CRITERION III: Accomplishments


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A. The University offers educational programs appropriate to an institution of higher education

The University of Northern Iowa asserts that it offers programs (courses of study) appropriate to an institution of higher education. Evidence to support this assertion is offered within four indicators in this section: (1) academic programs are clearly defined, coherent, and intellectually rigorous; (2) courses are included in academic programs that stimulate the awareness and understanding of personal, social, and civic values; (3) faculty and students engage in research as a scholarly activity that is part of the institution's academic programs; and (4) the University promotes active intellectual engagement among faculty and students.

Indicator A1: Courses of study in the academic programs are clearly defined, coherent, and intellectually rigorous
The excellence of our academic programs' content, structure, integrity, and presentation is fundamental to our vision of becoming "the nation's finest public comprehensive university, known for high-quality learning environments and a genuine sense of community" (2001-2006 Strategic Plan). We welcome the opportunity to examine our progress through this self-study so that we may more effectively achieve our strategic goals and objectives.

Are academic programs of the University of Northern Iowa clearly defined, coherent, and intellectually rigorous? Catalog descriptions clearly define our courses of study. Course descriptions and plans of study are available in hard copy and on line at www.uni.edu/pubrel/catalog/.

Our courses of study are coherent; in every major the required and elective courses are related to one another. In most cases, students entering a program begin study by enrolling in an introductory course, which sets the foundation for future courses.

Several processes ensure program quality and continuous improvement. Departmental, college, and University curricular committees evaluate all programs prior to their approval by the Board of Regents. The quality of our programs is further scrutinized through internal and external components of academic program reviews, which are carried out on a seven-year staggered schedule. Program reviews, including student outcomes assessments, are used for continuous improvement and are addressed in detail in section III B, below.

Colleges and departments at UNI have programs that are accredited by national accreditation agencies and/or are periodically reviewed by outside agencies. The University is a member of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE), and the Council of Graduate Schools in the United States. The University is accredited through the master's degrees, the specialist's degrees, and the doctorate by the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools (NCA). Particular programs of the University are accredited by the following professional accrediting agencies: the International Association for Management Education, the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs, the National Association of Schools of Music, the National Association of Schools of Art and Design, the Council on Social Work Education, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences, the American Dietetic Association, the National Association of Industrial Technology, the American Council for Construction Education, the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs, and the National Recreation and Park Association/American Association for Leisure and Recreation. Programs are also approved by the Iowa State Department of Education, the National University Extension Association, and the American Chemical Society. The University Museum is accredited by the American Association of Museums.

Several departments have curricula that are based on national standards. The Computer Science Department, for example, follows the curriculum guidelines of the Association for Computer Machinery in the development and delivery of its programs.

Independent, objective confirmation of intellectually rigorous program standards and outcomes is also provided by outside agencies that rank programs for comparison on a national basis. Such is the case for the clinical programs in the Department of Communicative Disorders. The program in Speech-Language Pathology is ranked fourteenth in the nation for terminal M.A. programs, according to the most recent rankings by U.S. News and World Report. Audiology ranks twenty-sixth in the country compared to graduate programs in which the master's is the highest degree offered.

It is central to our mission that courses comprising our programs of study are established, implemented, and evaluated in a manner that ensures that they are intellectually rigorous. Excellence in this area remains a top priority, as demonstrated in the University's 2001-2006 Strategic Plan, Goal 2.0, which is to "support creative and intellectually rigorous teaching and scholarship."

Indicator A2: Programs include courses and/or activities whose purpose is to stimulate the examination and understanding of personal, social, and civic values
Our role in developing the best-prepared, civic-minded workforce in the nation has been integrated into our mission at every level. The concepts of service, diversity, mutual respect, personal well-being, and organizational effectiveness are addressed throughout the University's 2001-2006 Strategic Plan. To those ends, UNI's 47-credit General Education Program has as a major objective the awareness and understanding of individual, social, and civic values. All students earning a UNI degree must complete the General Education program or must have completed general education programs at other institutions of higher education.

Nine credit hours of the General Education courses required of undergraduate degree candidates are social science courses, including required credits in Sociocultural and Historical Perspectives and in Individual and Institutional Perspectives. Three credits may be taken in Topical Perspectives, including courses such as "Social Welfare: A World View," "American Racial and Ethnic Minorities," "Women, Men, and Society," "Conflict and Social Reconstruction," "The Nature of Social Issues," "Children and Youth: Issues and Controversies," "Contemporary Political Problems," and "Social Problems." All of these courses are designed to bring into focus the interdisciplinary interrelatedness of personal, social, and civic issues.

Eleven required credit hours of the General Education program focus on Civilizations and Cultures. Two four-credit courses in Humanities address Western cultures, and three credits are devoted to non-Western cultures. "Using methods of critical inquiry, students explore aspects of human nature, the shaping of thoughts and values, and their interrelations" (UNI Catalog, p. 49).

A capstone course titled "Environment, Technology and Society," required of all students, develops an environmental literacy and examines biological, technological, and environmental values. This course is intentionally interdisciplinary and is taught by faculty with a variety of backgrounds and from many disciplines.

Other courses stimulate the development of a science ethic and examine issues such as bioethics and environmental impact, the role of computers in society, connections between human activity and the planetary environment, industrial/technological issues of safety and ethics, the role of mathematical techniques in society, and the impact of physical and chemical principles in a technology-based society.

Additional examples of courses that stimulate students' examination of personal, social, and civic values can be found throughout the University in Management, Finance, Psychology, Communication Studies, Philosophy and Religion, History, Humanities, and Geography. One component of a course taught in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminology is the construction of a house for a human service organization, Habitat for Humanity. This experience helps students learn first-hand about low-income housing and neighborhoods. Other internships, such as those in Design, Family, and Consumer Sciences, Political Science, Social Work, History, Public Administration, and Political Communication directly involve students in community work related to their academic studies.

UNI college mission statements make specific reference to the preparation of students as productive citizens in a complex, global society. Accrediting agencies often reinforce these goals. The International Association for Management Education, for example, calls for the investigation and understanding of global, ethical, and social values, especially as they impact organizations.

Experiential learning opportunities offered through the Cooperative Education Program expose students on a University-wide basis to myriad real world situations. The Center for Energy and Environmental Education, an outreach center that assists students in developing an environmental ethic, offers programs designed to address issues regarding the societal impact of science and technology. Off-campus research programs in the sciences, of which the Recycling Reuse Technology Transfer Center and the Materials Testing Service are representative, are effective in this area of student involvement.

Teacher education preparation involves the examination of personal, social, and civic values. Perhaps the clearest evidence of this is contained within examples of student portfolios (see http://www.uni.edu/coe/portfolio). A course required of all teaching majors, Schools in American Society, examines social and civic issues in education. Field experiences also provide opportunities for students to participate in community activities, thereby enhancing, enriching, and extending their personal, social, and civic values.

Field trips and presentations at national and regional conferences are compelling examples of how students broaden their awareness. Visits by our political science students to Russia and trips by our history students to Greece enrich the student experience and foster a sense of global citizenship. An interdisciplinary project involving students in education and social work led students to Romania last spring to assist in addressing the country's orphan problem through an innovative program developed at UNI.

Student organizations, such as History Club or Political Science Society, often promote an examination of values by enhancing student interest and by demonstrating the many opportunities that a professional field has to offer. In some cases, this examination of values is being combined with technological enterprise. The Department of History is developing a local web site, Black Hawk County: Past and Present, which will engage the community with a vast amount of historical information about our county of residence.

Initiatives in Educational and Student Services also offer students other excellent outlets for applying their social and civic values. Long-established and traditionally effective programs include student organizations and fraternal/sororal societies sponsored by Maucker Union and the Center for Multicultural Education, and concerned support by academic advisors and counselors on campus. A more recent innovation is the Citizens and Scholars initiative in the residence halls. In general, residence hall personnel deal intentionally with issues of living in community and the need to understand and value diversity in all facets.

Ultimately, all majors, the vast majority of courses, and many clubs, organizations, and programs demonstrate a degree of purpose toward preparing students for an examination and understanding of their personal value structures in relation to those of society. This understanding is recognized by the University as an increasingly essential component, along with knowledge and skills, in becoming a productive member of civic society in the 21st Century. It is also a key factor in the long-term well-being of the institution, as acknowledged in the 2001-2006 Strategic Plan, Goal 4.0: Strengthen a University culture characterized by diversity, collegiality, and mutual respect.

Indicator A3: Programs require of the faculty and students (as appropriate to the level of the educational programs) the use of scholarship and/or the participation in research as part of the programs
Faculty scholarship is an essential part of the tripartite mission of the University, which specifies the commitment to teaching, research, and service. The use of scholarship and the participation in research by faculty and students is therefore integral to the University's effort to create and maintain a high-quality, dynamic learning environment characterized by excellence at all levels.

As stipulated in the Master Agreement, in evaluating faculty performance for the awarding of tenure, the first judgment is whether the faculty member's teaching meets quality standards. If there is an affirmative judgment about the faculty member's teaching, then research and service are considered. Tenure is not granted unless there is sufficient evidence of the faculty member's contributions to research and the scholarly community beyond the University. Likewise, research is considered in merit salary increases, faculty professional development leaves, summer grants, and other programs of faculty support throughout the University. Many faculty at UNI have research programs consistent with our mission as a comprehensive university.

Academic programs at UNI have either a research requirement or a research component for students at the undergraduate level. Significant portions of the undergraduate programs involve direct research by individual students, case analyses, team projects, and presentations. Each major contains courses with significant research and writing requirements. All graduate programs require students to complete research projects that result in written documents, whether a research paper, thesis, or dissertation. The MBA program, for example, requires student research in each course, and the capstone project is entirely research based.

There are several kinds of courses that require student participation in research, including most research methods courses. For example, students who take Qualitative Research Methods in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminology are required to do four short research projects in order to satisfy the requirements of the course. Some degree programs require senior research projects.

The Undergraduate Research Program (URP) provides funding each semester for faculty/student collaborative research, a significant amount of which finds its way to conferences and publication. Undergraduate and graduate assistantships are extremely important training grounds for the teaching and performance of research. The Center for Social and Behavioral Research and the Center for the Study of Adolescence mentor students through 12 paid positions as undergraduate research assistants. These centers also house a number of graduate assistants.

Each college supports undergraduate research through funds set aside specifically for experiential learning and undergraduate research. The Undergraduate Social Science Research Conference and the Sigma Xi Student Research Conference are annual events during which students present papers and delineate their original research. Summer Undergraduate Research Programs, such as those in Chemistry and Biology provide students with a stipend and research credit. The latter exemplify UNI's commitment to student research activities in that they have become part of the budget of the College of Natural Sciences, rather than being dependent on external grant monies.

In summary, the post-graduate success of our students is, to a great extent, the result of excellent programs of study consistently delivered by faculty immersed in solid scholarship with first-rate teaching techniques. These qualities are extensions of our core values and are central to a well-defined service orientation toward the constituencies we serve. Continued support for the role of research and scholarship in the academic lives of faculty and students is expressed in the 2001-2006 Strategic Plan, specifically faculty scholarship in Objective 2.2: generate increased opportunities for faculty to enhance the quality and quantity of their research and creative activity.

Indicator A4: Programs require intellectual interaction betweenstudents and faculty and encourage it between student and student
All graduate and undergraduate programs require intellectual interaction between faculty and students. The University prides itself on the quality of that interaction because tenure-track professors preside over the majority of its classes. Course syllabi provided by those professors specify in detail the importance of discussion and in-class debate for achieving the learning goals of the course. In some courses, in-class projects further encourage and promote intellectual exchange between students and faculty, and among students. Team teaching, as in the General Education "cluster course" taught by four Humanities and Fine Arts faculty, provides another example of intellectual engagement and synergy.

Office Hours
All departments require that faculty keep regular, listed office hours for their students. This ensures the opportunity for interaction in relation to course matters as well as to academic advising, research mentoring, and general personal interaction. Quite beyond meeting departmental requirements for availability, many faculty members have an open-door policy so that students may engage them in intellectual conversations at any reasonable time. Additionally, faculty are available through email, and email distribution lists are automatically produced for each class at the beginning of the semester.

Academic Advising
Students and faculty also engage in intellectual interaction when they convene for academic advising. Academic advising is provided by both Academic Affairs and Educational and Student Services Division personnel and is viewed at UNI as an educational and developmental service. Students who are undecided as to major are advised by professional advisors in the ESS Division, coordinated by Academic Advising Services. Some deciding freshman students are assigned by Academic Advising Services to a hall coordinator for freshman-year advisement. Students who have decided to undertake work toward certain majors in the College of Education or any major in the College of Business Administration are advised by a professional advisor in that college. (These two colleges have advising centers that also provide enrollment management in their colleges.) Students in other majors are advised by professional advisors in their academic department (in the departments of Biology and Communication Studies) or program (Social Science Teaching), or by a faculty member in the discipline. Some departments (Department of English, School of Music, School of Health, Physical Education and Leisure Services) provide release time to faculty who coordinate academic advising in their departments.

In the past decade the University expanded staffs in the college advising centers and Academic Advising Services and centralized some departmental advising, as described above, in order to provide easily accessible and effective advising services to students. The advising of student athletes has been merged with our general advising services since 1997.

The office of Academic Advising Services continues to support campus advising by training and coordinating faculty and professional advisors for summer first-year orientation sessions and by hosting the Academic Advising Council, composed of representatives from across colleges and programs who meet six times a year. Since 1996, Academic Advising Services has provided training for new faculty advisors in the three liberal arts colleges. In addition, Academic Advising Services conducts and coordinates for faculty and professional advisors topical workshops appropriate to current issues. Such issues have included new advising tools and electronic advising forms.

Evaluation of advising on campus during this past decade included analysis of responses on the Graduating Student Survey conducted at every graduation, the Climate Survey administered at advanced registration, the CSEQ administered in Spring 1999 and Spring 2000, and the Retention Survey administered in May 1996. Assessments are also conducted in Academic Advising Services every few years.

In the past three years, the Student Climate Survey has indicated the level of satisfaction with academic advising at the University (see Table III.1). Over half of the students agree or strongly agree that they have received high-quality advising at UNI.

Table III.1: Student Climate Survey
Question: I have received high quality advising at UNI


It is not clear from these evaluations whether a centralized advising center or decentralized faculty advising in the colleges promotes better decisions and greater student satisfaction. Unless further assessment indicates that change is necessary, the current dual system of campus advising should be retained.

Programs and Projects
Besides these many opportunities for academic advising, academic programs encourage intellectual interaction among faculty and students by means of peer tutoring projects, experiential and field-based educational experiences, case projects, and group projects. The teacher education program, for example, is centered on the development of reflective practitioners, and, as evidenced by course outlines, class formats make discussion, in-class debate, and intellectual interaction among students and faculty an essential part of most courses. Student teaching and practica are other venues for intellectual interaction between students and faculty in a non-university setting.

General Education Courses
General Education Program classes often encourage small-group discussions among students and instructors. Interdisciplinary programs that offer General Education courses such as "Conflict and Social Reconstruction," "The Nature of Social Issues," and "Children and Youth: Issues and Controversies" bring together students and faculty from several departments and provide a stimulus for interaction and critical thinking.

Conferences and Seminars
The Center for the Study of Adolescence is exemplary in its facilitation of organized student participation in scholarly conferences. Seminar programs across departments invite outside guests, local faculty and/or students to report on their research interests and results. These programs enhance intellectual interaction among faculty and students at all levels. Some majors -- Geography is one example -- require a senior seminar for all undergraduates.

Clubs and Societies
Most departments have student clubs (e.g., American Chemical Society Student Affiliates, UNI History Club, Psychology Club) and honorary academic societies (e.g., Kappa Mu Epsilon, Sigma Pi Sigma, Beta Beta Beta) that bring students and faculty together for discussion of scholarly interests and generally demand excellence in the research and creative activities of its members.

As outcomes assessment and other data point to the increased importance of experiential learning, supportive academic environments and increased responsibility for students' own learning, the University has integrated into its 2001-2006 Strategic Plan the commitment to enhance opportunities for mentoring and social interaction among students, faculty and staff (Objective 5.3).


Introduction

Criteria I
Criteria II
Criteria III
Criteria IV
Criteria V
Summary &
Recommendations
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