Campus Climate Survey Engagement Guide: Connectedness and Friendships

A toolkit series to guide UMass community members in understanding, interpreting, reflecting on, and responding to findings of the 2021 Campus Climate Survey

Our first Climate Survey Report explored feelings of belonging at UMass, and how foundational it is to individuals’ overall well being and success. This report, centered on Connection and Friendships, digs a bit deeper into the relationships we have on the campus–both with the institution, and with one another. These connections shape our access to resources for success, how valued and supported we feel, how closely tied we are to the wider community, and often, the degree to which we are able to engage with diversity.

The years following the 2016 Campus Climate Survey saw a significant level of polarization across communities in the U.S., and the effects of that polarization were felt on this campus as well. For the 2021 survey we introduced a series of questions to better understand the relationships that people had with those of different backgrounds and identities; to provide a glimpse into whether and how people bridge common (and often politicized) social divides. One observable trend showed that members of underrepresented groups were generally more likely to have friends from different social backgrounds, while identity groups with greater campus representation tended toward greater homogeneity in their social circles.

We hope you find this toolkit informative and instructive as you seek to understand, reflect upon, and respond to this data on connectedness and friendships at UMass.

- Emmanuel Adero, Deputy Chief Officer for Equity and Inclusion

Survey Questions

At UMass Amherst, how connected do you feel to…

  • Your department or program? Other students? One or more faculty members? (all students)
  • Your college/school? One or more university staff members? (undergraduate students)
  • Your advisor or dissertation chair? (grad students)
  • Your specific work unit or department? Other university staff members? (staff)
  • Your department or program? Your college/school? Other university faculty members? (faculty)
  • Umass Amherst overall? (all)

Considering your five closest friends or acquaintances at UMass Amherst, how many of them are a different…

  • Gender?

  • Sexual orientation?

  • Race/ethnicity?

  • Socioeconomic background?

Key Findings

Overall survey results support the idea that one’s sense of belonging hinges on connection to peers and colleagues. One positive finding is that vast majorities of both students and faculty reported that at least one of their five closest friends at UMass Amherst is of a gender different from their own, and that at least one is of a different race/ethnicity.

Undergraduate Students

  • Undergraduates who are affiliated with student organizations or serve in leadership roles were more likely to report a positive sense of belonging

  • Feelings of connection are somewhat lower for Black students, students with mobility and mental health-related disabilities, and transfer students

Graduate Students

  • The highest level of connectedness occurred in two areas: 49% reported feeling Very Connected to their advisor or dissertation chair, and 39% indicated that they feel Very Connected to their program/department

  • Multiracial, Black, and Latinx students were more likely than Asian or International students to report feeling Not Connected to their graduate department or program


  • 61% reported that they feel Very Connected to their department/unit and only 7% reported feeling Not Connected

  • 86% of those in Executive, Administrative, and Managerial roles reported feeling Very Connected to their work unit or department, compared to 46% of Technical/ Paraprofessional staff


  • 26% reported feeling Not Connected to other faculty members

  • Nonbinary faculty and faculty who identified as having a disability reported lower levels of connectedness to both their department and college/school compared to their cisgender and non-disabled peers

  • Nearly one-third indicated that none of their close friends has a sexual orientation or class background different from their own

Next Section: Self Reflection