University of Northern Iowa Higher Learning Commission Accreditation Review

CHAPTER 14: ALL STUDENTS DIMENSION


Key Performance Indicators
Current Situation
Opportunities and Challenges
Recommended Actions

Foundations Institutions serve all first-year students according to their varied needs.  The process of anticipating, diagnosing, and addressing needs is ongoing and is subject to assessment and adjustment throughout the first year.  Institutions provide services with respect for the students’ abilities, backgrounds, interests, and experiences.  Institutions also ensure a campus environment that is inclusive and safe for all students.

 

Key Performance Indicators for the All Students Dimension include:

  • Identified Needs: the campus has identified first-year subpopulations that have unique academic, social, and safety needs (such as those students who are more prone to high rates of failure or low rates of retention, high performing populations, racial and ethnic groups, commuters, adults, and learning-disabled students).
  • Addressed Needs: the identified needs of first-year subpopulations are addressed.
  • Student Experiences: all first-year students experience individualized attention from faculty/staff, academic support outside the classroom, opportunities for campus involvement, and an inclusive campus environment.
  • Physical and Psychological Safety: the institution assures a campus environment in which first-year students are physically and psychologically safe.

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Current Situation

 

Identified & Addressed Needs

Identification of academic and social/personal needs of first-year students is taking place across campus.  However, the degree to which we systematically identify and apply information is in question.  Throughout the information-gathering process, UNI faculty and staff on the All-Students Dimension committee repeatedly indicated that the primary mechanism for identifying needs of first-year students is through the student affairs and higher education literature.  Additionally, many staff members the committee talked to report using qualitative or observational methods to identify needs based on general student behavior.

 

While much of what we do appears intuitive, the committee investigated concrete ways in which academic and social/personal needs are being identified and addressed for all students as well as subpopulations with unique needs.

 

Academic Needs

The identification of academic needs tends to focus on two themes: academic course placement for first-year students and individualized advising.  The Office of Admissions identifies students who are deficient in math, English, and language admission requirements.  Advising guidelines, determined by individual departments and through professional and institutional data collected by Academic Advising, are used to determine class placement.  ACT scores determine placement in certain Liberal Arts Core classes such as math and English; these placement scores are either determined by the department or dictated by course availability.  Students participate in the placement process by sharing information regarding previous credit and preparation during individual advising sessions, and by taking CLEP or placement exams.  Through individual academic advising meetings during orientation, registration, and throughout the first year, advisors identify a variety of academic needs that may factor into a student’s academic choices.

 

As seen in Table 14.1, approximately 75% of FoE student survey respondents answered the question, “At this institution, to what degree do you feel your academic needs are met?” (Q38) with a mark of high or very high.  The academic needs of students are met through a variety of programs.  Some academic departments and colleges, such as Biology, Business, Mathematics, and Physics, provide tutoring for major courses in which first-year students enroll.  The College of Business Administration requires a first-year seminar for business majors to orient and connect students to the college and university.  The Office of New Student Programs coordinates the orientation process for first-year and first-year transfer students.  Orientation provides sessions that address academic transition issues, academic expectations, pre-advising to explain academic requirements and registration procedures, and individual meetings with academic advisors.  The First-Year Student Survey, administered after orientation, found that 87.1% of surveyed students said they either somewhat or very much “learned about academic expectations at orientation.”[1]

 

In addition to orientation programs, the Academic Learning Center coordinates services to empower students to achieve academic success through tutoring assistance, study skills and speed reading courses, testing services, and writing assistance.  Additional support is provided through a two-credit course (required only of Jump Start students), Strategies for Academic Success. The Registrar’s Office coordinates efforts to notify students of academic performance and concerns including D/F mid-semester warning reports.

 

Further support is provided to students through a variety of advising activities.  During fall 2009, the Office of Academic Advising coordinated an “Intake Model” for 729 of the 1,946 first-year students.[2]  The office provides an Educational Success Assessment to help students evaluate the factors leading to their academic success at UNI.  Advisors offer individual advising meetings as well as a variety of large group events such as the Major Fair, Majors in Minutes, Career Cruising Workshops, Major Meetings, and the Peer Advisor in Residence (PAIR) programs which are available to all first-year students.  The Colleges of Business Administration and Education maintain their own advising centers while some departments provide individual professional staff to advise their majors.  Other colleges and departments assign advising to faculty members.  Due to the first-year registration hold, all first-year students must have contact with an academic advisor. However, advising methods and approaches differ across campus, and there are no common first-year advising outcomes used by all advisors.

 

Table 14.1 Student Survey – All Students

Question

 #

Question Text

Response

 

1 or 2

3

4 or 5

Mean

35

To what degree do you feel physically safe on campus?

2.3%

11.9%

85.8%

4.25

36

To what degree do you feel respected by others? 

3.5%

19.5%

77%

4.02

37

To what degree do you feel you can express your beliefs without concern about how others will react? 

6.8%

25.9%

67.3%

3.82

38

To what degree do you feel your academic needs are met? 

4.7%

20.2%

75.1%

3.98

39

To what degree do you feel your social needs are met? 

10.3%

24.1%

65.6%

3.79

40

To what degree do you feel you belong? 

11.5%

22.7%

65.8%

3.80

1=Not at all; 2=Slight; 3=Moderate; 4=High; 5=Very High

55

For the course you identified above, to what degree does the instructor treat all students fairly regardless of gender/race/ethnicity? 

3%

7.2%

89.7%

4.53

1=Not at all; 2=Seldom; 3=Sometimes; 4=Often; 5=Always

 

The committee also identified the following student populations as having unique needs:

  • Athletes: NCAA regulations result in increased monitoring of the academic progress of student-athletes.  The Office of Admissions alerts Athletic Academic Advising of student-athletes with deficiencies in admission qualifications.  These students are provided an outline of academic support services, and academic progress is closely monitored.  FoE Faculty/Staff Survey results show a mean score of 4.09 for the question, “During the first year, to what degree does this institution address the unique needs of student athletes?” (Q40; see Table 14.2).  Other methods in place for specifically addressing the academic needs of first-year athletes include (a) the CHAMPS/Life Skills course required of all first-year athletes, “designed to assist first-year, student-athletes in exploring and developing skills for success in the classroom and in life,”[3] and (b) Athletic Academic Advising, which provides a variety of academic services, resources, and support, ranging from the Student-Athlete Mentoring Program to tutoring.
  • Students with a Disability (Physical and Learning):  The FoE faculty/staff survey results to the question, “During the first year, to what degree does this institution address the unique needs of students with physical disabilities?” (Q39) (Table 14.2) indicate that 57.1% of faculty/staff rated UNI high or very high, while 51.3% of faculty/staff rated UNI high or very high on the question, “During the first year, to what degree does this institution address the unique needs of  students with learning disabilities?” (Q38)  Students with disabilities must self-identify by providing documentation to Student Disability Services (SDS).  After documentation is provided, the student attends an intake/orientation-of-services appointment to officially register with SDS and may make accommodation requests at any time throughout the semester.  In addition, concerned faculty or staff can refer any student to SDS.  Students registered with SDS are eligible for classroom and exam accommodations as well as Weekly Mentoring Sessions to address academic concerns.
  • Racial and Ethnic Minority Students: All minority students are invited to participate in Jump Start.  In 2008, 153 minority students enrolled at UNI; 77 participated in Jump Start (60 first-year and 17 transfer students).[4]  Multicultural Scholarship recipients (Bridge Scholars) and students identified by Admissions as having academic deficiencies are required to participate.  All Jump Start participants are required to take Strategies for Academic Success regardless of ability level or academic background or specific needs.  First-year students who register for Jump Start are pre-registered for fall classes by advisors in the Academic Learning Center.  Students are assigned an advisor from Student Support Services or the Academic Learning Center in addition to their major advisor.  Courses are selected based on academic record and prospective major.  Upon arrival, Jump Start participants take the COMPASS exam to confirm that they have been registered in appropriate courses.
  • First Generation and/or Low Income Students: While a number of programs and services exist that support the needs of this subpopulation, the committee found little evidence of a broad, institutional effort to identify students within this subgroup.  One program that addresses this subpopulation is Student Support Services, a TRIO program,[5] which has the capacity to serve up to 200 students who meet federal guidelines (two-thirds of participants must be both low income and first generation, while one-third can be either; students with documented learning or physical disabilities are also eligible).  Student Support Services provides academic long-term planning, career advising, and tutoring resources. TRIO-eligible students may also participate in Jump Start.
  • honor studentsHigh-Ability Students: FoE faculty/staff and student survey data show there is confidence in the degree to which we address the academic needs of honors students.  Faculty/staff results (Table 14.2) show a mean score of 3.79 for the question, “During the first year, to what degree does this institution address the unique needs of honors students?” (Q36)  Students enrolled in Honors coursework show a mean score of 4.18 when asked, “To what degree do you feel your academic needs are met?” (Q38; Table 14.1)  The University Honors Program identifies high-ability students eligible for program participation based on ACT 27+/top 10% class rank or Regent Admission Index (RAI) of 330+.  These criteria are used to identify students likely to have a need for increased challenge or engagement provided through honors coursework.  In fall 2008, 125 students entered the Honors Program.  High-ability students not involved in the Honors Program are advised into appropriate courses based on ACT scores.
  • International Students: Admission requirements specify language proficiency levels.  Those who are deficient in language proficiency are required to take placement tests at International Student Orientation.  Those with low scores are required to take preparatory courses from the Culture and Intensive English Program (CIEP).[6]  The Office of International Services coordinates a week-long orientation session to address the unique needs of international students. 
  • Transfer Students: The Office of Admissions completes transfer credit evaluation and provides students with a degree audit.[7]  Transfer Plan-It[8] allows students to see how their credits will transfer in order to identify course needs.  Students are also provided with a Transfer Student Handbook with information on transitions, academics, and resources for success.
  • Underprepared Students: The FoE faculty/staff survey indicates concern with how the University is addressing the unique needs of this subpopulation (see Table 14.2).  Approximately 43% of faculty/staff responded high or very high, 37% responded moderate, and 20% responded not at all or slight to the question, “During the first year, to what degree does this institution address the unique needs of students with academic deficiencies?” and the mean score of 3.30 was below the target mean of 3.50 (Q37).  Some underprepared students are served by Student Support Services, which assists a small group of those who meet federal guidelines, and the Academic Learning Center programs are available to all students who seek help.  Despite these services, with no clear institutional criteria for “underprepared,” there is not a way to provide proactive intervention to those who need it.  D/F mid-semester warnings are a mechanism to identify and address underprepared or underperforming students; however, faculty submission of D/F warnings is not required.  The Office of Admissions flags students deficient in math or English based on a combination of low ACT scores and fewer than required core courses.  Students are then required to take developmental math or English; however, sufficient sections of these courses are rarely offered.  In 2008, 27 students were deemed deficient in math, but no developmental math course was offered.[9]  The Office of Academic Advising, using recommendations from ACT’s “Measuring College Readiness,” identified 197 new first-year students in fall 2008 who would benefit from a developmental English course.[10]  With only one section of the course offered during the school year, most of the students had to be placed in a higher-level course than what research indicated would be best for their success.  Other than admission deficiencies, the All-Students Dimension committee found no standard institutional definition or criteria used to identify underprepared students.

Table 14.2 Faculty/Staff Survey – All Students

Question

#

Question Text

Response

 

1 or 2

3

4 or 5

Mean

36

During the first year, to what degree does this institution address the unique needs of honors students? 

6.8%

25.8%

67.4%

3.79

37

During the first year, to what degree does this institution address the unique needs of students with academic deficiencies? 

20.2%

36.9%

42.9%

3.30

38

During the first year, to what degree does this institution address the unique needs of students with learning disabilities? 

15.1%

33.6%

51.3%

3.49

39

During the first year, to what degree does this institution address the unique needs of students with physical disabilities? 

11.4%

31.5%

57.1%

3.59

40

During the first year, to what degree does this institution address the unique needs of student athletes? 

3.9%

17.2%

78.8%

4.09

41

During the first year, to what degree does this institution address the unique needs of racial/ethnic minority students? 

18.7%

29.8%

51.5%

3.46

1=Not at all; 2=Slight; 3=Moderate; 4=High; 5=Very High

 

Social/Personal Needs

welcome week

As with any institution, UNI addresses the social and personal needs of all students through programming in functional service areas.  Orientation programs are designed to help students with social transitions.  The first-year student survey administered after orientation found that 75.1% of surveyed students said they either somewhat or very much “connected with other new students at orientation.”[11]  Welcome Week activities are provided to help new students acclimate to the campus and their new community.  Planned changes to Welcome Week 2009 include the implementation of UNI 101: Intro to College.[12]  The program will help students with the transition to the college environment by providing educational sessions on academics, student health (mental and physical), and diversity in the University community.

 

Extensive social and personal support needs are met through programming offered by the Department of Residence.  The Residence Life Report summarizes the DOR’s commitment to a relational model of addressing academic and social needs that constantly adjusts to changing student dynamics.[13]  The UNI Residence Education document describes the extensive system for addressing student needs through residence hall educational programming.  Additional residence life programming is provided through the Immersion Project,[14] which promotes cross-cultural awareness, and Springboard housing, for select first-year students, which provides intentional programming focused on transition issues. 

 

Other offices, such as the Student Health Center, Student Involvement and Activities Center, Office of Financial Aid, Wellness Recreation Center, and the Center for Multicultural Education, play an integral role in providing services to meet student needs.

 

The social/personal needs of some specific populations are addressed through individual departments and other specialized efforts:   

  • Athletes: Informal methods are in place for identifying the differing needs of first-year athletesCoaching staff get to know students on an individual basis; individual appointments with Athletic Academic Advising provide the opportunity for identifying social/personal needs.  The CHAMPS/Life Skills class required of first-year athletes covers topics related to time and stress management, appreciation of diversity, and personal health behaviors.
  • disabilityStudents with a Disability (Physical and Learning): Overall needs are determined during an intake/orientation of services appointment.  In addition, the Coordinating Committee for Disability Accommodations is charged with examining issues related to access and services to those with disabilities.  SDS provides a guide called “The Next Steps”[15] addressing how disabilities influence students’ social and personal needs.  Those registered with SDS are eligible for Weekly Mentoring Sessions which help students with issues such as organization and prioritization.  In addition, the Coordinating Committee for Disability Accommodations addresses accessibility needs related to transportation, parking, and facilities.  The Department of Residence offers housing accommodations to students with physical disabilities.
  •  Racial and Ethnic Minority Students: The social/personal needs of minority students are primarily addressed through the Jump Start orientation program and the Center for Multicultural Education.  In the case of Jump Start participants, the CSI and Strengths Quest are administered to assess needs and interests.  The Jump Start schedule of events includes sessions about resources for academic and personal success as well as time for social interaction.  Participants are eligible for cluster housing, which gives students the opportunity to have a Jump Start roommate or to be in a house with other program participants.  First-year students are pre-registered for fall classes, and are often enrolled with other Jump Start students to create informal learning communities that help them remain connected beyond orientation.
  • First Generation and/or Low Income Students: Thecommittee found little evidence that needs of this subpopulation are being identified with the exception of the Office of Student Support Services which provides personal guidance, financial aid assistance, and activities for personal development for selected first generation and low income students.  Those who are Jump Start participants also receive support from that program.
  • High-Ability Students: FoE student survey data indicate honors students have a higher feeling of belonging generally than other students (mean of 4.00 compared to 3.80 for all students) but indicate no difference in the feeling that social needs are met (mean of 3.79 compared to 3.79 for all students).  A variety of honorary societies exist to provide opportunities for interaction among high-ability students.  Beyond these organizations, the University Honors Program addresses the needs of first-year honors students with the Honors Cluster (a specialized housing option for members of the Honors Program) and the Honors Peer Program (which groups first-year honors students with other new students and an upper-class peer leader to provide engagement opportunities during the first six weeks of the semester).  The Honors Program also administers first-year and peer program surveys to assess student experience as related to preferred social outcomes.
  • International Students: UNI staff use orientation and exit surveys as well as needs identified by the National Association of Foreign Student Advisers (NAFSA) to guide the advising and programming for new international students.  Specific services to meet the social/personal needs of international students include: the International Friendship Program, which matches students with volunteer community families to help students make off-campus connections, develop support systems, and learn about American culture; the International Student Association (ISA) and several other culturally-focused groups (i.e., Chinese Student Association, Saudi Student Club), which are student organizations focused on international student issues; and monthly programming events, which cover educational, ethnic, and cultural topics. 

The Center for Multicultural Education (CME) has a student consultative group called the Multicultural Student Advisory Group (MSAB), made of the leaders or representatives of the various student organizations on campus of a cultural nature, primarily, but not limited to, U.S. racial and ethnic minorities. During the school year, the MSAB meets at least once a month.  Furthermore, the CME also oversees the Gaining Panther Success Mentoring Program (GPS) where upper-class student mentors are matched with new students of diverse backgrounds.[16]  Mentees are provided with encouragement, information on academic and community resources, and social opportunities.

Surveys and focus groups conducted by the CME measure satisfaction with the CME’s programs and activities.  What has not been measured is whether these initiatives have a positive impact on a welcoming campus environment for racial and ethnic minority students, and whether they assist non-minority students in improving their cultural competency.

 

There are other subpopulations identified by the committee that may have unique social needs.  However, no evidence was found to indicate that specific methods or mechanisms are used to identify needs.  Therefore, it is understandable that there was also limited evidence that programs are effectively addressing the unique needs of these populations.

  • First-year Students Living Off-campus: Informal methods are used during New Student Orientation to reach this group such as discussion time while other students are scheduled to visit their residence halls.  FoE student survey results indicate the University should be concerned about this population’s needs.  When asked the degree to which the institution helped them transition to college, on-campus students had a mean response of 3.74.  Meanwhile, off-campus students living with family provided a mean response of 3.39; those living off-campus but not with family had a mean of 3.41.  When asked the degree to which the institution provided the right amount of attention and support overall, on-campus students provided a mean response of 3.64.  Again, off-campus students had lower means: those living with family had a mean of 3.36 and those not living with family had a mean of 3.43.
  • First-year Transfer Students (29 credits or lower): First-year transfer students attend a one-day orientation that focuses on registration issues, leaving less time to address social/personal needs.  There are no formal welcome week activities for new students who arrive for the spring semester.
  •  Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Queer Students (GLBTQ): The Department of Residence’s Safe Zone Ally Programprovides greater awareness about how to be an effective ally to GLBTQ students, faculty, staff, administrators, and visitors.[17]  While its purpose it to provide a more connected network among allies at UNI, it does not address the specific needs of the GLBTQ students.  Other than the UNI Proud student organization, this is the only institutional program the committee could identify that addresses GLBTQ issues.  
  • Non-traditional Students: The Office ofAcademic Advising informally addresses academic and social/personal needs of non-traditional first-year students in advising sessions.  The Director of Academic Advising meets with non-traditional students at orientation, though they are not necessarily assigned to the director as advisees.  Non-traditional first-year students are told they can contact the Director of Academic Advising with any questions and concerns, and the director sends e-mails throughout the semester letting them know about upcoming events, advising issues, and scholarship information.

Student Experiences

UNI offers a variety of options for individualized attention including advising, tutoring, and counseling services.  Information concerning these services is accessed through the UNI Webpage[18] and advertised in a number of other publications.

 

All students have an academic advisor.  First-year students (with 0-29 credits) have a hold placed on their registration and are not permitted to register for classes until they meet with their advisor.  This is one way of assuring that first-year students receive individualized attention. However, there is some concern about advisor-advisee ratios across campus.  According to the 2008 Academic Advisor survey, the advisor-to-student ratio varies across colleges with 10% of advisors indicating they are responsible for more than 100 students.[19]  Also, 11% of respondents indicated they have too many advisees to adequately meet their needs.  The 2007 NACADA Consultation Report at UNI stated, “A lack of academic advising resources exists within several academic colleges and schools, resulting in an advisor-advisee ratio of 1:1500 or more [College of Education].”[20]  Currently, the average number of advisees varies greatly from a low of 3.7 to a high of 714.5.  There are some areas in which advisors have individual loads of 400 or more students.  The high advisor-to-student ratio may have a significant impact on the level of individual attention provided to students.

 

Students have the opportunity for individualized attention through small class sizes.  The 2004-2009 Strategic Plan: Progress Report indicates UNI maintained an average class size of less than 35 for lower-level classes for the academic years 2002 through 2007.[21]  The UNI Policies and Procedures manual indicates, “Faculty members have a responsibility to make themselves reasonably available to students and should make known the times and places of their availability.”[22] 

 

As highlighted in Table 14.3 below, FoE student survey results for the Learning Dimension shed further light on the quality of individual attention from faculty.  About 75% of students provided a rating of sometimes, often, or always to the question, “For the course you identified above, to what degree does the instructor provide individual attention?” (Q54)  Over 66% of first-year students indicated they had “visited with a UNI faculty member to discuss course performance, current academic situation, or life goals” at least one time during the semester the FoE survey was administered (Q4 of the institution-specific questions).  On that same question, approximately 15% indicated they had met with faculty four or more times during the fall 2008 semester.  According to 2009 NSSE data, 99% of first-year students at UNI indicated they had communicated with a professor via e-mail, with 80% indicating they communicated with professors often or very often; 93% indicated they had discussed a grade with a professor, with 44% indicating they had done so often or very often.[23]

 

While most first-year students communicate individually with the faculty who teach their classes, the FoE student survey indicated that many felt the university did not connect them to faculty members in other contexts.  Only 22.2% of first-year students rated the university very high or high on the question, “As a first-year student, to what degree has this institution connected you with faculty members outside of class?”, while 33.7% of students rated the degree as moderate, and 44.1% said the degree was slight or not at all (Q7; Table 14.3).  This highlights a need for improvement in connecting first-year students with faculty outside of the classroom.

 

Table 14.3 Student Survey – Selected Dimension Response

Question

 #

Question Text

Response

 

1 or 2

3

4 or 5

Mean

7

As a first-year student, to what degree has this institution connected you with faculty members outside of class?

44.1%

33.7%

22.2%

2.73

8

As a first-year student, to what degree has this institution connected you with academic support outside the classroom (e.g., tutoring, advising)?

17.7%

31.4%

50.9%

3.45

11

To what degree has this institution provided opportunities for involvement in out-of-class activities that interested you?

11.4%

29.7%

58.9%

3.69

1=Not at all; 2=Slight; 3=Moderate; 4=High; 5=Very High

54

To what degree does the instructor provide individual attention? 

25.1%

30.3%

44.7%

3.27

1=Not at all; 2=Seldom; 3=Sometimes; 4=Often; 5=Always

 

The University provides several avenues for first-year students to experience academic support outside the classroom.  The Office of Academic Advising “works with individuals who are deciding, changing majors, first-year students, and experiencing academic difficulties,”[24] and provides detailed information to them  on their Web site and also through announcements and mailings.  The Peer Academic Advisors in Residence (PAIR) program provides an effective means of support.[25]  The Residential Academic Success program in the Department of Residence analyzed a 2008 survey in which students were asked about their awareness of and use of the PAIR program.  Approximately 48% of students surveyed indicated they had met with their PAIR at least one time during the academic year.[26]  

 

The Rod Library offers several academic support services including ad hoc research assistance via walk-in, instant messaging, e-mail, and telephone.  Students may also make research appointments with individual librarians.  The library is targeting first-year students with short informational videos on YouTube that provide basic information about library services and resources.[27]  Several other units on campus also provide academic support outside the classroom, but it is difficult to tell to what degree there is an assurance of experience for all first-year students.  The Office of Academic Advising is one of the few offices that state that first-year students are one of their main clientele.

 

The FoE student survey question asking first-year students, “As a first-year student, to what degree has this institution connected you with academic support outside the classroom (e.g., tutoring, advising)?” shows that 50.9% responded very high or high while 17.7% answered slight or not at all (Q8; Table 14.3).  The mean response on this question was 3.45 -- slightly below the goal mean – indicating a place where the University could be more proactive in communicating to students about available resources.

 

The University seems to do very well in working to assure that all students experience opportunities for campus involvement.  Approximately 59% of students responded very high or high to the FoE survey question, “To what degree has this institution provided opportunities for involvement in out-of-class activities that interested you?” (Q11; Table 14.3)  In addition, when examining the FoE student survey data further, students ages 18 and 19 years old had the highest mean (3.77) on this question, perhaps because more of them live on campus in residence halls. 

 

Some of the opportunities available include: 250 student organizations listed on the UNI Web site;[28] leadership experiences; intramural sports for both fall and spring semesters; music opportunities for majors and non-majors; various theatrical productions on campus; and the Student Involvement Fair at new student orientation.  Information concerning activities is accessible through the Current Students link on the UNI Webpage.[29]  Information is also included in PAIR newsletters, Path 2 Purple, UNI Online, MyUNIverse, the Northern Iowan, and Panther Planner.  The numerous communication methods regarding campus involvement suggest all students should be able to easily find information.

 

UNI provides programs that promote inclusiveness by offering opportunities for all first-year students to become connected to the campus environment.  Students are exposed to a variety of activities through student orientation and residence hall programming as well as social outlets such as the Maucker Union.

 

The effectiveness of these efforts have been measured quite frequently through various surveys and other assessments.  Student Orientation Evaluation results indicate that orientation, including the individual programs for freshmen, transfers, international students, and multicultural students, is generally well received by the participants.[30]  Residence Education programs, conducted throughout the residence halls, promote citizenship and an “inclusive campus environment.”  Systematic evaluations include Educational Benchmarking, Inc. (EBI) results in residence education, housing feedback surveys, and smaller surveys that target specific areas such as Spring Residence Education and Leader Reflection.[31]  Survey results find the student union provides a welcoming and inclusive environment.  The Maucker Union EBI survey reports a mean average on questions related to the student union “providing a safe and welcoming environment” ranging from 6.01-6.34 on a scale of 1-7 (7-strongly agree/1-strongly disagree).  The report indicates UNI scored between 16-25% higher than its peer institutions on questions related to “environment” within the student union.[32]

 

In general, orientation programs provide opportunities for inclusiveness.  Programs such as Jump Start and International Orientation focus on creating a “connection” within their specific programs, but provide limited opportunities for students to interact with the rest of the student population.  The New Student Programs Office is working with an Orientation Coordinating Committee (representatives from Jump Start, International Services, Springboard, and Sorority Recruitment) to intentionally plan times during Welcome Week to bring students together for large-scale activities.  It is a goal of the group to continue to increase collaboration in future years to promote an “inclusive” environment for all groups.

 

Inclusiveness for non-traditional students is harder to define due to the unique personal situations of this population.  The Non-Traditional Student Association, started in 1996, has been inactive for about the last three years due to low attendance at meetings and organized events.

 

Evidence from the orientation process, residence life programs, and the environment created within the student union, suggests that the University is making efforts to create an inclusive campus environment.  The FoE student survey question, “At this institution, to what degree do you feel you belong?” (Q40) had an overall rating of high or very high for 65.8% of students.  However, in analyzing the results of this question, the subpopulations identified in Table 14.4 came in below the target mean of 3.5 in their degree of feeling of belonging.  Some of the groups were present in small numbers, but may still indicate a need for improvement in helping members of some of these groups feel more of a sense of belonging.

 

Table 14.4 Student Survey – “Feeling of Belonging” Subpopulations below the Target Mean

Population

  n     N

Mean

U.S. racial/ethnic group: Asian/Pacific Islander

19

3.26

Multi-racial

13

3.15

Ages 28-30

7

3.29

Age 36-older

14

2.79

Students who self identify high school grades as “all or mostly C”

22

3.18

Students uncertain of plans to enroll at UNI in the future

81

2.99

Students who plan to transfer

46

2.59

Students living in campus apartments

20

3.30

Students who self identify as “not involved”

104

3.25

Transferred from a 4 year institution

70

3.47

 

Physical and Psychological Safety

When students were questioned, “At this institution, to what degree do you feel physically safe on campus?” (Q35) in the FoE student survey, the mean was 4.25 out of 5 (85.8% choosing high or very high).  In addition, when reviewing the archived campus crime reports for 2001-2007, crime rates have remained relatively low.[33]  With regard to the protection of persons and property on campus, three key departments and/or initiatives were identified including Public Safety, the Physical Plant, and the Campus Night Walk.

 

emergency phones

The police division of Public Safety works to protect life and property, prevent crime, enforce laws and regulations, and seeks proactive solutions to crime and safety threats.  Officers partner with community groups and other law enforcement agencies to reduce traffic dangers, respond to sexual assaults, and prevent property crime.  The staff of the police division is made up of student patrol, police staff, bike patrol, vehicle patrol, and foot patrol.  Public Safety equips the campus with appropriate emergency resources including ten blue emergency phones located across campus, an on-campus emergency number (273-4000), and a Web site with detailed information on services and procedures including the Emergency Preparedness Reference Guide which serves as the University’s overall emergency plan.[34]  The Public Safety Web site also posts severe weather procedures and during house meetings, resident assistants instruct their residents about proper procedures during emergencies. 

 

In cases of threats and emergencies to physical safety, the campus community is alerted via the UNI Alert System and the Outdoor Warning System.  University administrators can notify the University community within minutes by cell phone, landline phone, e-mail, and text-message.  The Outdoor Warning System consists of sets of speakers located in eight locations on campus to ensure ample coverage in the event of severe weather and other non-weather related events.  The system is also capable of providing taped and real-time voice messages.

 

The Physical Plant is highly involved in the protection of persons by responding to and fixing non-functional street lights, repair of inaccessible curbs, and holes in the sidewalk.  Additionally, the Physical Plant works to remove tree limbs and shrubbery that may pose a threat to such things as adequate lighting on campus.  The Physical Plant works closely with Public Safety on a number of these matters to ensure a safe campus environment.  

 

The Campus Night Walk involved a collaboration of departments called together by President Allen in October 2007.  Participants walked the perimeter and interior of campus making note of safety concerns.  These included non-functional lights, low volume on emergency phones, need for additional lighting, and tree limbs blocking light.  The walk was followed by a Campus Drive Observation in November 2007.  The focus was more on the outlying parking lots and roads surrounding and through campus.  The need for additional lighting and sidewalks as well as pedestrian/vehicle conflicts and congested intersections were identified.  This activity was repeated in fall 2009.

 

One other subgroup to mention with regard to physical safety are those individuals with physical disabilities.  These individuals may be in classrooms above ground floor when an emergency occurs and the elevators may be unusable.  Currently, via the Facilities Planning Web site, there are campus building evacuation routes posted.[35]  While students, faculty, and staff are expected to familiarize themselves with buildings they routinely occupy (Fire Safety Policy 7.04[36]), there is not a well communicated plan to insure this is the case.  This policy also directs individuals with disabilities who are not on the ground level during a fire evacuation to proceed to the nearest stairwell where University or city public safety will respond.  There is a need to specifically determine a safe haven area on each floor above ground level so that both building occupants and emergency personnel have clear response directions.  This area should include proper signage, be communicated clearly to faculty, staff, and students, noted on building schematics, and posted on appropriate Web sites.  The Coordinating Committee for Disability Accommodations (CCDA) is currently working with the University Safety Office to make these important changes.

 

Additionally, the UNI CCDA has studied the model followed by Iowa State University (ISU) in which mobility impaired students will meet with Disability Services staff to work at getting classrooms on ground level.  The UNI CCDA has been in discussion about working with the Registrar to change the current policy in which classrooms are released with the course book prior to registration and rather follow the ISU policy of assigning classrooms after registration.

 

Educating all students about their responsibilities to practice safe behaviors is done through a number of avenues.  Public Safety provides crime prevention and safety-related presentations to the campus community.  Bicycle registration, property and personal protection, violence prevention, alcohol prevention, and state laws regulating alcohol use and consumption are also provided.  A daily crime log, as well as Web site information, is available.[37]

 

In addition to efforts to ensure the physical safety of students, efforts are made to address the psychological safety of students.  Many programs and services that address psychological safety needs are offered through the Student Affairs Division such as the UNI Counseling Center, the UNI SAVE (Students Against a Violent Environment) program, and the Dean of Students’ office.  The stated campus commitment to a safe environment is reflected in the FoE student survey results where students rated psychological safety favorably, as seen in Table 14.1.  Breakdown of the results by ethnicity and gender continued to result in favorable ratings on the above questions.  The only population falling below the target mean of 3.50 was Asian/Pacific Islander with a 3.47 on Q37, “To what degree do you feel you can express your beliefs without concern about how others will react?” and 3.26 on Q40, “To what degree do you feel you belong?”  A comprehensive campus climate survey was conducted in spring 2009.  However, the results were not available at the time the committee completed its report.[38] 

 

The Dean of Students helps in the education of students by administering the Student Conduct Code and Sexual Misconduct Policy.  Both documents assist in safeguarding the rights of all students by clearly stating the policies and procedures.[39]  The Dean of Students also provides assistance to students and their families in times of crisis and concern.

save group

 

The UNI SAVE program is a peer theatre group presenting interactive workshops to raise awareness about gender-based violence and sexual intimacy.  The goal is to challenge audiences to think seriously about the choices they make in their intimate relationships.  Workshops are custom-made for various audiences in order to address issues that are directly connected to their lives.[40]

 

University Health Services (UHS) plays a large role in educating students about safe behaviors.  Wellness and Recreation Services (WRS) is one department within UHS that provides a number of health and wellness programs available to all students upon request.[41]  Programs offered include No Turning Back (HIV/AIDS), Sexual Jeopardy, Contraceptives, Condom Sense, Red Light-Green Light (Sexual Health), alcohol education programming, Building Healthy Habits programming, eating disorders information, Facebook Fallout, etc.

 

The Office of Violence Intervention Services (VIS), also under UHS, provides information and programming on sexual violence, relationship violence, stalking, harassment, the student sexual misconduct policy, victim assistance, and self-help resources.[42]  Programs of VIS are available for all students and upon request by faculty for their respective classes.  Additional alcohol and drug programming and educational information are available through Substance Abuse Services, a third component of UHS.[43]  It should be mentioned that all of the components of UHS use a great deal of “passive programming” such as bulletin boards, pamphlets, and messaging in the fitness areas.  It is difficult to measure the effectiveness of such efforts, but it is an educational piece worth mentioning.

 

All students receive a New Student Handbook: The Path 2 Purple.[44]  The handbook contains resources valuable to the physical and psychological safety of students.  Such resources listed include the Student Health Clinic, Counseling Center, and Dean of Students, as well as the Wellness Recreation Services.  Also during orientation, there is a coordinated effort to bring in representatives from different departments to speak to safety issues with parents and students alike. 

 

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Opportunities and Challenges

 

  • It is clear the institution provides many services to address student needs, though there is little evidence to show that needs assessment is taking place to guide these efforts.  The primary mechanisms for identifying needs, including professional experience and knowledge of student development theory and higher education literature, is valuable but must be complemented by systematic and research-based needs assessment.
  • There are sub-populations that are not clearly defined or recognized, making it difficult to identify and address their unique needs.  For example, the terms “high ability” and “underprepared” have no shared institutional definitions.  In the case of groups such as off-campus and GLBTQ students, definitions exist, but little is done to acknowledge these sub-populations and recognize their needs.  The discrepancy in how we identify needs of sub-populations results in inconsistent approaches to addressing their needs.
  • Some sub-populations (e.g., Jump Start students; athletes; Honors students) are provided with services and attention the committee feels would be beneficial to all students.
  • Given the focus on increasing diversity on our campus and the development of the Diversity Council, there is an opportunity to bring together the fragmented efforts of multiple offices across campus.
  • The committee identified GLBTQ as an area of concern due to our lack of institutional support for the population, and commitment to ensuring a campus environment free from threat, discrimination, or harassment.  UNI Proud, a student organization, is the only resource for GLBTQ students on our campus leading to an unrealistic expectation that a student group should be solely responsible for addressing needs.
  • Jump Start participants are the only UNI students to be preregistered for fall courses by an academic advisor before their arrival on campus.  If the University values the orientation experience and recognizes the importance of teaching the registration process, this small population would also benefit from Summer Orientation.
  • Jump Start participants are required to take Strategies for Academic Success regardless of past academic achievement, which may incorrectly suggest all Jump Start students are academically underprepared.
  • The institution rarely provides sufficient sections of developmental courses, and the requirements or guidelines are not followed.
  • Advising loads vary across colleges with the 2007 NACADA Consultation Report indicating “a lack of academic advising resources” resulting in some advising ratios of 1:1500 or more (College of Education).
  • While the current situation indicates there are many instances where UNI is adequately providing services and programs, there is some concern about students’ knowledge of and/or ability to access these services.
  • There is a challenge in balancing institutional recognition as a safe campus and the promotion of personal vigilance and increased preparedness for emergency situations in light of recent national events. 

 

Recommended Actions

 

 

1. Develop a Systematic Process to Assess the Needs of our First-Year Students, Especially Underserved Populations, in order to Prevent Making Assumptions about their Needs 

 

a.   Develop a process for identifying first-year student needs for all populations, especially those which may be underserved.

 

b.   Clearly describe these needs, so the meeting of them can be adequately assessed, for all populations.

 

c.   Determine who is responsible for overseeing and coordinating this process.

 

 

 

2. New Student Programs and the Orientation Coordinating Committee should be Charged with the Responsibility for Addressing the following Components of Orientation and Welcome Week

a. More clearly assess the needs of Jump Start participants to determine if current practices align with identified needs. 

b. Enhance efforts to integrate international and racial and ethnic minority students with the general student population.  

c. Require Jump Start students to attend summer orientation making pre-registration by advisors unnecessary.

d. Create Welcome Week activities that provide opportunities for interaction among all students.

e. Reevaluate the unique needs of non-traditional and transfer students as related to their transition experience.

f. Continue efforts to collaborate with Academic Affairs to increase faculty presence and involvement.

 

 

 

3. Standardize Advising Outcomes for all First-Year Students to Ensure Consistent Delivery of Services

a. 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.

b. 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. 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

a. This course should ensure first-year students receive individualized attention and information concerning academic, social, and safety resources.

b. It should ensure the implementation of a more systematic evaluation of student needs.

c. Collaboration between Student Affairs and Academic Affairs in developing and facilitating this course should be emphasized.


[2] http://www.uni.edu/advising/intake/
[3] http://www.uni.edu/accreditation/sites/default/files/CHAMPS%20Life%20Skills%20syllabus_1.pdf
[4] http://www.ir.uni.edu/dbweb/facts.cfm#CDS
[5] http://www.uni.edu/unialc/sss-2.pdf
[6] http://www.uni.edu/ciep/
[7] http://www.uni.edu/pos/degaud/degaud_list.htm
[8] https://access.uni.edu/cgi-bin/transfer/transferPlanIt.cgi
[9] http://www.uni.edu/accreditation/sites/default/files/Interview_with_Christie_Kangas_-_Students_Admitted_with_Deficiencies_3-12-09_0.pdf
[10] http://www.act.org/research/policymakers/pdf/benchmarks.pdf
[11] http://www.uni.edu/accreditation/sites/default/files/UNI%20New%20Student%20Survey%20-%202007.mht
[12] http://www.uni.edu/accreditation/sites/default/files/Welcome%20Week%20Educational%20Sessions%20Proposal%20-%20Intro%20to%20College_0.doc
[13] http://www.uni.edu/accreditation/sites/default/files/Residence%20Life%20Overview_0.pdf
[14] http://www.uni.edu/accreditation/sites/default/files/Overview_of_UNI_Residence_Education_2008-2009_0.pdf
[15] http://www.uni.edu/sds/NextSteps.shtml
[16] http://www.uni.edu/cme/gps-mentor-program
[17] http://www.uni.edu/dor/community/documents/SafeZoneCommunityWeb sitepageSpr09_002.pdf
[18] http://www.uni.edu/resources/current/index.shtml
[19] http://www.uni.edu/accreditation/sites/default/files/Academic%20Advisor%20Survey%20-%20Spring%202008_0.pdf
[20] http://www.uni.edu/accreditation/sites/default/files/NACADA%20Consultants%20Report%20-%20June%202007_0.pdf
[21] http://www.ir.uni.edu/dbweb/pdf/plan/indicators_0708.pdf?CFID=18191&CFTOKEN=52681453
[22] http://www.uni.edu/president/policies/610.shtml
[23] https://www.uni.edu/assessment/data/documents/2009nsseresponses.pdf
[24] http://www.uni.edu/advising/
[25] http://www.uni.edu/advising/pairs/
[26] http://www.uni.edu/accreditation/sites/default/files/Residential_Academic_Success_Program_2008-2009_0.pdf
[27] http://www.library.uni.edu/library-instruction
[28] http://www.uni.edu/maucker/siac/
[29] http://www.uni.edu/resources/current/index.shtml
[30] http://www.uni.edu/accreditation/sites/default/files/Freshman_Orientation_Student_Evaluation_-_Summer_2008_0.pdf ; http://www.uni.edu/accreditation/sites/default/files/JumpStart_-_2008_Program_Evaluation_-_Freshmen_0.pdf ; http://www.uni.edu/accreditation/sites/default/files/JumpStart_-_2008_Program_Evaluation_-_Transfers_0.pdf ; http://www.uni.edu/accreditation/sites/default/files/International_Students_Orientation_Form_2008-2009_0.pdf
[31] http://www.uni.edu/accreditation/sites/default/files/Residence_Education_Expectations_Spring_2009_0.pdf
[32] HLC Resource Room:  “Factor and Question Analysis: Select 6 Comparison for Factor 2: College Union has a Positive Environment,” EBI Notebook.  Educational Benchmarking.  2009 Satisfaction Survey for the Department of Residence. (Confidential document)
[33] http://www.vpaf.uni.edu/pubsaf/crime_stats/archived_clery.shtml
[34] http://www.vpaf.uni.edu/pubsaf/
[35] http://www.vpaf.uni.edu/fs/
[36] http://www.uni.edu/policies/704
[37] http://www.vpaf.uni.edu/pubsaf/crime_alert/index.shtml
[38] http://www.ir.uni.edu/dbWeb/DiversityCouncil/
[39] http://www.uni.edu/studentaffairs/deanofstudents/
[40] http://www.uni.edu/save/order.htm
[41] http://www.uni.edu/wellrec/wellness/information/index.html
[42] http://www.uni.edu/wellrec/wellness/sexualabuse/
[43] http://www.uni.edu/wellrec/wellness/subabuse/
[44] http://www.uni.edu/accreditation/sites/default/files/Path%20to%20Purple%20-%20New%20Student%20Handbook%202008-2009_0.pdf