University of Northern Iowa Higher Learning Commission Accreditation Review
Appendix N: FOUNDATIONS OF EXCELLENCE® Dimension Report Recommended Action Items As of April 30, 2009
Draft a Philosophy statement for the First Year at UNI. (High priority)
A subcommittee of the Philosophy Dimension was charged to draft such a statement. This statement will be
taken to the FoE steering committee, the Policy Center for the First Year of College staff, and the HLC task
force for feedback, before vetting it at the university-level.
Consult with relevant constituencies for vetting of the Philosophy statement. (High priority)
We recommend the Philosophy statement to be one of the first coordinated action items communicated to the
campus community from the FOE committees. A reminder of what FOE is, who is serving, the volunteer
nature of those serving, and the work done so far should accompany the Philosophy statement. We
recommend the following by way of dissemination:
a. A web site created where people can register comments
b. An announcement via UNI Online, made with a link to the web site.
c. An e-mail sent to all faculty and staff directing them to the web site
d. Specific groups targeted for feedback: Humanities coordinating committee, LAC committee, Academic
advisors, Faculty Senate, NISG, P & S council, Merit council, United Faculty.
- Draft tentative goals for the First Year of College (High priority)
Action goals/objectives, which are measureable, and time specific will be developed. These will be informed by the findings of the other dimension committees.
- Include approved Philosophy statement in new university strategic plan. (High priority)
Since the strategic plan officially runs out in 2009 (with the possibility of having a two-year renewal of it, due to the Board of Regents strategic planning process finishing in 2010), we have the opportunity to include the approved philosophy statement in the strategic plan.
- Fund an organizational structure to execute appropriate first-year programs. (The committee felt strongly this should not be a separate organizational unit with additional administration. Instead, we should build on the strengths we have in discrete units, by creating a structure to build a unified effort. To play to these strengths UNI must implement a structure that has the following ingredients:
a. Formal coordinating governing body that has a single person at the head that has the authority to
implement change. This would be a hybrid between the Foundations of Excellence choices of: a) a
single unit/administrative structure and b) a formal coordinating body overseeing a broad range of
first-year efforts and has institutional authority for oversight and alignment of first-year initiatives.
b. This structure should not reside in either the Academic Affairs division or the Student Affairs division, but
must reside in both, for it is the blend of these two divisions that will enable the university to provide the
excellence we expect in the First Year Experience.
c. Curriculum control shouldn’t rest with an administrative unit. If it did, that would be a HUGE change with
how UNI currently operates (unless it was just a FY course). This should not be the function of this
formal coordinating body.
- Fund a cohesive, collaborative, university-wide academic advising plan, involving academic advising and faculty advisors. This would allow for professional development for faculty and academic advisors and provide for hiring additional academic advisors so that the ratio of Academic Advising Services advisors to students is capped at 1:150 and the ratio of faculty advisors to students capped at 1:20.
- Fund a cohesive plan for faculty development focusing on the teaching of first-year students, including learning styles and cognitive characteristics as well as the use of technology in courses. Ensure that the faculty and staff development plans include:
a. Faculty/staff participation in decisions concerning training.
b. More frequent development sessions for all new advisors.
c. Requiring all new faculty to have formal advisor training.
d. Continuing development for experienced academic advisors (departmental, college-level and
professional advisors in Academic Advising.
e. The facilitation of networking of all persons involved with advising first-year students. (i.e.,
heterogeneous meetings with faculty and staff).
f. More actively utilize technology for dissemination of advising handbooks, podcasts for topics, which can
be accessed for faculty/staff development.
- Continue and enhance the joint staff development between the Department of Residence and Academic Advising and make current Department of Residence (DOR) staff training more overt in recognizing this connection between Academic Advising and the Department of Residence enhances the first year experience for students. This connection is important because the DOR houses 92% of out-of-high school first-year students.
- Create first-year cohorts in LAC “layered” classes. This would designate specific LAC courses as “first-year freshman courses” and reserve these first for freshman. A further layering could be done to designate sophomore specific LAC courses, junior level LAC courses and senior level LAC courses. This will address some course placement issues, assist first-year students in making connections, provide opportunities for academic advising to reach first-year students, encourage faculty/staff partnerships, and provide opportunities to make appropriate referrals regarding financial aid, family issues, etc.
- Reserve three LAC classes for first year students. These courses will be taught by faculty and provide funding for additional tenure track faculty to teach first-year students so all classes for first-year students have a maximum teacher/student ratio of 1:32.
- Create a web site for first-year students which will include FAQs and a compilation of data/information/links to individual departments. This will assist students, but will also assist faculty and staff in making appropriate referrals.
- Initiate a discussion regarding the “value” of faculty advisement of student when considering matters of tenure and promotion throughout the campus.
- Required First-Year Experience (High priority) PI1
There should be a coordinated first-year experience developed by Student Affairs and Academic Affairs. Faculty should participate in its development and implementation. Some possibilities include: freshman seminars taught by excellent tenured/tenure track faculty; faculty guest lecturers in College Writing and Research, and Oral Communication courses (or any courses taught primarily by adjuncts or graduate teaching assistants). Additionally, build upon the foundation already laid by student affairs and create more partnerships between the two groups with the first year and beyond as the focus.
- Smaller Classes for First-Year Courses (High priority) PI1
Recognizing necessary cooperation with upper administration, and, that large courses do not inherently imply a problem with the teaching or the learning, Department Heads should be encouraged to cap first-year courses at 30, as much evidence exists that smaller classes are better enjoyed by students and faculty and can result in better learning experiences.
- Tenured/Tenure Track Faculty Teach First-Year Courses (High priority) PI1
Move away from having adjuncts teach first-year courses. Encourage Department Heads to assign first-year courses to regular faculty over adjunct faculty. Begin to address issues raised in the Staffing Liberal Arts Core report (Evidence Library).
- "First Year Here" Ad Campaign (Medium priority) PI1
We recommend that Marketing and Public Relations be charged with developing marketing materials promoting "First Year Here," encouraging students to do their first year of higher education here at UNI, promoting the benefits of small classes and direct faculty contact (and implicitly highlighting that by taking college credit in high school, or completing LAC requirements elsewhere they are missing out). Note: making small classes, and direct faculty contact in the first year a reality prior to the implementation of such a campaign is obviously required. This is listed as ‘medium priority’ given that other endeavors need to be carried out first.
- Revise LAC (High priority) PI1 , PI2
Undertake full revision of LAC with full faculty involvement. Those LAC courses that are taken predominantly during the first year should be carefully selected and structured and prepared for accordingly.
- Implement TA Course Options for Departments (High priority) PI2
Implement Teaching of X courses in any department that requests it. This course allows qualified undergraduate students to get credit for being a TA for a course. This is mutually beneficial for student and instructor. The student gains valuable professional experience, secures much stronger letters of recommendation, and insight into possible teaching careers. The instructor gains needed assistance in large courses, project intensive courses, or any course where a student assistant would be helpful. Having a Teaching Assistant acts as an incentive for teaching first year courses.
e.g.: 400:192(g). Practicum in Teaching Psychology -- 1-3 hrs.
Organization and teaching of psychology; student serves as participant-observer, with advance approval, in
any 400:xxx course. Prerequisite: junior standing; Psychology GPA of 3.0 or higher; B+ in the course for which
student will participate. (Offered Fall, Spring, and Summer)
- Educate Faculty (High priority) PI1, PI3
Educate the faculty about first-year students, the importance of a positive first-year experience, and how they can participate in ensuring a positive first-year experience. This should be an organized effort, developed with faculty and Student Affairs input, administered/distributed by Academic Affairs.
- Create Faculty Board on the First Year (High Priority)
Create a cohort of faculty and staff interested in and committed to first-year teaching, learning, student development. This group would most likely self-identify; these would be individuals who are willing to make a commitment to the first year as part of their academic, teaching or work assignment portfolio. From within this group, create a unified faculty position on best practices for teaching and learning within the first year. Can we develop a set of consistent expectations among this cohort group? Can that group, as a result of their experiences with best practices, model and share ways for teaching/learning of first-year students that are strongly aligned to our first-year philosophy statement, vision and outcomes?
- New Faculty Orientation (High priority) PI3
Develop informational unit on the importance of the first year for delivery at New Faculty Orientation.
- Disseminate to Department Heads FYE Information (High priority) PI3, PI4
Disseminate a Fact Sheet to Department Heads with FYE information to be communicated to candidates during phone interviews and campus visits. This Fact Sheet should include information about first-year students, the importance of a positive first-year experience, how faculty can contribute to that positive experience, information about LAC courses, any formal FYE programming that gets developed, the First-Year Philosophy (once developed and approved), and how work with first year students will be acknowledged, recognized, and rewarded. This should also be emphasized during new faculty orientation so that the information is not just viewed as something that happens during recruitment, but during orientation, and in practice for years to come.
- Merit Money (High priority) PI4
Deans should designate a percentage of end of year merit monies given to Department Heads to be devoted to rewarding faculty who service first-year courses; those who service them excellently; and those who advise first-year students.
- Advertise LAC Excellence in Teaching Award (High priority) PI4
Few faculty are aware of the existence of this award. This is one form of acknowledgement that should be advertised and honored.
- Count High Enrollment Courses Toward Teaching Load (High priority) PI4
Department Heads should acknowledge the work load inherent in teaching large first-year courses, and allow for every 75 students to ‘count’ as a section of a course.
- Review Tenure Process (High priority) PI4
Advising should ‘count’ as teaching, not service. Teaching related scholarship should be considered in the totality of scholarly productivity.
- Establish mission, goal, outcome statements, and assessment procedures for first-year learning to serve as a foundation for a coordinated first-year experience.
- Promote the centrality of written communication to thinking, learning, and feedback, not just in the form of written products for assessment, but in multiple forms as tools for engaged learning.
a. Support a genuine Writing in the Disciplines effort coordinated by a University Writing Committee.
b. Provide faculty release and development opportunities to create a coherent, coordinated, and fully
funded writing program.
c. Support and encourage faculty development in writing pedagogy and theory.
- Focus on the Liberal Arts Core.
a. Explore the options for a tiered Liberal Arts Core to provide the opportunity for linked courses and
b. Take action to have LAC competencies universally applied before the HLC visit.
c. Direct all LAC courses to implement common learning objectives and methods to measure learning.
d. Identify which aspects of the LAC competencies students are expected to accomplish in their first year;
identify, develop, and implement common experiences to assure students have opportunity to meet
e. Fund the current Liberal Arts Core so students are able to complete the core competencies of writing/
reading, math, and oral communication in their first-year as recommended.
f. Develop a consistent and holistic philosophy for the Liberal Arts Core that goes beyond a menu of
compartmentalized competencies and that integrates knowledge, student identity formation, and
- Explore the options for a tiered Liberal Arts Core to provide the opportunity for linked courses and learning communities.
- Support faculty professional development initiatives to provide incentives for collaboration and design of first-year courses.
- Explore a first-year “cornerstone” course.
- Create courses, programs and curricula based upon data-driven decision making.
- Promote the idea that faculty development and instructional innovation and success are as valued as research output. Back it up with affordable incentives in addition to teaching awards.
a. Amend tenure processes to better reflect respect for classroom success.
b. Connect effective teaching with pay and promotion incentives.
c. Fund a Center for the Enhancement of Teaching/Center for Teaching excellence, or other entity that
ensures opportunities for faculty development and focuses on instructional innovation.
- Require a minimum standard of training for departmental advisors who may wield considerable influence on student scheduling as they progress into major coursework.
a. Include academic advising responsibilities as an extension of teaching and not a service function.
b. Implement an online advising handbook, ongoing advisor development, and a campus association of
advisors to provide the means for advisors to keep up to date on campus advising.
- Fully fund academic support services to increase their visibility and ability to serve large numbers of students.
- Institute mandatory pre-midterm reporting to identify students who need help before it is too late.
a. Streamline the process so faculty are not asked to complete multiple forms for the same students.
- Institute mandatory monitoring and follow up by academic departments to improve success in their classes for those first-year courses and/or course sections where 25% or more of the students are not successfully completing the course.
- Support a plan currently being developed by the Academic Learning Center to comprehensively assist students who disconnect from the learning process at UNI for any of the reasons outlined in this report. These students may be near or on warning or probation or returning from suspension. The Academic Learning Center, with its one-stop advising and learning assistance programs, is in the best position to match mentoring, tutoring, and advising strategies to students’ individual needs, help them earn good academic standing, and help them persist to graduation.
- Fund additional sections of 620:002 and 800:004 to be taught by Clinical Instructors, Practicum students, or Teaching Adjuncts. Retired school teachers with appropriate backgrounds or recent graduates who are continuing through graduate school could be considered for these positions. Such a program could be housed in the Academic Learning Center and the Center’s director would act as liaison between Center and academic departments.
- Begin a discussion at the state level involving the Board of Regents institutions and the State Board of Education to examine the impact of the Post Secondary Enrollment Options Act on the educational levels of high school students.
5.1 Connection to Students (the lived experience)
- Provide stronger visibility and emphasis on academic programs and academic experiences of students (e.g. undergraduate research, study abroad, internships) in print and other media forms (including recruitment presentations and campus tours), and include more frequent use of faculty profiles on marketing and recruitment materials.
5.2 Communication to Students
- Appoint a study committee or initiate a planning process leading to the establishment of an extended orientation program or transition course for first-year students. Providing more time for discussion and reflection will help increase student understanding and learning about the institution’s academic expectations, entry requirements for academic majors, financial aid, life goals, and other important topics that can be more fully addressed in such an expanded format.
- Showcase more assertively the academic side of the house including academic expectations in all forms of communication with students.
- Provide copies of an adapted version of the Panther Planner (or something similar) to students living off-campus, with content addressing the specific needs of off-campus and non-traditional students.
5.3 Communication to Others
- Expand Office of Admissions electronic newsletter currently sent to a small number of high school counselors to a wider network of high school guidance offices or counselors.
- Offer faculty development opportunities focusing on first-year outcomes for high school teachers who are teaching dual enrollment and other postsecondary education option courses.
- Include in campus communication to parents more techniques and strategies for supporting their students’ academic success.
5.4 Establishing Connections
- Develop partnerships between academic affairs and student affairs to create more opportunities for interaction between students and faculty outside of the classroom. For example, research by Alexander Astin (1998) and others suggests that students involved in community service programs offered by universities have an increased likelihood of interacting with faculty and demonstrating other desired academic outcomes than do nonparticipants (evidence library). Other examples might include living/learning communities, common reading programs, freshman interest groups, hot topic discussion forums, faculty-in-residence programs, or other creative initiatives.
- Increase opportunities for first-year and upper-class student connections through Department of Residence programs, and to explore other creative approaches to help students connect with faculty and staff members.
- Assign responsibility to an office or an individual to help monitor the needs and interests of off-campus and non-traditional students, and to serve as an advocate for that population.
5.5 Academic Advising
- Support the following recommendations from the Advising Council:
a. Advisor Load: The Council recommends that financial support be allocated to colleges to address
advisor/advisee loads and bring them in line with national recommendations.
b. Professional Development for Faculty/Staff Advisors: The Council recommends that it be tasked with
implementing ongoing professional development programs for university advisors and that appropriate
support be provided for this.
c. A Campus Advising Network: The Advising Council recommends that a network of campus advisors
which meets regularly to enhance communication, promote advisor development and share best
practices be formed.
d. A Web-based Advisor Handbook: The Advising Council recommends that it be charged with creating a
web-based advisor handbook.
e. Implement an early warning system to provide earlier and more consistent feedback to students and
academic advisors on student academic performance during the first year.
f. Create consistency in the approach to first semester advising by allowing Jump Start students to
participate in selecting first semester courses in collaboration with major/college/intake advisors.
g. Create common learning outcomes for the first-year advising programs to help with delivery of services
in a consistent manner and to provide a more effective means for assessment across advising models.
ALL STUDENTS DIMENSION
Five Overarching Recommendations:
The following recommendations emerged as responses to common issues identified in all four performance indicators. Each recommendation has been given a designation of high priority with the execution of some dependent on the implementation of others. We feel these five themes deserve equal attention in an effort to provide a better first-year student experience.
1. Data-based Decision Making
A more systematic process should be developed to define, identify, and assess the needs of our first-year students, especially underserved populations, in order to prevent making assumptions about their needs. Responsibility for the coordination of this process must be defined.
2. Orientation and Welcome Week Improvements
New Student Programs and the Orientation Coordinating Committee should be charged with the responsibility for addressing the following components of orientation and welcome week:
- More clearly assess the needs of Jump Start participants to determine if current practices align with identified needs.
- Enhance efforts to integrate international and multicultural students with the general student population.
a. Require Jump Start students to attend summer orientation making pre-registration by advisors
b. Create Welcome Week activities that provide opportunities for interaction among all students.
- Reevaluate the unique needs of non-traditional and transfer students as related to their transition experience.
- Continue efforts to collaborate with Academic Affairs to increase faculty presence and involvement.
3. Coordination of Academic Advising
With the variety of advising models on campus, there is a need to standardize advising outcomes for all first-year students to ensure consistent delivery of services. An advisor handbook should be developed which includes key points of information that should be covered with all first-year students. This could include suggestions for best practices as well as consistent learning outcomes for advisees. Syllabi from the UNI Intake Model could be used as a foundation to build upon for all first-year students.
It is also our recommendation that UNI makes an efforts to move toward the National Academic Advising Association’s recommended advising ratios of “1:300 for full-time professional academic advising staff and 1:20 for faculty serving as academic advisers.”
4. Mandatory First-Year Seminar
A first-year seminar should be implemented to assist in the transition from high school to college and to focus on the holistic needs of the first-year student including study skills, adjustment to college, and understanding the academic environment. This course would allow UNI to “assure” first-year students receive individualized attention and information concerning academic, social, and safety resources. It would also allow for the implementation of a more systematic evaluation of student needs. Identified needs may then be addressed through referral to appropriate university services or program development.
In recognition of the university’s academic mission and the findings of the FoE Learning Dimension, the committee believes this should be a credit-bearing course that focuses on inquiry and critical thinking skills while introducing issues pertinent to the All Students Dimension. A collaboration between Student Affairs and Academic Affairs in developing and facilitating this course will be essential.
5. Dissemination of Information
The development of a First-Year Student Web site would provide a centralized means to share information and resources while also addressing broader themes related to student transition. The site would be a resource for faculty and staff to assist students in accessing services and information. A First-Year Student Web site could be a place to address the issues that have emerged from the Foundations of Excellence study and be an initial step toward discerning the foundational components of a first-year seminar.
The following recommendations emerged as responses to issues specific to individual performance indicators.
- Establish a broader institutional definition of “diversity” to include currently underserved populations such as GLBTQ students, religious minorities, and non-traditional students.
- Clarify the leadership structure and make transparent the system of accountability for those responsible for diversity efforts.
- Increase university support for GLBTQ students as all responsibility is currently upon a student organization.
- Establish a task force to evaluate both our institutional definition of underprepared students and our resulting response to their needs. Documents like ACT’s “Measuring College Readiness” should be used to identify predictors of success to determine if additional advising guidelines or registration restrictions should be instituted beyond the admission deficiencies currently in use. Commitment to adequate courses or services to meet identified needs must follow.
- Assess the results of the 2009 Pilot Retention Study coordinated by the Academic Learning Center. Use results to develop a plan that will provide enhanced support services to students on warning, probation and readmits.
- Make the Campus Night Walk an annual event to ensure problems are being eliminated and newly identified unsafe areas are documented.
- Implement the model of assigning classrooms after registration to ensure students with mobility impairments obtain classes on the ground floor.
- Place signage within buildings on campus with designated “shelter areas” information in the event of severe weather or other potential crises on campus and encourage faculty to put safety procedures (such as fire, tornado, lock-down information) in their syllabi.
- Place emergency phones in buildings that are easily visible and accessible.
- Increase promotion of Public Safety emergency number (3-4000) including printing the phone number on the UID cards of all students, faculty, and staff.
- Improve marketing of safety services such as Public Safety’s escort services and the Counseling Center workshops.
- Develop trainings or workshops concerning safety and other issues to prepare employees to be better sources of referral for our first-year students.
With regard to prioritization: We had a difficult time not rating every recommendation “high priority,” even though we tried diligently to be discerning. Given the current financial situation, though, we attempted to suggest which recommendations could be done quickly and with little expense, and which should be given priority when money is available.
We maintain that the following goals should shape the first-year student’s experience of diversity at UNI. By the end of the first year at UNI, a student should:
a. Acquire a curiosity about diversity
b. Gain communication skills to explore diversity
c. Know where the resources are to dig further into areas of interest
Such goals may be achieved if:
1. A clear and consistent message, regarding UNI’s understanding of diversity and why it is important were frequently articulated to the UNI community. High priority, low cost; possible strategies listed below.
- The President needs to continue to articulate the importance of diversity at UNI and what it includes.
- Departments should clearly articulate how it is enacted in their areas.
- Students should encounter this message throughout their experience (orientation, LAC, student activities, capstone, etc.)
2. Just as the most important phrase in real estate is “location, location, location” the most important phrase in diversity is “retention, retention, retention.” High priority
3. Identify the populations that are facing obstacles for access to opportunities on campus, and figure out ways to remove those obstacles. High priority, cost dependent on obstacles found.
a. The climate survey might identify those populations, which may change over time.
4. Continue to clarify the function of the Center for Multicultural Education to emphasize its broader educational role for the entire campus, and not just as a center created exclusively for underrepresented minority students. We support the recommendations of the Fall 2008 Task Force on the CME. High priority, low cost
- Diversity should be at the core of any discussions of the revision of the LAC. High priority, dependent on LAC revisions; possible strategies listed below.
a. In any restructuring of the LAC, we recommend that there be a diversity requirement of some kind. This
need not necessarily be an additional course. Rather, courses that already address diversity issues
should be identified and highlighted as such.
i. Whatever that requirement looks like, we recommend that all first-year students be required to take
a course with a diversity component.
Provide ongoing diversity training to administration, faculty, students and staff. High priority, cost depends on how training is done. Training must include ways of assessing effectiveness of training. Possible strategies listed below
- Provide funding for professional development opportunities: One task of The Center for the Enhancement of Teaching should be to seek out effective programs and institute them at UNI.
- Incorporate diversity/self awareness training into current faculty and staff orientations.
- Provide specific faculty training for addressing diversity in the classroom.
a. Infusing diversity into the curriculum.
b. Dealing with difficult conversations.
- Identify leaders on campus who could provide this training and reward them for their willingness to do so (Women’s and Gender Studies has a Summer Carver Institute Proposal that deals with diversity).
a. Develop a database to track faculty/staff expertise.
b. Develop profiles of faculty who have diversity or international experience and spotlight them on the
- Institutionalize the espoused commitment to the retention of diverse populations of students and faculty. High priority, some cost probably required; possible strategies listed below. Encourage funds to be used for these purposes.
a. Determine whether we are staffed correctly to both recruit and retain diverse faculty, staff and students?
b. Evaluate and revise search committee policies and procedures to ensure that skills and experiences
related to diversity are considered in hiring.
c. Develop a mentoring program for diverse faculty and staff.
d. Conduct exit interviews of diverse faculty and staff who leave the institution.
e. Conduct an equity audit to determine areas of strengths and weaknesses in equity and access. Take
urgent action to address the greatest needs.
f. Appropriately staff areas whose primary focus is retention.
g. Set aside human and financial resources for this purpose. (instead of adding it to a current job
- Develop institutional “branding” in regard to diversity.
a. Set aside human and financial resources for this purpose.
b. Assess marketing material for diversity “image.” Are we sending a message that we are welcoming?
c. Include the CME on tours of campus! Campus tours always go through the Maucker Union; there is no
reason why a stop at the CME could not be incorporated into tours.
d. Focus on diversity in the visual arts located across campus. While it is understandable that we often
focus on Iowa art, if we want people to think about diversity on campus, the art on campus should reflect
- Continue to support already existing programs, like Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Jump Start, Academic Learning Center Programs, CME, etc. that contribute to diversity at UNI. High priority, low cost.
- Articulate and promote the value that diversity is the responsibility of the entire university community. High priority, low cost. Possible strategies listed below.
a. Add a diversity dimension to summer orientation, even if orientation has to be lengthened to include it.
b. Incorporate white awareness into the current approach to diversity at UNI.
c. Provide information in other languages—on the phone, for example—to encourage a welcoming
environment. We need to be more customer-friendly. See the International Studies home page, where
information is given in more than one language as model.
d. Include contribution to diversity as a criterion for merit, service awards, other awards, etc., beyond one’s
e. Give monetary awards for faculty to attend conferences, workshops, etc., that focus on diversity.
f. Expand the programming and learning resources available for programs like “Character Counts” and
directly articulate its utility in developing a civil campus community.
g. Institute the use of the Global Perspectives Inventory (GPI) to measure students’ global knowledge,
beliefs and attitudes throughout their time at UNI. Of course, if we choose to use such an inventory, a
clear understanding of how the information from the survey will be used and who will be responsible for
interpreting the data must be articulated. Study Abroad is using this instrument with students starting in
summer 2009; perhaps this, or some other instrument, could be used more broadly at UNI.
h. However FoE becomes institutionalized at UNI in the future, FoE should regularly host a diversity/social
justice conference that is widely accessible to students, faculty and staff, and that focuses on the
first-year student’s experience.
ROLES & PURPOSES DIMENSION
1. Develop a Roles and Purposes Statement for the University. (High Priority)
- The university should develop a clearly articulated statement of roles and purposes for higher education at UNI.
- The drafting of this statement should be an inclusive process, involving representation from the entire University community, alumni and the community at large.
- The statement should also be consistently communicated and incorporated in all University publications and settings.
- The statement should directly address first-year student needs.
2. Develop a Faculty Development Program which incorporates broad first-year student information and specific Roles and Purposes information. (High Priority)
- The university should create a program of ongoing faculty development related to first-year students in areas such as Roles and Purposes, core competencies, the LAC purposes and goals, and resources on campus. (high priority)
- This is particularly important for faculty who teach Category I LAC courses, and for faculty who are new to UNI.
- Concomitantly, it is important that the faculty reward system recognize and prize faculty teaching of first-year students.
3. Incorporate Roles and Purposes information in course syllabi. (Medium Priority)
- The university should develop a template for course syllabi that incorporates roles and purposes in the goals, objectives, and outcomes for each course.
- In order to do this for the LAC courses, where it is perhaps most relevant, it is necessary that the Roles and Purposes of the LAC be clearly defined.
4. Develop opportunities for students to explore both the general Roles and Purposes of higher education, and their own personal motivation for pursuing higher education. (Medium Priority)
- The university should develop systematic opportunities for students to examine their motivation and goals with regards to higher education in programs such as Orientation, Residential Life, and the LAC.
- The development of a First-Year Experience is of critical importance, and the Roles and Purposes component should be featured in any First-Year Experience program which is developed as a result of this self-assessment.
- The University should investigate the use of e-portfolios as a tool through which Roles and Purposes information can be communicated, and through which students can personally process this information in an intentional way.
- All orientation programs need to collaboratively establish evaluation/assessment outcomes to help evaluate the effectiveness, feasibility and desired standards of the new student orientation program.
- Assessment of Orientation programs needs to continue to be conducted on an annual basis and be linked to strategic planning within the institution. Programs working with orientation need to develop, identify and execute assessment on a routine basis, and link that assessment to student outcomes. Results from the existing surveys as well as other measures should be reported as part of an annual or bi-annual Orientation Student Outcomes Assessment.
- Written assessment plans need to be created for all Orientation programs. The use of assessments devoid of a formal written assessment plan can potentially create haphazard reporting and, as a result, inconclusive results. To avoid these pitfalls, an assessment plan needs to be put in place for all orientation programs.
- Assessment results need to be communicated to all persons involved in the orientation process and should be made available to the university community. This will establish a more transparent assessment process and may eliminate redundancies. This needs to be made available to the university community.
- Collaboration of all Orientation programs to enhance program efficiencies and evaluation.
It is recommended that all Orientation programs report to/collaborate with the Coordinator of New Student Programs or a university committee to ensure that student outcomes assessments are underway (e.g., reorganize/restructure the reporting structure). For all first-year Orientation programs, a designated coordinator (e.g., the Coordinator of New Student Programs) or a committee should be appointed to monitor and evaluate orientation assessments.
- Use of different assessment measures (e.g., different methodologies). The New Student Survey is a good example of an assessment measure that evaluates the orientation program from a student outcomes perspective.
- Standardization or core questions to be included on assessment measures for all orientation programs.
a. A core set of questions will allow for comparative results.
b. The use of a standardized assessment (e.g., Student Voice (NOTA) should be considered.
- Springboard houses should be utilized to capture impressions of services offered, programming effectiveness, and as a focus group for other Foundations of Excellence assessing, since all students living in those houses are new to UNI and fit the description of students examined in Foundations of Excellence.
- Program participation rates should be utilized. Attendance of events and programs is currently recorded for participation; however, these participation rates are not utilized as an indicator of interest in a particular topic or for historical prediction of attendance in the future.
- Students attending programming events should be given the option of providing basic feedback on that event through a brief survey for immediate feedback.
- External resources should be examined to improve assessing the goals of Residence Life programming. Grant funding or UNI special allocation money could be pursued to specifically find opportunities to quantify traits related to behavior for trending over time. National surveys should also be researched that could be used as a standard for benchmarking Residence Life effectiveness. Collaboration with UNI’s Strategic Marketing Services or other consulting companies should also be considered.
- Examine utilizing other electronic methods to convey programming information to students as a supplement to programming efforts. Examples include using a Facebook® group page, blogs, the Department of Residence web site, and/or the UNI cable TV station. Currently, marketing of survey participation primarily occurs through e-mail solicitation and personal requests from RAs. Using additional methods could help to increase participation rates, share assessment information, and communicate helpful information to freshmen as they arrive on campus.
- Coordinate efforts between the Department of Residence Marketing department, Public Relations, and Residence Life. These efforts could help increase participation in assessments and convey applicable results to the UNI community.
- A more formalized assessment review process should be examined to ensure improvements based on formalized assessment data are being completely reviewed for future changes. The creation of an assessment review committee, comprised of RLCs, RAs, Residence Life staff, and perhaps other non-Residence Life staff that may be able to help with information analysis would be useful. Applicable assessment findings should also be shared with the campus community or other departments for their feedback and knowledge.
- House surveys should be coordinated centrally as a means to compare results between different halls and increase participation rates. Providing incentives to complete this survey should also increase participation, which has proven successful with other surveys within the Department of Residence.
- Evaluate the timing of surveys and the populations affected. Also, examine how Department of Residence surveys coincide with University surveying efforts, if possible. This examination would help ensure students are not over-surveyed and information is not duplicated among other University assessments.
Liberal Arts Core Category I
- That the current LAC process of assessment be refined by: clarifying the student outcomes and objectives for each category; devise annual assessments linked to these outcomes and objectives; use the results in collaboration with faculty delivering the courses to make improvements.
- Develop an assessment process delivered to graduating seniors that measures/reveals the effectiveness of the Category I courses in contributing to their education.
- The formation of a faculty coordination structures for each of the courses in LAC Category 1. These coordinating committees, while respecting the freedom of each faculty member to shape their own sections, will foster sharing and mutual support, and provide the forum for discussion and implementation of assessment driven improvements. The Humanities Coordinating Committee may be a possible model.
- Explore various ways to communicate the roles and purposes of the LAC, specifically Category I to first-year students.
- Designated Coordination. For each assessment administered, a designated coordinator or committee from the Undergraduate Advising Council should be designated to monitor, evaluate, and utilize these assessments. The administration of an assessment for which no designated purpose or follow-up transpires is a waste of resources. A written plan of administration and for potential utilization of results should be a prerequisite for inclusion of material in academic assessment instruments.
- Periodic Reviews. The coordinator or committee referenced above should establish a time frame for periodic review of results, formulation of recommended changes (if any), and a formalized report. Regular review dates will likely facilitate the utilization of assessment results.
- Administrative Support. The coordinator or committee should receive adequate administrative support (e.g., Provost’s Office). Potential recommendations stemming from these assessment may be unpopular, require administrative changes, and/or different allocation of resources. Although the university administration should not be bound to any recommendations that arise, these recommendations are unlikely to have any impact without administrative support.
- Dissemination of Results and Recommendations. Following the evaluation of results and subsequent recommendations for improvement, these should be made public and accessible to the university faculty, staff, administrators, and students. The purpose of such dissemination is to provide updates to interested constituencies and allow an opportunity for formal and informal feedback. Access to this information will allow members of programs/departments to gauge their relative effectiveness and be identified for distinction. Furthermore, members of departments/programs could consult with members of effective academic programs for improvement.
Personalized and Engaged Learning
- We recommend that the university create a common definition of what it means to offer a personalized and engaged learning experience at UNI. This definition will aid in the systematic assessment efforts to enhance engagement across campus.
- As the Strategic Planning process occurs, an action plan for assessing the progress toward meeting the goals included in the plan should be articulated. This will ensure that the outcome measures are properly aligned with the goals and provide the university with accurate and relevant data.
- A reevaluation of the surveys administered, and more specifically the questions asked pertaining to personalized/ engaging experiences, should occur.
- As the Foundations of Excellence® report comes to fruition, an effective plan must be developed to assess the various aspects of the First-Year experience as outlined by the Foundations of Excellence® initiative. It is important to define and implement ongoing assessment, not only for personalized and engaging experiences, but for all of the Foundational dimensions.
- We need to articulate the goals of engaging activities/co-curricular activities that occur outside of the classroom and assessment developed to measures those goals.
- We recommend that LAC committee examine the trend that seems to be occurring of offering less engaging (more survey based) LAC courses.
- We recommend that assessment being done by the various programs in the Academic Learning Center be made more accessible.