Vocation examined in survey: Study researches enrollment decision

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  • An April 2008 survey commissioned by the Manresa Project asked students about their reasons for choosing Marquette.
  • The university's academic reputation received the highest percentage of votes.
  • Community involvement and religious affiliation received the lowest percentages of votes.
  • The survey also looked at vocation motivation and the impact of Manresa on campus.

"We are Marquette," a Catholic, Jesuit university dedicated to the pillars of excellence, faith, leadership and service.

But what distinguishes Marquette in the eyes of prospective students searching for their perfect college in a sea of contenders?

An April 2008 survey commissioned by the Manresa Project asked students to give their reasons for attending Marquette. Nearly 90 percent of respondents cited the outstanding academic reputation of the school as "extremely" or "very" important in their decision.

The variety of academic programs Marquette offers is a main driver in the decision of students to come here, said Roby Blust, dean of undergraduate admissions.

Blust also cited attractions like having a personal connection to the school, its medium size and location in Milwaukee.

Meanwhile, about one-third of students each said community involvement and religious orientation had an impact on their decision to come to Marquette– —–— the lowest percentages of votes in the survey.

Although the religious and service facets may not be main reasons for choosing Marquette, those aspects may affect students after they arrive, said Susan Mountin, director of the Manresa Project.

"With the prevalence of those (aspects) on campus, they may become more valuable to students while they're here," Mountin said.

The Jesuit factor plays a role as time goes on, Blust said.

"Students talk more about how important (the Jesuit aspect) is during their time here or when they leave Marquette," Blust said.

The lower percentage of students who rated the religious and social justice components as reasons for attending Marquette was surprising, said Ed de St. Aubin, associate professor of psychology and lead researcher for the Manresa Project review.

However, de St. Aubin said one interpretation is that those characteristics may have been present in other schools at which those students looked. Thus, other factors led them to choose Marquette over schools like the University of Notre Dame or Boston College.

Many students pick Marquette because they attended a Jesuit high school, said the Rev. Doug Leonhardt, S.J., the associate director of the Office of Mission & Identity. They have experienced a Jesuit education, and they want that continuity, he said.

Leonhardt also said the opportunity for service and community building attracts students to Marquette. For example, he cited service learning as a way to combine two interests of people coming to Marquette — academics and reaching out to others.

"It goes back to the words of St. Ignatius of Loyola, who said that love is found in action, not just words," Leonhardt said. "I think the majority of students want to make this world a better place."

Marquette is a university first and foremost, but it's defined by its Catholic and Jesuit ideals, Leonhardt said.

"Students are going to the university to learn and get a degree in order to become a successful professional," Leonhardt said. "But they learn within a context. The context is what is attractive here at Marquette."

Brad Schanke, a freshman in the College of Engineering, said that the rigor and the reputation of Marquette attracted him here first.

However, he said Marquette's Jesuit identity and dedication to a well-rounded education factored heavily in his decision to come here.

"I wanted to get an engineering degree, but that's not necessarily all I wanted to get out of college," Schanke said.

The Manresa Project review was conducted to evaluate the program's impact on campus, Mountin said. The survey examined student motivations as they make decisions about vocations. It also looked at the experiences and pressures that influence the choices they make.

The online survey was administered to 456 students. It sampled freshmen, sophomores and juniors. More underclassmen were surveyed in order to investigate trends through annual surveys.