Students in the College and the School of Foreign Service recently received an email invitation to complete the first 2015 Hoya Values Survey, which seeks to compare and analyze the values and beliefs of students on both the D.C. and SFS-Qatar campuses.
The results of the survey will be used to track how students’ values shift during their academic careers at Georgetown, as well as to compare the responses between year levels and the two campuses.
Associate Professor George Shambaugh, who conducted research and developed questions for the survey alongside Daniel Stoll, senior advisor to the dean of the SFS-Q, said he is curious to explore the impact of a Jesuit education on student values .
“It’s really just a curious question, which is threefold. How do people’s attitudes and beliefs change as they go through an undergraduate education, and, in particular, what does that look like if you go through a Jesuit university or an American university?” Shambaugh said.
Shambaugh said he is fascinated by the process by which Jesuit values are integrated into students’ values and beliefs.
“One would hope that as you go through an education at a Jesuit university, you absorb or adapt those values over time or come to a better understanding of what those values mean,” Shambaugh said. “How that will manifest itself, we’ll find out.”
The survey will be distributed to students by email over the next four years. Students who take the survey are assigned a random number that will identify them on future surveys, allowing researchers to track how an individual’s responses have shifted over time. The respondents’ names will remain anonymous.
According to Shambaugh, the exclusion of students in the School of Nursing and Health Studies and McDonough School of Business students will help researchers better compare the SFS in D.C. to SFS-Q.
The majority of the questions for the survey are based on questions included in the World Values Survey, a questionnaire administered by an international group of social scientists to respondents around the world over the last 20 years. The WVS has been circulated throughout approximately 100 countries.
Shambaugh said that the survey will explore the effects of a Georgetown education on students, but will also examine how cultural and societal shifts change perceptions of topics such as the government’s role in the economy, abortion and LGBTQ issues.
“What [this] means is that we can compare these things about Georgetown with the general population,” Shambaugh said. “Are [students] more or less open to the sort of cultural and social changes that are affecting the U.S. and world or the Catholic Church more broadly? To me, it’s a really curious question.”
Some of the questions on the survey are more Georgetown-specific, as part of the researchers’ efforts to track how uniquely Georgetown experiences might shape a student’s development over four years.
These include questions about how a student may have been influenced by classes taught by a Jesuit priest, engagement in public outreach programs and study abroad experiences.
“These are all things we assume … have an influence or impact, but it hasn’t really been tracked, not at Georgetown nor more broadly in the U.S. educational system,” Shambaugh said.
The survey also tests the knowledge of respondents on the history of international affairs, including a question that asks survey-takers what the Washington Consensus is.
Shambaugh also acknowledged that the survey may contain biases due to the fact that students self-select to participate, but said that there are certain ways of correcting for that selection bias.
“We know what the student population looks like in terms of gender, race and religion, so we can weigh the responses based on those characteristics so the sample we’re analyzing is weighted to reflect the population of the student body,” Shambaugh said.
Shambaugh said that he believes the survey is a unique opportunity for students to share their beliefs.
“I think the ability to compare yourself to your peers is really kind of interesting,” Shambaugh said. “It’s a fun opportunity and I encourage everybody whose thinking about it but hasn’t participated to do so.”
Lydia Bubniak (SFS ’18), who participated in the survey, said that she found taking the survey to be a thought-provoking experience.
“For a few questions, I really had to stop and think about “Okay, what do I think I’m supposed to say versus what I actually feel,’” Bubniak said. “The fact is that not everyone has the same cultural values.”
However, Bubniak was also critical of the simplicity of some parts of the survey.
“There were some things I wanted to explain and some questions where the answers weren’t completely black or white. … In some ways the survey was a little too simplistic.”
Grace Smith (COL ’18), another participant in the survey, said that it pushed her to think of other cultural perspectives.
“I appreciated having the opportunity to voice my opinion. Some questions seemed so straightforward, and the answer seems incredibly clear, but the survey also acted as a nice reminder that we all fall on a spectrum in terms of our beliefs and that there are other valid opinions out there,” Smith said.