Ursuline is a proud member of the National Coalition of Girls Schools (NCGS), and we benefit greatly from their research and professional development opportunities, which are all, of course, focused on what serves girls in their learning.
In 2009, NCGS paired with Dr. Linda Sax of the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) to dig into research data collected from college freshmen, and the research generated exciting understanding about the clear advantages girls enjoy when they attended an all-girls school, in comparison with their peers who had attended co-educational schools. This past December, the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) at UCLA released a new data analysis to update the 2009 report. The result of this study shows statistically significant advantages for girls' school graduates as they enter university. Commissioned by NCGS, Fostering Academic and Social Engagement: An Investigation into the Effects of All-Girls Education in the Transition to University was prepared by principal investigator Dr. Tiffani Riggers-Piehl, Assistant Professor of Higher Education at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC), in collaboration with HERI.
The study identified several key areas in which all-girls schools are better preparing their students for success in university and beyond. Based on the data, the researchers concluded when compared to their female peers at coed schools, girls' school graduates:
- Have stronger academic skills
- Are more academically engaged
- Demonstrate higher science self-confidence
- Display higher levels of cultural competency
- Express stronger community involvement
- Exhibit increased political engagement
Understandably, many of us at Ursuline were thrilled to read the results of this new study, and we were not at all surprised. Every day we observe emerging among our students the very traits this study affirms. Our girls are strong, engaged students. They care about their learning, and they set high standards for themselves as learners. It is frustrating to me many young women enter college and the work force with low confidence in their capacity as science students. The core science curriculum and the electives available for Ursuline students set them up for entering college with a strong sense of their competence in science, and we love hearing from alumnae about the paths they choose when they engage with science, or all STEM fields, as adults.
The final sentence of our Mission statement is as follows:
- Ursuline Academy educates young women for leadership in a global society.
The fourth major finding of this NCGS study speaks to a higher level of cultural competency among college students who attended all-girls schools. This phrase essentially means one has a sense of one's own cultural identity and values those of others, and this can apply to the student sitting next to you in class or the friend you meet on a Global delegation to Brazil. It is essential in a student's adult life to value and collaborate with others whose background may be different. Many industries share global connections, and we are proud of the students who move through Ursuline and develop an ability to navigate other cultures, speak other languages, and seek to make connections through service and faith to people all around the world.
The final two points speak to the intentional work we do here to build a sense of importance among our students for being actively involved in their communities and engaged in civic, political life. As Principal, I sign the forms approving students to apply as poll workers at local election sites. I am proud that these girls, who are not yet eligible to vote, feel compelled to be part of the process in the way that is open to them. When I imagine the future of our nation, I am heartened by the knowledge that our girls will grow to be adults who understand and value their role in our democracy. Where community involvement is concerned, these girls are steeped in Serviam, and they grow to be women who serve their communities in many ways.
If you are interested in learning more about this study and how the girls school environment affects young women in college, please visit NCGS's website on research.
Dr. Andrea Shurley