2019 Global Engagement Survey (GES)

By Nora Pillard Reynolds

2019 Global Engagement Survey - Full Report


Executive Summary

The Global Engagement Survey (GES) is a multi-institutional assessment tool that employs quantitative and qualitative methods to better understand relationships among program variables and student learning, specifically in respect to global learning goals identified by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U, 2014). The GES is composed of eight scales to assess cultural humility, civic engagement, and critical reflection. Global learning is conceptually large. Indeed, its three constituent parts also represent broad and sometimes nebulous ideas that often feel difficult to measure. Drawing on existing research in education abroad, civic engagement, and related fields, conceptualizations relevant to global learning are further distilled into eight scales, along with sixteen related, responsive open-ended questions.
Cultural Humility Openness to diversity OD
Cultural adaptability CA
Global Citizenship Civic efficacy CE
Political voice PV
Conscious consumption CC
Global civic values GCV
Human rights beliefs HRB
Critical Reflection Critical reflection CR
At a fundamental level, the researchers recognize global learning as a combination of several bold, visionary, and capacious ideals. Each scale shared here hangs together well, and qualitative questions offer further, related investigation of the core themes. However, it is clear that the globalsl learning community will continue to reflect, adapt, and learn as educators and activists make shared progress to advance conceptual and operational understanding of global learning, global citizenship, cultural humility, and critical reflection. Further articulation of the scales appears in the full report. Actual scales appear in the appendix. The data consists of: (1) participant background information, (2) program factors, and (3) responses to closed and open-ended questions. For the analyses that follow, only the sample of matched cases (n=447) was utilized to examine significant differences between the pre- and post-test surveys. Multi-institutional: In the 2019 GES, eleven institutions/ organizations participated. The participating institutions facilitated 136 different programs intended to support global learning. The participating institutions/ organizations were: Child Family Health International, Cornell University, East Carolina University, Haverford College, Northwestern University, Queens University of Charlotte, Quinnipiac University, The University of the South: Sewanee, Towson University, University of Notre Dame, and Wingate University. Survey completion rates: The survey completion rates for this year are represented as follows:

Findings: Quantitative Analysis

Participants: The participants (n=447) indicated they are majority: female (71%), were born in the United States (80%), grew up in a suburban area (60%), have not participated in volunteer service before (69%), report far left or liberal political views (51%), and are White (58%). Demographic data and program factors: The analysis illustrates bivariate associations between learning outcomes and select demographic and program variables. As bivariate analyses, these associations do not control for any third variables that may mediate or moderate these relationships. As the GES population grows moving forward, we will include multivariate analyses in our analyses. The following demographic categories were correlated with significant differences on participants’ scores on at least one of the scales in the pre-survey (n=447): gender, race/ ethnicity, country of birth, area where you grew up, prior volunteer experience, parental income, highest parental education level, and political views. Other demographic categories did not show significant difference on the scales in the pre-survey.  The following program factors were correlated with significant difference on at least one of the scales in the pre-survey: STEM, student selection, student – community language relationship, student – community SES relationship, length of immersion, program leader present with students on site, individual or group experience, and community engagement. Scales: For the total data set (n=414), there was significant change in the expected direction from pre- to post-survey for the following scales:
  • Openness to diversity (OD),
  • Cultural adaptability (CA),
  • Civic efficacy (CE),
  • Political voice (PV),
  • Conscious consumption (CC),
  • Global civic values (GCV), and
  • Critical reflection (CR).
The only scale that did not show significant change was Human rights beliefs (HRB).

Findings: Qualitative Analysis

Because we are in the sixth year of the GES, qualitative analysis highlighted differences from year to year:
  • Race/ethnicity was the most frequent reference to diversity, as it has been in past years. This year; however, politics became the second most referenced theme related to diversity, whereas in 2018 it was the sixth most referenced theme (after language, religion, LGBTQ, Class/SES). This year gender identity (male/female) emerged as a theme that participants commented on in regards to diversity. The GES data may reflect political and social trends in the United States such as growing racial tensions, the political divide, and the "Me Too" movement.
  • When asked about when and why participants are uncomfortable discussing diversity or working with someone who is different, participant comments described fear in several ways: fear of offending, fear of conflict, and fear of judgment.  Participants also reported a fear of judgement in responses this year much more than in the past. They described this fear from both: (1) being judged as naive due to a privileged position (most frequently named as Whiteness) and (2) being judged or marginalized for a non-dominant identity.
  • While the analysis in past years identified when and why diversity can be challenging for students, many participants also commented on ways that they are able to successfully communicate and collaborate across differences. This year participants self-identified useful strategies and tools for cross-cultural communication: perspective taking, direct conversation and listening/ asking questions, apologizing and taking responsibility, and language skills.
  • Many participants recognized their non-dominant identity as a strength in interacting with those who are different and also in engaging with marginalized communities both in the US and abroad. The non-dominant identities which students named include race/ethnicity, class/SES, LGBTQ, female, international student, and of course many intersections of these identities. This qualitative data is supported by quantitative analysis which shows that participants of color begin programming with higher levels on the Openness to Diversity (OD) scale than White participants.
  • While participants did not report a decrease in their interest in voting or advocacy, a few students said that their interest in the news decreased. 


The GES uniquely brings institutions and organizations into a common dataset to better understand the impact of specific program factors on broadly shared global learning goals. Through globalsl’s role as a hub, we are able to look across programs and consider possible differences stemming from variations in student population, institutional cultures, and specific programming choices and opportunities. You can find additional information on the Global Engagement Survey here. If you are interested in joining us in this effort or have additional questions, please contact Nora Pillard Reynolds (npreynolds@haverford.edu).