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Greenville Business Magazine

Furman partners with Gallup to study impact of education

Oct 19, 2017 10:38AM ● By Emily Stevenson

Furman University will partner with global analytics firm Gallup to study more deeply the impact of the university’s undergraduate experience and measure the effectiveness of its signature approach to education, The Furman Advantage, thanks to a $2.5 million grant from The Duke Endowment.

Furman President Elizabeth Davis announced that Furman will work with Gallup over the next five years to collect data and analyze outcomes as the university seeks to provide all of its nearly 2,800 students with a distinctive and highly individualized learning experience that prepares them for lives of purpose, successful careers and community benefit.

The Furman Advantage, which was announced in October 2016, guides students through a personalized, four-year pathway that combines learning with immersive experiences outside the classroom and provides students with more intentional mentoring, advising and self-reflection. The research component of the program will begin in the student’s freshman year and continue past graduation.

“We knew when we launched The Furman Advantage that we would need to continually assess what is working and what is not,” President Davis said. “What mentoring tactics were particularly successful? Were the internship opportunities sufficient? What was it that prompted students to take part in engaged learning experiences like study away and undergraduate research?”

In addition to being able to assess the effectiveness of individual programs at Furman and adjust programming to provide the most successful outcomes, Davis said the data and best practices resulting from the Furman/Gallup/The Duke Endowment study would be shared with the higher education community. It will also measure alumni outcomes and connect them to the experience students had through The Furman Advantage.

Davis expects the Furman study to have the same impact as the landmark study that Purdue University and Gallup produced in 2014, which identified the emotional support and deep learning experiences that are highly correlated with thriving in life and engagement at work. The lessons learned from studying the effectiveness of the elements of The Furman Advantage, as assessed internally and by Gallup, will help to inform all of higher education about how to achieve these outcomes for graduates.

“Furman’s vision and ambition to provide a relationship-rich and work-integrated learning experience for every single student—as a guarantee, not just an option—is truly unprecedented,” said Brandon Busteed, Executive Director of Education & Workforce Development at Gallup. “Gallup has the great privilege of serving as Furman’s strategic evaluation partner in this effort to conduct one of the most comprehensive and multi-faceted studies ever done in higher ed.  It will help guide improvements to their practice in real-time and document elements of success—as well as struggles—over the long-term.” 

The Furman Advantage is made possible by the financial generosity of The Duke Endowment, which provided a total of $47 million to launch the program a year ago.  Furman is one of four higher education institutions in the Carolinas that receive financial assistance from The Duke Endowment, the others being Davidson College, Duke University and Johnson C. Smith University. 

“From the very beginning, one important aspect of The Furman Advantage was the university’s commitment to documenting and evaluating its efforts and using that information to adjust and improve,” said Wilhelmina Reuben-Cooke, chair of The Duke Endowment’s Committee on Educational Institutions. “As Furman works to build something truly special in higher education, the Gallup study will help ensure that the most successful outcomes for students are possible.”

“Furman has promised a high impact educational experience to each and every student, which is a level of commitment that has never been attempted, so we need strong data to make a case for this new approach to higher education,” Davis said.  “We believe a research-based approach to evaluating the outcomes of student experiences will provide a powerful national platform to move the national conversation on higher education forward.”