The University of the South is one of the nation’s most effective institutions when it comes to the engagement that fosters student learning and development according to the fourth annual National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE). NSSE is conducted to assess a school’s performance in five key benchmark areas: level of academic challenge; active and collaborative learning; student-faculty interactions; enriching educational experiences; and supportive campus environment. "These results confirm that teaching and learning remain at the center of what we do and that Sewanee belongs among the finest liberal arts colleges in the country," according to Rita Kipp, dean of the University's College of Arts and Sciences. The 2004 NSSE report is based on information from 163,000 first-year and senior students at 472 different four-year colleges and universities. “Engagement is a critical factor in the educational process because the more time and energy students devote to desired activities, the more likely they are to develop the habits of the mind that are the key to success after college, including participating in civic affairs,” says George Kuh, NSSE director. “In addition, engagement is linked to grades and graduation, outcomes that everyone agrees are important.” This year, Sewanee freshmen and senior students who were polled ranked the quality of the learning experience at the institution among the top ten percent of all schools participating in NSSE in four of the five benchmarks. In the category of active and collaborative learning, Sewanee’s first year students rated the institution among the top 20% of participating schools, while its seniors placed it in the top 30%, a rise from previous surveys. A school where students and faculty members work together closely in a tightly knit community, Sewanee was shown to provide an extremely supportive environment by NSSE. This particular benchmark asks students if the campus environment provides support to succeed academically, and about the quality of their relationships with other students and faculty members. In this area, Sewanee’s score was significantly higher than the mean attesting to the quality and closeness of student-faculty relationships. Sewanee also significantly outscored the mean in the area of student-faculty interaction. Here, NSSE shows that when students learn firsthand how experts think about and solve problems by interacting with faculty members inside and outside the classroom, their teachers become mentors and guides for continuous lifelong learning. NSSE will conduct its next survey in 2005.