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Charles Carney
IU School of Education

Last modified: Tuesday, January 8, 2008

National impact of IU School of Education professor George Kuh recognized

January 8, 2007

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) will present to George Kuh, Chancellor's Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies in the Indiana University School of Education, its 2008 Outstanding Contribution to Higher Education award. Kuh's award will be presented in March at NASPA's annual meeting in Boston.

Kuh, considered a national leader in addressing and improving the quality of undergraduate education, is the founder of the National Survey of Student Engagement, or NSSE, a widely used and often-cited annual study of effective educational practices in undergraduate education.

"I'm pleased and humbled to have been chosen," Kuh said. He noted that the award, in no small part, surely acknowledges his leadership of the NSSE project, "because the number of institutions using the survey grew so quickly and has such an influence on how people think about and talk about undergraduate education today.

"NSSE's major contribution has been to focus discussion, time and attention on the things that matter to student learning," Kuh continued. "Its genius -- the reason it's been so widely used and respected -- is because it's based on what decades of research show to matter to desired outcomes of college and other cutting-edge research on teaching and learning."

The NSSE survey began in 2000 with 276 colleges and universities participating. More than 600 took part in the most recent survey, which obtained responses from 313,000 college students, and last November NSSE began a partnership with USA Today, which featured survey findings and student responses as a way to better inform the public about collegiate quality, particularly in a rankings-conscious college environment.

"Professor Kuh is exceedingly deserving of this award," said Gerardo M. Gonzalez, university dean of the IU School of Education. "He stands as a giant among giants of higher education leaders who have had major national and international impact on the field. He certainly has contributed immeasurably to the excellence for which our higher education program is known."

Kuh ended his tenure as director of NSSE on Dec. 31, 2007. Alexander McCormick, formerly of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, became director this month.

The award from NASPA, which in the past has recognized national leaders in higher education such as former University of Notre Dame president Father Theodore Hesburgh, has an IU flavor. Previous recipients include former IU president and current NCAA president Myles Brand, former IU Dean of Students Robert Shaffer, and Elizabeth Greenleaf, former director of residence life at IU. Shaffer and Greenleaf also were architects of IU's nationally ranked graduate programs in higher education and student affairs, and held numerous leadership positions in several national student affairs associations.

In addition to Kuh, two IU alumna will be honored this year by NASPA. Susan Johnson, who received her Ph.D. in higher education from IU in August 2007, will receive the Outstanding Dissertation Award. Paula Rooney, president of Dean College in Massachusetts, who received her master's and doctorate from IU, will receive the President's Award.

Academics and administrators across the country have honored Kuh's career contributions before. The American College Personnel Association presented him with only its fifth-ever Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006.

Kuh has more than 300 publications and has made several hundred presentations on college student development, assessment strategies for postsecondary institutions and campus cultures.

More information about NSSE is available at

Media Outlets: the following comments are available as mp3 files on the IU School of Education Website at Look for the story headline under "Podcasts."

Kuh speaks about the honor of being on such a prestigious list of award recipients, which includes former IU Dean of Students Robert Shaffer, the first recipient of the NASPA Outstanding Contribution to Higher Education Award:

"I knew Bob, and Bob became a higher ed faculty member in about '69, and he was here when I arrived, so I think the world of him. But the rest of that list, it is a -- well, again, this is kind of like tooting my own horn, but it's a 'who's who in American higher education.' You have Ted Hesburgh, the beloved Notre Dame president and Clark Kerr, who essentially crafted the blueprint for the California system of higher education. You just go up and down the list -- Ernie Boyer, head of the Carnegie Foundation for many years. It's a very attractive club to become a member of."

While he is being honored individually, Kuh says the award honors all the people who have worked on making NSSE a valuable study:

"I was surprised actually to get this, because I got the award for being an outstanding faculty member, and I got the award for making outstanding contributions to the literature, about 15 years ago or whatever it was. I do think that this acknowledgement is about the work. It's not just NSSE, but I think it is in large part NSSE. And because NSSE has grown so quickly and has had such an influence on how people think about and talk about undergraduate education today. I'm certain. I really am certain that this award is an acknowledgement of the impact that project has had."

Kuh explains why NSSE has become so important, spawning other surveys including one considering high school students and another examining law school students.

"These ideas about engagement -- they transcend sector, they transcend levels of education. The ideas matter across all these levels, and it's been fun to be a part of bringing that to the public's attention. "