University officials striving for campus change through climate survey



One of President Barry Dunn’s first orders of business in office was focusing efforts to create a Campus Climate Survey, now available to all students and staff.

The primary purpose of the Campus Climate Survey is to assess the campus atmosphere in regard to safety, levels of comfort and support felt by students and employees.

A Campus Climate Survey was attempted in 2013, but never reached full completion due to low response rates. High response from both students and campus employees is critical, Dunn said, and he hopes everyone will participate.

“Whether it’s a student or employee, high participation levels are absolutely key,” Dunn said. “We need as broad of a spectrum of voices as possible to be involved.”

Dunn stressed the importance of participation to make changes on campus.

“I really care,” Dunn said, “and I can’t fix what I don’t know isn’t working,  so I’m trying to get a clear benchmark early on in my tenure as president of where we are so we can start working on issues; and continue to do so over time.”

The Campus Climate Survey was chosen and tailored to South Dakota State by a committee overseen by Dunn. Interim Provost Dennis Hedge was part of this committee alongside Michaela Willis, vice president of Student Affairs; Jana Hanson, director of assessment and institutional research and others.

The survey chosen by the committee was developed by Skyfactor, which was selected due to its customizable component, Hedge said. While there are set questions that come with the survey, the committee was able to create questions specific to SDSU for students and employees. There is a separate survey for employees and students, making it applicable to users, according to Hedge.

“The types of questions are everything from the way people feel in regard to the level of support that they receive or the level of comfort they might have in reporting an incident,” Hedge said.

Student success on campus is directly affected by campus climate, Hedge said, which is why this survey is important to improving SDSU.

“The survey is really important because the way students feel about the institution and our campus climate—whether students feel safe or not—is critical to student success,” Hedge said. “We are in the business of helping students succeed and achieve. We need student feedback in order to get a better understanding of how students feel about those things. Then that will give us the opportunity to work on elements of improvement with new initiatives or programs to make SDSU a better place.”

Dunn is hopeful students and employees will take the time to make their voice heard through the survey.

“I sincerely want to hear what people think and feel,” Dunn said. “I care about how people see this place and I pledge to continue improvement in all aspects that make up our campus climate.”