The Michigan Experience:
Perspectives from Recent Alumni Cohorts
The University of Michigan
2009 Alumni Survey

REPORT SUMMARY

For the full report, "The Michigan Experience: Perspectives from Recent Alumni Cohorts", click here.

Introduction.  In spring of 2009, the University of Michigan conducted a survey of six cohorts of undergraduate alumni:  The classes of 2004, 2005, and 2006, who represent a 3-5 year timeframe since graduation; and the classes of 1998, 1999, and 2000, who represent a 9-11 year timeframe.
Invitations to participate in the online survey were sent to approximately 22,474 alumni for whom the University had current email addresses on file.   3,097 alumni consented to participate, resulting in a response rate of 14%.   This response rate is low; however, the responding alumni appear representative in their distribution across the U-M school or college from which they graduated.  Female alumni were slightly more likely to respond to the survey, as were younger alumni.

Composition.  Survey respondents had received their undergraduate degrees primarily from LS&A (60%), Engineering (20%), and Business (7%).  Respondents were 56% female; 69% of alumni respondents were Michigan residents when they were students.

Employment.  Most alumni (75%) reported their primary activity to be employment, with most of the rest  in graduate or professional school.  Older alumni (those graduated 9-11 years ago) were more likely to be in the working world than their counterparts who had graduated from U-M more recently.
Alumni who were working were most commonly employed in the private sector, with the largest number in business and finance fields.  Also popular were engineering and physical sciences, education, and healthcare.  Among those working, almost a third (30%) were working in areas that were not related to the field of study they pursued as a U-M undergraduate.
Alumni reported feeling satisfied with the course of their careers, and most felt that their U-M experience had helped prepare them.

Principles in Working Life
The alumni questionnaire included a section where respondents were asked to rate the importance of twelve principles as they related to their current or prior positions.  Alumni rated most important the goals of challenging themselves intellectually, keeping up with developments in their area of expertise, and helping others in need.

Further Education.  Over half of surveyed alumni (61%) had pursued further education.  Over a quarter (26%) were currently enrolled in a degree program—that accounts for nearly all of the respondents who were not currently working, as well as some alumni who are also employed.   Younger alumni (those graduating 3-5 years ago) were more likely to be enrolled in a graduate or professional program than those who had been out for a decade.
Over a third of the responding alumni had already earned an additional degree, with the most common being a masters-level degree.   Alumni gave U-M high marks for its preparation for graduate and professional school.
Alumni sought further education from a great variety of institutions, listing over 280 universities from across the U.S. and globe, although the research universities within Michigan (U-M, Wayne State, and MSU) were among those most commonly named.

Debt & Costs.  Alumni from these classes generally graduated with no debt (55%) or low debt (17% owed less than $20,000).  Most feel that the benefits of attending U-M were well worth the cost.

Skills Gained. Alumni are generally positive about the skills gained from their U-M undergraduate experience.  They feel U-M helped them improve intellectual skills, particularly critical thinking, acquiring new skills on their own, ability to judge the value of information, and applying knowledge from their major.  They gave lower marks to their appreciation for arts, understanding of the scientific method, understanding international perspectives, and application of quantitative methods. Alumni also reported feeling that the University had promoted their ability to get along with people from all backgrounds and to work in teams.
Research.  Less than half of alumni (45%) reported having a collaborative research experience with faculty.  Formal U-M programs for research (such as UROP) accounted for a relatively small share of these experiences; most came from coursework (85% of alumni with research experience) or via their own initiative while students (64% of alumni with research experience).

International Experience.  About two-thirds of alums reported studying a foreign language while at U-M.  Alumni reported their most prevalent method for gaining global perspectives were contacts with U-M’s international student population, and the numerous international cultural events on campus.  Almost 80% of alumni had had enrolled in at least one class with an intentional global focus.   
Just under half of surveyed alumni reported that they had traveled abroad while an undergraduate.  One in seven reported a formal study abroad experience that lasted for a term or more.  Their travel and study spanned the globe.  Whereas Western Europe drew the most students (63% of the traveling students visited there), collectively alumni travel while students covered every continent.

Service and Outreach..  Nearly three-quarters of alumni  (73%) reported that they had participated in some kind of community service or outreach activity while an undergraduate.  Most reported conducting community service through a U-M club or affiliated organization.
Even more alumni (80% in all) report that they have done community service since their undergraduate years.  Over 7% have taken part in a full-time service position such as the Peace Corps or Teach for America.

Co-Curricular Activities
Alumni involvement in activities outside of class was widely varied, with the most popular being athletic spectatorship.  Community service and participation in recreational sports or fitness were also reported by over half of alumni.   Alumni reported that participation enhanced their enjoyment of U-M, complemented their academic efforts, and helped them develop useful life and career skills.

Contacts:

Karen Zaruba, Senior Institutional Research Analyst, Office of Budget & Planning; kzaruba@umich.edu, 998-7654.

Ben van der Pluijm, Professor and Senior Counselor to the Provost; vdpluijm@umich.edu, 647-8788.