For students who complete the survey by the deadline, the email states that five students will win $100, five will win $50 and five will win $25 in Amazon gift cards.
While you may wonder how an anonymous survey could produce the names of winning students, there is no need to worry.
“Your receipt of completion is disconnected from your survey results, so there is actually no way for those two things to be correlated,” Bolster said.
Students have until Monday, Oct. 30 to complete the survey that was sent via email and for a chance to win one of 15 Amazon gift cards. PLNU’s data from the NCHA will be available to students soon.