Butler University’s Institute for Well-being recently developed the Student Well-being and Institutional Support Survey (SWISS). While the assessment is aimed at capturing how students perceive how well their institution supports their well-being, the survey can be retooled to improve member well-being at community rec centers.
Bridget Yuhas, the co-executive director for Butler University’s Institute of Well-being, said SWISS was originally created to find out directly from students how well they think Butler is supporting them and to translate feedback into useful information for practitioners and resource-allocators.
“Through our conversations about the SWISS project with NIRSA leaders, we learned other institutions were also interested in administering the survey on their campuses, and the project has taken off from there,” said Yuhas. “SWISS has given us a number of insights about how our students perceive our climate for well-being here at Butler.”
Since 2020, Butler administered the SWISS at nearly 20 institutions across the country with several colleges reporting beneficial results.
“Areas of success include the physical spaces on campus which students say allow them to connect with others, feel safe and feel welcome,” said Yuhas. “We also learned our students perceive strong support for their academic needs outside the classroom and for fostering social connections with other students.”
The language of questions in the SWISS takes aim at gauging the effectiveness of different campus programs and offerings such as housing, diversity, food, resources, etc. Depending on the question, participants grade the success of a particular aspect of the school with “strongly agree, agree, disagree, strongly disagree” or “very much, quite a bit, some, very little.”
By using the framing of SWISS, any community rec center can take the essence of the questions and gauge how well each aspect of their organization is assisting members. Yuhas said her best advice for any institution interested in assessing their climate for well-being is to disaggregate their results.
“When we look at overall results, responses from majority groups can drown out the responses from smaller groups, making it less likely that the needs of those smaller groups will be addressed,” said Yuhas. “Disaggregating the results by characteristics we know influence experiences, like racial/ethnic or gender identities, helps institutions and organizations better understand how experiences differ across everyone who is part of their climate.”
One clear example of the power of SWISS at Butler Yuhas cited was during the first administration of the survey, only 69% of students said they felt support for connecting with other students socially in their place of residence.
“In response to this finding, our Residence Life team reimagined programming in the residence halls and encouraged RAs to focus on social opportunities and connections,” said Yuhas. “As a result, our 2022 results show 83% of students feel support for social connection in their place of residence.”
She said SWISS was also administered at the University of Central Florida where the survey helped create a well-being strategic plan, determine outreach/programming priorities, and allocate resources to areas of opportunity as highlighted by the survey.
Yuhas said she is always looking to improve SWISS and make the survey more responsive to the needs of those who take it and those who administer it.
“A few areas I would like to explore in the coming year include adding more optional question sets focused on specific areas of campus, in addition to the Campus Recreation set that’s currently available and making strides towards ensuring the items on SWISS are relevant to cross-cultural well-being,” said Yuhas.
She said any institution that participates in SWISS gets access to a suite of online data-visualization dashboards to help administrators quickly and easily interpret their results.
“I cannot stress enough how important it is to make sure folks can understand the data and explain it to others,” said Yuhas. “Providing charts and graphs to help with interpretation and dissemination is something that is important to me. When practitioners have data to use in their requests for resources and support, their proposals are much more powerful and the likelihood that they’ll receive what they need to improve support increases.”
Organizations interested in more information on SWISS can reach out to Dr. Bridget Yuhas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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