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University of Northern Iowa Higher Learning Commission Accreditation Review

CHAPTER 2: RESPONSE TO 2001 ACCREDITATION VISIT REPORT


Changes and Updates
Issues Raised in the Previous Accreditation Visit
Summary



Changes and Updates

Students in a classroom

The University of Northern Iowa completed its North

Central Association Self-Study Report in 2000 and hosted the Review Team in February 2001.  In the report of its visit (February 19-21, 2001), the Review Team commended the University for its many strengths and recommended continued accreditation, with the next comprehensive evaluation scheduled for 2010-2011.  The team also required a progress report on the General Education program and assessment to address “what the team found to be an unevenness of implementing the University’s approved Assessment Plan, relative to the General Education program; specifically as it relates to the structure and role of the General Education oversight body, and the assessment of its integrated curriculum through student learning outcomes.”[1] 

 

UNI has made significant changes in the assessment and management of the General Education program since the 2001 team visit.  The changes made from 2001-2004 were detailed in the 2004 progress report, and the University has continued to work on improving the program since then.

 

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Issues Raised in the Previous Accreditation Visit

During the 2001 visit, the Review Team raised five challenges: 1) energizing diversity recruitment to enhance the quality of the overall educational experience; 2) better integrating assessment into the General Education curriculum; 3) improving management and oversight of the General Education program to improve its coherence; 4) ensuring that all UNI facilities are updated and well-maintained; and 5) ensuring that sufficient resources are allocated for equipment acquisition, maintenance, and repair.  In the past decade, the campus has reviewed its performance in each area of concern. A summary is provided here of progress to date.  Because the University was also asked to submit a progress report in 2004 on challenges regarding the assessment and management of the General Education program, that progress report will be discussed in the portion of this chapter that covers challenges 2 and 3.

 

Challenge 1

The University’s efforts toward reaching diversity goals set by the Board of Regents are ambitious and should be commended.  However, the challenge of using State resources to reach such goals may be compromised through competing priorities.  Every effort should be made by the University to energize its recruitment strategy as a means of enhancing the quality of the overall educational experience.

 

diversity in the union

In the past decade, UNI has maintained its commitment to increasing diversity of faculty, staff, and students on campus.  Ongoing efforts to recruit students of color to UNI have resulted in an increase in the diversity of the University population.  While the University has not yet achieved the Board of Regents goal of 8.5%, in fall 2009, minority students constituted 6.9% of the overall student population, an increase from 4.84% in 2000.[2]  The number of faculty overall has fluctuated over time from a low of 784 to a high of 861, but the percentage of minority faculty has remained relatively consistent at a little over 10%.  In addition, the percentage of minority members of the overall campus workforce (9.6%) has also remained consistent in spite of changes in the total workforce during this time, from a low of 1,769 to a high of 1,868 individuals.[3] 

 

Recruitment of diverse students is supported by ongoing programs and services in several offices.  The Office of Admissions dedicates staff to multicultural recruiting and has placed multicultural resources prominently on its Web site,[4] including special programs, student organizations, and resource guides.  In 2008 two new positions in themulticultural recruitment table Office of Admissions were created: Assistant Director for Multicultural Recruitment and Admissions Counselor for Multicultural Recruitment.  Information about UNI is provided in several languages on the Office of Admissions Web site for international students.  In addition, designated individuals in each college assist with student recruiting to specific majors or programs.  Students of color from within the state are actively recruited through an increasing number of programs between UNI and Waterloo, Des Moines, Marshalltown, and Postville schools with substantial racial and ethnic populations.  One of these events, the Multicultural Super Saturday, brings in groups of diverse students from Des Moines, Iowa City, Davenport, Sioux City, and Waterloo, as well as groups from St. Paul, MN, and Rockford, IL.  UNI continues to participate in long-running, out-of-state recruiting opportunities such as national college fairs in Chicago and Minneapolis, as well as the National Hispanic College Fairs in the Chicago area, the Infinite Scholars college fairs in St. Louis and Chicago, and bridge programs with Palo Alto College of San Antonio, TX, and Gary, IN.  Examples of outreach activities within the state include:

  • Sponsorship and participation in the “I’ll Make Me a World in Iowa,” an Iowa Human Rights Commission event in Des Moines celebrating the cultural contributions of African Americans to Iowa.
  • Sponsorship and participation in CelebrAsian, an Iowa Human Rights Commission event of the Iowa Asian Alliance.
  • Sponsorship of the Cedar Valley Conference on Race held in Waterloo, Iowa.
  • Coordination of the campus visit from the local YMCA for their Las Chicas Program.
  • Coordination of campus visits from African American Pride student organization at Valley High School, Des Moines.
  • Hosting groups of students from the Des Moines Gear Up Program.
  • Initiating a Tuition Guarantee Program for minority Iowa transfer students.  This new program uses a combination of federal, state, and institutional grant funds to cover full tuition and fees for two years.  This is in addition to the current Tuition Guarantee Program for first-year students of lower-income Iowa families.

ethnic student promoters A group of UNI students involved in campus visits is the Ethnic Student Promoters (ESP), which often assists visitors or takes part in off-campus activities.  The ESP group promotes not only UNI but higher education in general to middle and high school visitors. 

 

These efforts have resulted in a shift in the source of undergraduate students of color on campus.  In 2004, approximately 65% were from Iowa.  In fall 2009, approximately 77% came from Iowa.  (This was the first semester the new Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System race/ethnicity standards were implemented.)  These efforts support the institution’s goal to increase minority enrollment while educating Iowa’s youth.

 

Multicultural event outside of CME

UNI has also improved services and programs that help to recruit and retain diverse students and also enhance the quality of the overall educational experience for all students.  The University has hosted a center for multicultural groups on campus since 1971, and in March 2004 the Center for Multicultural Education (CME)[5] was dedicated following a major renovation and expansion of Maucker Union.[6]  As stated it its mission, The CME “foster[s] success in American racial and ethnic minority students, contribute[s] to the cultural competence of all students, and promote[s] an appreciation of diversity in the University community.”[7]  Since 2004 the CME has been located on the plaza level of Maucker Union, a prominent setting that showcases the importance of multicultural education to the University community. 

 

A welcoming campus environment for all diverse learners is provided by a collaboration of Academic Affairs and Student Affairs staff.  Through Admissions, the Center for Multicultural Education, the Academic Learning Center, and the McNair Scholars Programs (designed to prepare underrepresented students for doctoral studies through involvement in research and other scholarly activities), UNI makes available a variety of services to help recruit and retain talented students.  Ongoing services include the Jump Start Orientation Program, Gaining Panther Success (G.P.S.) Mentor Program, TRIO programs (including McNair Scholars and Student Support Services), the Academic Learning Center’s Math, Writing, and Reading and Learning Centers, and the courses and programs provided at UNI’s Center for Urban Education (UNI-CUE).[8]   In addition, faculty, staff, and students advise and lead nearly 50 different ethnic and cultural student organizations on campus.[9]

 

Programs and initiatives designed to highlight the ways that increasing diversity in the UNI community can enhance the overall quality of the educational experience were initiated in the past decade.  Beginning in fall 2001, the Student Affairs and Academic Affairs divisions collaborated to train faculty and staff to offer “A Campus of Difference” workshops developed by the Anti-Defamation League.  The goal of the Campus of Difference initiative was to increase awareness and develop collaboration for a campus that respects and values each member of the campus community.  The “Diversity Matters” Web site,[10] which was established by former President Koob in 2005, highlights new diversity-related activities and events, invites campus participation, and provides resources for the greater Cedar Valley and State of Iowa communities.  In 2006, the University initiated a bias response team to coordinate the institution’s response to bias-related incidents that affect the campus community.  This interdisciplinary team provides support to those negatively affected by incidents of bias; provides educational opportunities to the campus community; and assists in the development of an institutional response to bias-related incidents.  Protocols are now in place to assist the campus community in reporting concerns via an online reporting form[11] and through direct contact with bias response team members.

 

To further energize the campus community in its attempt to reach diversity goals, in 2008 President Allen announced formation of the Diversity Council.  The Diversity Council reports directly to the President and is responsible for providing the leadership and coordination necessary to achieve the diversity-related goals of the University.  The position of chair rotates among the vice-presidents.  In August 2009, the Council adopted a mission statement, vision statement, and definition to guide its efforts.  The mission reads, “At the University of Northern Iowa, our mission is to create and maintain an inclusive educational environment which prepares students to thrive in a diverse, global environment.”  The vision “is to create a more welcoming community that celebrates the unique contributions of each person.  To this end, we strive to remove obstacles that impede equal opportunity, to embrace vigorous and open dialogue in the search for understanding across differences, to promote cultural plurality and social justice, and to treat each person with respect and dignity.”  Guiding the work of the Diversity Council is a definition: “Diversity describes the rich differences that people bring to the University of Northern Iowa community.  It can refer broadly to culture, identity and ideology, or more specifically to age, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, ability, gender identity, socioeconomic status, political affiliation, marital status, national origin, or veteran status.  Diversity is a dynamic concept, shaped by history, and changing as our understanding of the world and its people evolves.”[12]

 

To ensure broad participation and support for planned initiatives, the Diversity Council formed a Diversity Advisory Committee to meet monthly and advise the Diversity Council on advancing the diversity agenda of the institution.  The Diversity Advisory Committee is composed of representatives of the University’s major units along with leaders of units that play a key role in achieving diversity-related goals.  In addition to the University-level Diversity Council, each of the academic colleges formed its own diversity council to address the unique needs of the college.  Diversity is now a focus at both the college and University levels.

 

In spring 2009, two major diversity meetings were held on the UNI campus.  In January, the first annual Diversity Town Hall Meeting provided an opportunity for students, faculty, staff, and administrators to highlight new initiatives, programs, and efforts they were making to sustain and expand diversity on campus.  In April 2009, UNI hosted the fourth Impacting Diversity through Educational Alliances (IDEA) Diversity Summit, a collaborative effort among the three Regent universities and other higher education institutions statewide to provide assistance in diversity recruiting and retention in the public and private sectors. 

 

In July 2009, Dr. Gloria Gibson joined the UNI administration as Executive Vice-President and Provost.  She has made campus diversity one of her initiatives and announced at the fall 2009 all-faculty meeting and again at Convocation an effort to recruit to UNI more students of color.  In January 2010, the second annual Diversity Town Hall meeting took place.  On that occasion, the University’s recently developed definition of diversity, its vision and mission statement, and strategic priorities and the key performance indicators that will guide future actions were reviewed.  Updates on diversity-related initiatives in a variety of areas were shared, and the attendees broke into small discussion groups to share their perspectives on the campus climate for faculty, staff, and students.  Beginning in the summer of 2010, diversity training will be offered for faculty and staff.  The first session will be for academic leaders and administrators.

 

The University has conducted a number of surveys related to diversity in the years since 2000.  Faculty and staff were surveyed on the campus climate by the Office of Information Management and Analysis (now known as the Office of Institutional Research) in 2000, 2002, 2003, and 2004.[13]  The Center for Social and Behavioral Research conducted a more detailed survey of campus employees in 2005.  Students were surveyed in 2000-2002 and 2003-2008.  Surveys incorporated questions about interactions with people from diverse cultures and opportunities for multicultural experiences on campus.  Typical responses in the surveys indicate that UNI faculty, staff, and students find a supportive campus environment for diverse learners and employees.  At the request of President Allen, the Diversity Council surveyed both employees and students in 2009.[14]  This study was conducted using a nationally benchmarked survey instrument that will allow comparison with other institutions as well as monitoring over time.  Data has been made available to the University community via the Diversity Matters Web site.[15]  These findings are being analyzed by Institutional Research and will be used by the Diversity Council, the Diversity Advisory Committee, the college Diversity Councils, and other units on campus to improve programs and practice.  In addition, the Diversity Council has developed a set of key performance indicators (KPI) that will be measured routinely and reported annually to the campus community.[16]  The KPIs measure success of multicultural students, faculty, and staff; campus climate; diversity of the student body and the workforce; and preparation of students for success in a diverse world.  By linking the University’s diversity recruitment and retention goals to important educational goals, these KPIs are designed to help the University continue to address the challenge of connecting its diversity goals to overall quality of education.  The KPIs were presented to the campus community at a Diversity Town Hall Meeting in January 2010.  The inaugural winners of the Diversity Matters Award were also announced by the Provost and recognized at the meeting.  This award is given to faculty, staff, and students in appreciation of their leadership in making the University a welcoming and supportive environment for everyone.

 

In November 2009, UNI received reports of bias-related incidents that challenged the University to intensify efforts to improve the campus environment.  The incidents reported were an assault of a Latino student at an off-campus party, racial slurs yelled at Latino students by persons in a passing car, and two reports of graffiti on campus, one of which involved anti-Semitic writing.  The University responded immediately to these reports, meeting with affected students and staff, issuing public statements, and gathering the bias response team to develop further actions.  The incidents were investigated by the University and community police departments, and support was provided to those affected.  Significant efforts were made to communicate the incidents and to discuss the University response to the campus and local communities.  As a result, a number of action items were developed to improve educational quality, including additional educational programming for faculty, staff and students, enhancements to new student orientation programs, and refinements to mechanisms for reporting bias-related concerns.

 

Challenges 2 & 3 (including the 2004 Progress Report on the General Education Program)

Challenge 2: There is a need to better integrate the assessment of student academic achievement, through outcomes assessment, across an integrated General Education curriculum.  The unevenness of assessment activities across the program compromises the effectiveness of evaluating an integrated curriculum.

 

Challenge 3: The current approach to the General Education program compromises its coherence and effectiveness.  The existing structure creates a leadership gap and compromises coherence leading to a fragmented program.

 

Recommendation for Progress Report: The written [progress] report must address what the team found to be an unevenness of implementing the University’s approved Assessment Plan, relative to the General Education program; specifically as it relates to the structure and role of the General Education oversight body, and the assessment of its integrated curriculum through student learning outcomes.  

 

The Review Team highlighted two challenges that centered on the assessment and management of the General Education program (now renamed the Liberal Arts Core) at UNI.  The Review Team also required UNI to submit a progress report by October 1, 2004, on those issues.  The ways in which the University has dealt with these concerns will be addressed together because they are so closely linked. 


Assessment of the Liberal Arts Core (General Education) Program

In fall 2001, in response to the Review Team’s recommendation to “better integrate the assessment of student academic achievement, through outcomes assessment, across an integrated General Education curriculum,” the Liberal Arts Core (LAC) Committee formed a subcommittee to begin work on a comprehensive student outcomes assessment program for the LAC.  The LAC Student Outcome Assessment (SOA) Subcommittee facilitated the development of a statement of purposes, goals, and proficiencies, which was completed in 2001.  The committee also undertook an extensive review of UNI’s existing SOA plan and SOA plans at other institutions.  Committee members and the LAC Coordinator also attended Association of American Colleges & Universities and Higher Learning Commission conferences to gain additional knowledge about assessment practices.  A pilot project using two standardized instruments (Academic Profile and the Collegiate Assessment of Academic Proficiency—Critical Thinking) was initiated in March 2002.  The Subcommittee concluded at the time that the Academic Profile (now renamed Measure of Academic Proficiency and Progress, or MAPP) was better suited to campus outcomes needs, and it was adopted as a measure of student learning for the LAC.  Student outcomes assessments of first-year and senior students were then completed.  At meetings in spring 2004, these results were shared and discussed with the President and his cabinet and with the Provost and Academic Affairs Council.  At a retreat during the summer of 2004, the Faculty Senate engaged in a positive discussion of the results, with much enthusiasm for continued review of these and other measures.

 

As reported in 2004, the SOA plan was refined, and data from the College Student Experiences Questionnaire, Alumni & Public Views of UNI Survey, and UNI Graduating Senior Survey were analyzed, reviewed, and integrated into the final version of the plan for SOA of the LAC.  Student Outcomes Assessment was also integrated into the LAC category review process with this plan.

 

Since pilot testing in 2004, MAPP testing has been done on an annual basis using certain LAC courses (usually Oral Communication, which is typically taken in the first year, and Capstone, usually taken in the senior year).  MAPP data are primarily used to assess student learning in the Liberal Arts Core, and summary results are available through the Office of Academic Assessment Web site.  The abbreviated form of MAPP has been administered since pilot testing in 2004.  Capstone instructors are obligated to have their students participate in MAPP testing if a significant number of seniors are enrolled in the section. 

 

Since the Progress Report in 2004, the University has centralized and organized campus assessment in a new Office of Academic Assessment (OAA),[17] established in 2005 and located next to the LAC Coordinator’s office.  The full-time director was chosen for expertise in the area of assessment and student learning.   The Office of Academic Assessment has undertaken a crucial role “to provide leadership for the planning and implementation of student outcomes assessment, academic program review and other procedures that support academic program improvement, student learning, and accreditation.” [18]  The OAA provides information and resources for faculty, staff, and students, and coordinates large assessment programs such as the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) and Measure of Academic Proficiency and Progress (MAPP).  

 

Highlights of assessment activities from this office related to assessment of learning in the Liberal Arts Core are listed below.

  • Involvement with the Liberal Arts Core Committee through a standing position as a non-voting member of the committee;
  • Administration of MAPP and NSSE to first year and senior students on an annual basis;
  • Development of an OAA Web site which makes NSSE, MAPP, and Liberal Arts Core assessment data available to the University community;
  • Presentations on the LAC core competencies as  measured by MAPP, NSSE, and Senior Survey data and on how NSSE data can be evaluated, applied, and used;
  • Consultation as requested with category coordinating committees and with the Liberal Arts Core Coordinator as they have worked on category assessment strategies;
  • Presentation of a one-and-a-half day workshop in May 2010 on assessment in the Liberal Art Core for faculty involved with the Liberal Arts Core Committee, the Liberal Arts Core Review Steering Committee and the First-Year Council to examine what we know about learning in the Core, what we would like to know, and how we can develop effective strategies for gathering and using assessment data.

Management and Oversight of a Coherent Liberal Arts Core

At the highest levels of leadership, UNI in the past decade has renewed its commitment to general education as the foundation for lifelong learning.  In 1999, Provost Podolefsky initiated a process with the Faculty Senate that renamed the convocation in the domegeneral education program the Liberal Arts Core (LAC) and provided a four-part plan for improving the program.  He also created summer institutes that brought together faculty who teach the same or similar courses in the Core to collaboratively develop improved practices, especially related to the use of technology.  In 2000, President Koob reinstated Convocation with a focus on the value of a liberal arts education and of the University’s LAC.  During that event, as well as in other venues, the President and Provost highlighted the importance of UNI’s LAC for students, faculty, staff, and parents.  These important initiatives, and the President’s and Provost’s intentional efforts to make the LAC a central focus of their activities, signaled a reinvigoration of the intellectual core of the undergraduate curriculum and enhanced the quality of the undergraduate experience. 

 

In 2001, the NCA Review Team that visited campus had suggested that a coordinator “could more effectively oversee the entire General Education Program, providing leadership and cohesiveness to a fragmented program.”[19]  This recommendation was endorsed by the LAC Committee and enacted in September 2001 when the Provost appointed a Coordinator for the Liberal Arts Core.  This administrative change resolved some of the concerns about leadership for the LAC that the team had expressed.

 

The LAC Coordinator has focused on activities designed to increase understanding of and commitment to the role and value of the UNI LAC as the foundation of a university education and the importance of student outcomes assessment to measure learning in the LAC.  The Coordinator has four primary roles:  to provide leadership for the LAC Committee, oversee the LAC student outcomes assessment activities and category review process, serve as a liaison (to the University and college senates, academic councils, student affairs offices, advising staff, and Northern Iowa Student Government), and monitor data regarding the LAC, such as enrollment patterns, class size, and percentage of courses taught by tenured and tenure-track faculty.

 

In addition to these roles, the Liberal Arts Core (LAC) Coordinator has also focused campus attention on the critical role of the LAC.  During the process of redefining the overarching Purposes and Goals of the LAC, the Coordinator actively sought feedback from the University community, soliciting input by Weblog, e-mail, and written correspondence.  This resulted in a new Purposes and Goals Statement, adopted by the Faculty Senate in 2009.  According to this document, “The purpose of the Liberal Arts Core (LAC) is to actively engage students to become self-aware participants in their own personal development through thoughtful and informed decision making, promotion of life-long learning, enlarging the scope of their world to global issues and diverse cultures, and increasing their strategies for solving complex problems they will encounter in the future.  The LAC seeks to attain its purpose through fostering growth in three interrelated areas—skills, knowledge, and perspectives and values.”[20]  This statement can be used to guide future discussions about the LAC.  Ensuring that any revisions to the program are consistent with the purposes and goals of the LAC will also ensure that the program is focused and coherent.

 

The LAC committee has also worked to share information about and promote understanding of the Liberal Arts Core.  It developed a Web site in 2002,[21] which provides a mechanism for students, faculty, staff, parents, and prospective students to access information about the importance of a liberal arts education.  The LAC Web site also offers student outcomes assessment principles, the purpose and goals of UNI’s Core and each Category within the Core, and specific course descriptions.  “Statements for Syllabi” are posted on the Web site for all categories of the LAC as a faculty resource. 

 

The UNI Faculty Senate approved in 2005 the formation of Category Coordinating Committees (CCC) to review performance data regarding, for instance, enrollment, staffing, and student grades on a course-by-course basis each semester; establish and maintain appropriate standards regarding course content; develop and implement an appropriate student outcomes assessment (SOA) program for that part of the LAC; work with category review teams as part of the periodic category review process; and advise the LAC committee of any problems that occur or changes that are needed in the category or its constituent courses.  The CCCs are currently engaged in refining the course-level student learning outcomes and reviewing the category- or subcategory-level SOA plans and descriptions of the categories and subcategories.  Instructors are encouraged to convey to students both the importance of the LAC to their education and the relationship of the various courses to one another.  To date, the Humanities Committee and Non-Western Cultures Committee are firmly established, and the Social Sciences Coordinating Committee was formed following the Category 5 review. 

 

A series of summer institutes was offered to provide faculty with a variety of resources to enhance student learning in LAC courses.  During the summer of 2001, a summer institute was conducted for Humanities I and II faculty, the purpose of which was to enhance the learning and satisfaction of students taking Humanities courses.  This institute also included the development and use of instructional technology.  During 2004-2006 a series of workshops were held focusing on ways of integrating disciplines in the LAC, innovative instructional strategies and education technology, critical reading and writing incapstone class outside learning the LAC, and critical thinking in the LAC.  These workshops were funded by the Roy J. Carver Trust and resulted in the expanded and revised Capstone Experience course model and other interdisciplinary collaborations and enhancements.  The Capstone category originally included only one course option, Environment, Technology and Society, taught predominantly by faculty in the College of Natural Sciences.  Following the restructuring of the LAC, the Capstone Experience became a separate category and was expanded to include a variety of courses from all of the colleges at UNI in fall 2004.  The new guidelines require that the course should be “attractive and accessible to students from a wide spectrum of disciplinary backgrounds” and that it will either “1) integrate content from two or more diverse disciplines, or 2) emphasize service-based learning and provide engagement with communities outside UNI.”[22]  These included newly created courses stemming from the Carver Summer Institutes, as well as existing courses that fulfilled the revised Capstone Experience definition.  Capstone Experience courses now include over 30 options, such as The Holocaust in Literature and Film, Blues and Jazz in African American Film and Literature, Bio-Medical Ethics, and Analysis of Social Issues, all specifically keyed to the revised Capstone Experience model.  Some of the new Capstone Experience courses are incorporated into the Study Abroad program and enable students to learn about topics such as economic issues of Central America, modern Greek cultural and political issues, globalization in China, and nationalism in central Europe.  These courses are led by UNI faculty who are experts in their fields, and have proved popular with students.  This new Capstone Experience model promotes the development of higher-order thinking skills, interdisciplinarity, and dispositions associated with self-directed, lifelong learning.[23] 

 

In an effort to provide students with more interdisciplinary learning experiences, other categories within the LAC have also added more interdisciplinary offerings in the years since 2001.  Some of these changes were initiated by faculty groups, some prompted by the results of reviews of the LAC categories, and others sparked by the LAC Committee itself.  For example, the course Molecules and Life was added to the Natural Science and Technology category in 2005 to provide a course that links the physical and life sciences.  The interdisciplinary class, Introduction to Women’s and Gender Studies, was added as a Socio-cultural and Historical Perspectives option in 2009. 

 

Another action that has highlighted the importance of the LAC at UNI is the initiation of a significant university-level award for Excellence in LAC Teaching.  This award was first presented at the fall 2009 all-faculty meeting along with long-standing awards for faculty research, general teaching, and service.  Funds from the award can be used to provide curricular enhancements for LAC instruction.

 

Because UNI is committed to the continuous improvement of its Liberal Arts Core, it continues to review the LAC as a whole.  In May 2009, an LAC Review Steering Committee was formed to “create opportunities for campus-wide discussion and review of the current Liberal Arts Core with the goal of using faculty input to shape proposals for its revision, if such revision is deemed necessary.”  The overall purpose of this process is to ensure that the University’s LAC “reflects the best academic judgments of the faculty and serves the best educational interests of our students.” [24]

 

With the involvement of many faculty, staff, and students throughout the University, the overall management and coordination of the Liberal Arts Core has been much improved.  The LAC now has processes for continuous improvement.  Student outcomes assessment is now integrated into the regular category review process for the LAC, and changes to the LAC have increased the program’s coherence; the LAC is now more coherently managed by the Coordinator, and the new Capstone courses make use of the foundation laid by the rest of the LAC.   However, UNI is still challenged to engage the entire University community in a culture characterized by continuous reflection on and improvement of the LAC.  The newly formed LAC Review Steering Committee is leading a campus review of the LAC, Category Coordinating Committees continue their work into the next year, and the new Capstone courses have been fully integrated into the LAC.

 

Challenge 4

While there is a five-year plan for additions and renovations in place, there are some facilities that are not addressed in the plan for which there is concern.

 

Some recent construction and renovation has greatly allayed concerns about campus facilities.  Renovations to McCollum Science Hall, Russell Hall, and Physics/Begeman Hall were greatly needed a decade ago and now have been accomplished.  The Five-Year Capital Improvement Plans from the Board of Regents (FY2006-2010,[25] FY2010-2014[26]) include plans for the renovation (now in progress) of Sabin Hall, a large instructional building used extensively by the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences; a feasibility study for the renovation or demolition of Baker Hall, the original men’s residence hall on campus, which now houses many faculty and departmental offices; the addition of another floor to McCollum Science Hall; and renovation of the Industrial Technology Center.

Unfortunately, there has been a general decrease in the amount of funding allocated to the Regent institutions for building repair and maintenance, from $20.3 million for all three institutions in fiscal year 2000 to only $16 million for fiscal year 2008.  In Begeman Hall Physics Buildingfall 2008, the Regent institutions reported more than $495 million in deferred maintenance and fire safety deficiencies, with UNI’s share amounting to $72.4 million.[27]  In recognition of these ongoing needs, the current Five-Year Capital Improvement Plan (FY2010-2014) includes as its highest-priority funding project a $50-million initiative for each of the next four years (FY2010-2013), and $75 million for FY2014 to correct fire and environmental safety deficiencies as well as provide deferred maintenance at all three Regent institutions.  UNI operations and maintenance personnel focus their resources on maintenance needs utilizing a priority system that addresses safety issues, educational support, repairs of facilities equipment to lengthen the asset's life, and support to general facility upgrades.  This building repair work includes upgrades to heating and air conditioning systems, roofs, plumbing and electrical systems, asbestos abatement and upgrades to sprinkler systems in residence halls, and general building and road repairs. 

 

Challenge 5

Resources allocated for equipment acquisition, maintenance, and repair are inadequate.

 

Since 2002, funding for equipment and repairs has significantly increased at UNI.  In addition to equipment funded through the general operating fund, equipment purchases and upgrades are priorities in building renovation and construction projects. A comparison of expenditures follows:

 

FY02

FY08

Non-capitalized equipment

$3,627,934.82

$5,981,731.29

Capitalized equipment*

$1,599,947.32

$4,498,948.45

Total

$5,227,882.14

$10,480,679.74

*Capitalization point was $2000 in FY02 and $5000 in FY08.

 

Budget support for expenses related to computer multimedia technology is supplemented by funds provided from the Student Computer Fees.[28]  Students are directly involved at all levels of the allocation process.  These fees, which typically amount to $2 million annually, provide funding for Information Technology Services, the Rod Library, and the academic units to upgrade, replace, and maintain computer equipment and to acquire new resources.  Everyone at UNI is invited to submit proposals to ITS on use of Student Computer Fees for maximum benefit across campus.  Initial allocations provided funds to retrofit most of the frequently used instructional spaces with multimedia equipment.  LCD projection systems are now available in nearly all instructional spaces, either through permanently mounted systems or as mobile systems.   To augment these expenditures in FY2010, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds helped provide for classroom technology and computer network support in Sabin Hall, which is currently undergoing renovation.[29]

 

Student studying in the library

Wireless hotspots are now available in every instructional building across campus, as well as the Rod Library, Maucker Union, and the UNI-Dome.  In FY2010, ARRA funds were used to provide wireless service in classrooms across campus.[30]  Wireless access is provided without additional charge for all University faculty, students, and staff.  In addition to wireless access, students have free Internet access in their residence hall rooms  and access to public computer labs in the residence halls, Rod Library, Maucker Union, and other buildings across campus.  Most computer labs in the residence halls are available 24 hours a day. 

 

Students are surveyed nearly every semester concerning the student computer labs maintained by ITS around campus, as well as availability of computer kiosks and wireless access.  The majority of students in the survey currently rate the quality of the computers in the student labs and the computer support as either good (50-55%) or excellent (20-26%).  The vast majority of students have laptops that are able to use the wireless system on campus, and fewer than 20% of surveyed students indicate that there are not enough e-mail kiosks available.[31] 

 

Decentralization of campus IT was mentioned briefly in UNI’s last self-study report as a potential concern.  A policy establishing Information Technology Support Guidelines was drafted in 1998 and approved by the Planning and Policy Committee for Information Technology (PPCIT).  In 2008, President Allen formed a new IT Task Force with a broad charge that included the evaluation of the current state of IT on campus in terms of the IT needs of faculty, staff, and students.  In fall 2008, the task force worked with Strategic Marketing Services (SMS) in the UNI College of Business Administration to conduct a more complete survey of campus satisfaction, developing six surveys aimed at specific subsets of the UNI community: faculty, staff, students, administrators, IT directors, and IT staff.  In addition, the IT Task Force evaluated decentralized versus centralized computing by assessing structures at other institutions.  The report was provided to the President in the summer of 2009.  As anticipated there was some dissatisfaction with some IT services; however, it was reported that over 60% of the respondents in all groups replied that they were either satisfied or very satisfied with how IT services and support are working for their area.  The IT Task Force interpreted these results to mean that the “general direction of IT on campus is solid.” [32]  Based on the IT Task Force report, the IT Support Guidelines were reviewed in the 2009-2010 academic year by a committee appointed by the President.

 

A finding of the IT task force is that UNI’s “hybrid model of central IT providing basic services and distributed IT units focusing on unit-specific needs” should be retained.[33]  To maintain the hybrid model, the task force determined that UNI should name a chief information officer with direct access to the President and the cabinet and should create a technology council to work with the CIO and oversee IT activities across campus.  In addition to these governance proposals, the task force recommended that UNI develop a long-term plan for its network infrastructure and classroom technology and should outsource services such as e-mail and calendar tools.  The result of this leadership, planning and coordination should be reduction of costs and increased satisfaction with IT services across campus.

 

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SUMMARY

The University of Northern Iowa has made significant progress toward meeting the five challenges identified by the HLC team ten years ago.  Despite dramatic funding losses in the last decade, processes are in place to assure that challenges are overcome. 

 

Challenge 1:  Diversity

The University has dedicated itself to creating a diverse campus culture.  In 2009, 9% of UNI employees and over 13% of full-time faculty are members of minority groups.  Student minority enrollment has risen without increased cost, by expanding recruitment from in-state minority populations, bringing minority student enrollment up to 6.9%, only 1.6 percentage points from our goal.  Nevertheless, the University has not yet attained President Allen’s vision, “to see us arrive at a UNI campus where diversity is so well understood and well achieved, and so enriches every aspect of campus culture, that ‘initiatives’ are no longer needed.”[34]

  

Challenges 2 & 3:

The LAC Committee examined the category review process to determine what changes needed to be made to insure that planned student outcomes assessment programs provide useful data, are completed in a timely manner, and are then used for curriculum improvement and institutional decision making.  Likewise, the Committee discussed ways to continue to develop a sense of shared responsibility by the faculty and students for improving the LAC.  The goal is to make the continuous review of the LAC as routine as the review of departmental major programs.  The LAC Committee and Coordinator also plan to continue campus-wide discussions focusing on the learning outcomes and their assessment.  

 

Student outcomes assessment now includes annual MAPP and NSSE testing, results from which are available to the University community for use in improving not only the Liberal Arts Core and major programs but also student services, University programs, campus safety, and campus climate.  Learning outcomes assessment is not yet consistent throughout all categories of the Liberal Arts Core.  The LAC Coordinator and OAA Director will work together to guide faculty and administrators in areas not well assessed.

 

Challenge 4:

Virtually all instructional space on campus has been remodeled or renovated to include multimedia access, wireless hotspots, and ADA access compliance.  Lab and music studio space has been renovated and expanded in the past decade.  Remodeling continues despite budget constraints across the State of Iowa.  Deferred maintenance and ongoing facilities costs continue to be a challenge for the institution.

 

Challenge 5:

A revised budget model has resulted in the increase of funds for the purchase and maintenance of equipment across campus.  Technological support and expansion has continued as well, with the use of innovations such as “virtual servers” to reduce energy costs while also providing redundant back-ups of vital systems, and the installation of various video-capture systems in classrooms to provide distance learning opportunities. 


[1] http://www.uni.edu/accreditation/sites/default/files/HLC%20Evaluation%20Team%20Report%20Feb.%202001.pdf, p.59
[2] http://www.ir.uni.edu/dbWeb/
[3] http://www.ir.uni.edu/dbWeb/
[4] http://www.uni.edu/admissions/
[5] http://www.uni.edu/cme/
[6] http://www.library.uni.edu/collections/special-collections/building-histories/maucker-union
[7] http://www.uni.edu/cme/mission
[8] http://www.uni.edu/eop/unicue/index.htm
[9] https://access.uni.edu/cgi-bin/student_orgs/student_orgs.cgi?cid=6
[10] http://www.uni.edu/diversity/
[11] http://www.uni.edu/diversity/brt/report.shtml
[12] http://www.uni.edu/diversity/
[13] http://www.ir.uni.edu/dbweb/surveys.cfm#FaSC
[14] http://www.ir.uni.edu/dbWeb/DiversityCouncil/
[15] http://www.ir.uni.edu/dbWeb/DiversityCouncil/?t=stf
[16] http://www.uni.edu/diversity/
[17] http://www.uni.edu/assessment/
[18] http://www.uni.edu/assessment/
[19] http://www.uni.edu/accreditation/sites/default/files/HLC%20Evaluation%20Team%20Report%20Feb.%202001.pdf
[20] http://www.uni.edu/vpaa/lac/documents/pg-final.pdf
[21] http://www.uni.edu/vpaa/lac/
[22] http://www.uni.edu/vpaa/lac/newcapstone.shtml
[23] https://www.uni.edu/vpaa/lac/secure/2006_capstone_report.pdf (requires CAT ID)
[24] http://www.uni.edu/vpaa/documents/LAC-RSCCharge.pdf
[25] http://www2.state.ia.us/regents/Meetings/DocketMemos/04Memos/sep04/0904_ITEM05.pdf
[26] http://www2.iowaccess.org/regents/Meetings/DocketMemos/08Memos/september08/0908_ITEM10b.pdf
[27] http://www2.state.ia.us/regents/Meetings/DocketMemos/09Memos/feb09/0209_ITEM11.pdf
[28] http://www.uni.edu/its/admin/policies/feeguidelines07-09.html
[29] http://www.uni.edu/president/fy10-arra-projects
[30] http://www.uni.edu/president/fy10-arra-projects
[31] http://www.uni.edu/its/us/sccs/surveys/
[32] http://www.uni.edu/president/sites/default/files/ITtaskForceReport2009.pdf
[33] http://www.uni.edu/president/sites/default/files/ITtaskForceReport2009.pdf
[34] http://www.uni.edu/diversity/index.shtml