By showing more interest in the family, creative projects and volunteer work, this year’s freshmen class is more compassionate than those of previous years, as revealed by a recent national survey.

According to the results, this year’s freshmen feel that raising a family is either a “very important” or an “essential” goal, as compared with the freshmen class of 2001, according to Malinda Matney, senior research associate in the Division of Student Affairs. The survey found that 74.5 percent of University freshmen in 2002 feel that raising a family is a “very important” or “essential” goal, as compared to 72.8 percent in 2001.

LSA sophomore Torrie Hoffmeyer believed the events of Sept. 11 could have reinforced the importance of family ties for many students.

“People throughout life want to make sure that they have family around them. Maybe that’s why more students this year showed a greater intent of having children on the survey,” she said.

Along with 282,549 students at 437 of the nation’s universities and four-year colleges, University freshmen contribute to an annual survey of entering classes conducted each fall by the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles’ Graduate School of Education and Information Studies.

“Undoubtedly, (September 11) had an influence on this year’s results. Our students were literally taking this survey during the anniversary of Sept. 11,” Matney said.

The findings of the Cooperative Institutional Research Program survey reveal that University freshmen demonstrate an increased interest in participating in the arts. While 12.9 percent of freshmen surveyed in 2001 indicated performing arts aspirations, 17.1 percent of 2002 freshmen reported this interest.

“With the 2002 results, we have seen huge gains in our student’s desire to apply themselves creatively. Many more of our students show an interest in creative writing and the visual arts than in previous years,” Matney said.

An increased desire to participate in community-based projects may also reflect a shift in freshmen’s perspectives since Sept. 11. University students reported a higher interest in working for environmental programs, promoting racial understanding, helping others in difficulty and promoting community action programs.

Matney said that the University’s survey results have traditionally shown that University students are more inclined to perform volunteer work in comparison with the national freshmen body. “Our students come in with already a large amount of experience in volunteering. This is in much higher proportion than the national average,” she added.

The survey also revealed a large gender gap regarding freshmen’s intentions of being employed during college. At Michigan in 2002, 43.7 percent of entering students expected to work, with 36.1 percent of men and 49.1 percent of women reporting this expectation.

“Women tend to report coming from less affluent households than men in the survey. This may explain why more women than men intend to work during college. Still, this gender discrepancy is particularly interesting considering that students enrolling at Michigan are largely traditional students coming directly from high school, rather than students returning to college after a break in studies,” Matney said.

Matney suggested that the 2002 results reflect our country’s troubled status. “2002 was an interesting year. We’ve had a lot to deal with in this country, and I believe that (September 11), the current economy and uncertainties about the future were all factors that affected freshmen’s answers to the 2002 survey.”

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