CRITERION III: Accomplishments


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C. Graduate Programs

For the past 50 years in its 124-year history, the University of Northern Iowa has offered selected graduate programs. In which ways does UNI attempt to assure the quality of its graduate programs? Following an overview of UNI graduate program history, as well as faculty involvement in and commitment to these programs, issues are discussed and evidence offered for five indicators of graduate program quality: (1) graduate programs are clearly distinguished from undergraduate programs; (2) graduate faculty and students are expected to engage in research and/or creative activity; (3) accepted professional practices are used in awarding graduate academic credit for prior learning; (4) graduate faculty possess appropriate credentials and experience; and, (5) as with undergraduate academic programs, graduate programs use the results of internal and external peer review to ensure quality.

Graduate Program Overview
Recognition of the need to provide a curriculum of selected programs leading to graduate degrees has been an integral part of the University of Northern Iowa's history. The University initiated graduate degree programs in 1951, when the Board of Regents authorized the Master of Arts in Education. Building on its historic excellence in undergraduate education, the University has developed outstanding graduate programs in business, education, the natural sciences, humanities and fine arts, and the social and behavioral sciences. We pride ourselves in offering graduate students the individualized attention found on small college campuses, with the resources and opportunities of a large university. Today, UNI offers more than 50 graduate programs leading to the following degrees:

Master of Accounting
Master of Arts
Master of Arts in Education
Master of Business Administration
Master of Music
Master of Public Policy
Master of Science
Master of Social Work
Specialist
Specialist in Education
Doctor of Education
Doctor of Industrial Technology


Students also may pursue non-degree study at the graduate level in a variety of graduate majors. In addition, programs leading to teacher licensure/endorsement and the advanced studies certificate are offered.

The staff of the Graduate College includes the dean, two associate deans (Associate Dean for Faculty Scholarship and an Associate Dean for Student Services), a Grants and Contracts administrator, a Grants and Contracts accountant, a Thesis and Dissertation reader, two secretaries, and an account specialist.

Enrollment in the Graduate College continues to grow and develop as an integral part of UNI as the University strengthens its commitment to provide intellectually challenging experiences and support rigorous scholarship. Accomplishments of the past ten years, many of which are listed below, are evidence of that development:

1.The Graduate College moved to newly renovated Seerley Hall.

2.Graduate student enrollment increased from 1,078 in 1989 to 1,569 in 1999.

3.There have been regular increases in tuition scholarship funds necessary to offset increases in graduate student tuition.

4.Recruitment of minority graduate students includes a recent contractual agreement with Florida A & M. This supplements other productive minority recruitment programs with the State University of New Orleans, Dillard, Xavier, and other Louisiana universities. In total, these efforts have resulted in 96 student recruitments and the awarding of 59 graduate degrees from 1989-1999.

5.Minority student enrollment in graduate programs increased from 41 (1989) to 109 (2000).

6.A significant increase in the University's involvement in distance education occurred at the graduate level.

7.International student enrollment in graduate programs increased from 44 (1989) to 155 (2000). A program for the recruitment of Russian students, along with other existing international recruitment initiatives, has served since 1989 to bring the percentage of international students in UNI graduate programs to 10 percent of total graduate enrollment.

8.There also have been increases in financial support available for graduate student research and creative activity.

9.The number of graduate degrees and majors available to students increased.

10.Faculty participation in grant activity increased. The total amount awarded increased from $3.5 million in 1989 to $18.1 million in 1999.

11.University support for faculty engaged in grant writing increased, and two new positions were created (Federal Liaison for Basic and Applied Research Grants, and a Grant Writer/Grant Facilitator-UNI Foundation).

12.University financial non-salary support for faculty research and creative activity rose from $82,000 eight years ago to more than $170,000 in 1999.

13.New awards were created to recognize the achievement of graduate students and faculty. Among the new awards are Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation, Outstanding Master's Thesis, Outstanding Master's Paper/Project, Outstanding Graduate Faculty Teaching, and the Donald McKay Faculty Research Award.

As articulated in the 1996-1997 Graduate College Strategic Plan, the Graduate College has a strong commitment to the following actions:

1.Expansion of the Grants and Contracts office to facilitate the securing of extramural funds and to provide more effective services to faculty (consistent with the 1996-2001 University Strategic Plan, Goals 1B1, 1B3, 1C, 1C2, 3, 3A, 3B, 3B1)

2.Continuation of its emphasis on the recruitment and retention of under-represented minority students (consistent with University Strategic Plan, Goal 2B1a)

3.Assistance to academic departments to develop active recruitment programs, the goal of which is to increase quality by enlarging the selection pool of outstanding students (consistent with University Strategic Plan, Goal 1A3a), and the maintenance of graduate enrollment at a level of at least 10 percent of the total enrollment (consistent with University Strategic Plan, Goal 1A3a)

4.Integration of Outcomes Assessment, Program Review and Strategic Planning within each graduate program (consistent with University Strategic Plan, Goal 1A5)

5.Innovation and change at the master's level to meet the changing external environment and to offer master's programs consistent with student demand, societal needs, and faculty expertise (consistent with University Strategic Plan, Goal 1A3b)

6.Offering doctoral programs with a primary emphasis upon applied, practitioner, and professionally-oriented studies (consistent with University Strategic Plan, Goal 1A3c)

7.Development and implementation of strategies needed for the creation and maintenance of an intellectually stimulating environment for all members of the University community (consistent with University Strategic Plan, Goals 1 and 1A1)

8.Continued support of the professional development of high-quality graduate faculty (consistent with the University Strategic Plan, Goal 1B1d).

Indicator C1: The University clearly distinguishes graduate from undergraduate offerings
The course numbering system used at UNI is explained in the current (2000-2002) UNI Catalog on page 174. There is a clear delineation in the course numbering system that designates lower-level undergraduate (000), upper-level undergraduate (100), upper-level undergraduate courses suitable for some graduate programs (100g), and graduate-level offerings (200 for masters level and 300 for doctoral level).

Courses at the 100-level whose numbers are followed by a "g" are the only undergraduate courses that provide graduate credit. In all courses of the 100g series, greater academic achievement, both in quality and quantity, is expected of those receiving graduate credit than of those receiving undergraduate credit. Faculty are required to distinguish between course expectations for undergraduate and graduate students taking 100(g) classes on the syllabi they distribute at the beginning of the semester. For example, one professor in a Public Organizations course has separate syllabi for the undergraduates and graduate students. The undergraduate students have two tests, a final, and a case study. The graduate students in the class are graded on a multi-assignment case study, thought papers, two essay tests, and class participation.

Courses numbered 200-299 are primarily designed for graduate students. Undergraduates seeking admission to graduate courses must secure the permission of the head of the department offering the course. Courses numbered 200-299, taken as part of an undergraduate program, cannot later be used for an advanced degree unless the student is eligible to earn graduate credit.

Courses numbered 300-399 are primarily designed for doctoral students.

The area of study, research demands, the amount and rigor of required work, and the level of sophistication expected distinguish graduate from undergraduate offerings. Other criteria are specified in the UNI Catalog, the UNI Curriculum Guide, and in departmental program syllabi.

The graduate curriculum process includes review and recommendation by a Graduate Curriculum Committee and approval by the Graduate Council. Graduate faculty members initiate curriculum matters in their academic departments.

Indicator C2: Faculty and students are expected to value and engage in research, scholarship, and creative activity
The Graduate College expects that graduate students at the University will acquire an advanced level of knowledge and skills from coursework, research, practica/internships, and from the varied experiences and perspectives shared by graduate students and faculty. The specific research and artistic performance requirements for individual students vary depending on whether students are in a doctoral program or pursuing a graduate program that requires a thesis or research paper.

Research papers, theses, and dissertations are required of graduate students, and research requirements of each program are clearly spelled out in the University Catalog. Specifically, students writing a research paper are required to enroll in one to three hours of research credit (XXX:299); students writing a thesis are required to enroll in six to nine hours of research credit (XXX:299). The requirement for the Doctor of Education is six hours of research and continuous enrollment after a comprehensive examination; the Doctor of Industrial Technology requirement is 12 hours of research and continuous enrollment. It is expected that the level and quality of research and scholarly accomplishment will be sufficient for publication in refereed journals and for presentation at professional meetings.

Principles of scholarly rigor and research productivity are reflected in the requirements for tenure and promotion of faculty. As outlined in the Master Agreement, the departmental Professional Assessment Committees (PACs) evaluate the teaching, research, and service of faculty for the purpose of tenure and promotion. The University requires as part of the PAC file that individual faculty include lists of presentations and copies of publications. Tenure and promotion are, in part, based on research. Merit money is also awarded on the basis of scholarship and creative activity as well as on teaching.

The Graduate Research Awards program through which graduate students may apply for and receive up to $500 evidences support for student research. An excellent example of research support for faculty is the Dean's Challenge Grant program, which offers summer support to tenured, probationary, and continuing term faculty in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. Proposals are evaluated according to the following priorities: (1) projects that lead to the development of proposals to external funding agencies; (2) projects that develop innovative teaching techniques or employ innovative teaching technology; (3) projects that support research (with particular attention paid to proposals that involve multidisciplinary research endeavors); and (4) projects that support a cross-disciplinary or interdepartmental approach to teaching.

Table III.2: Sponsored Project Proposals and Awards as Reported to the Board of Regents (Excluding Student Financial Aid)

Three summary observations are made regarding Table III.2: (1) while the number of external research proposals in 1998-1999 was about the same as 12 years earlier, a greater percent of proposals were funded in 1998-1999 compared to 1986-1987; (2) the total amount of funding was nearly three times greater in 1998-1999 compared to 1986-1987; and (3) in each of the past 14 years, over one-half of the proposals submitted were funded.

Internal support for research conducted by faculty and students is demonstrated through improved technological, financial, and physical resources. Good examples of support in terms of program-specific technologies include the Department of Geography's acquisition of a Global Positioning System and the Department of Design, Family, and Consumer Sciences' new abrasion and pilling tester.

Through its colleges the University provides a variety of programs to support faculty research, scholarship, and creative activity throughout the year. The University is committed to increasing opportunities for enhancing the quality and quantity of faculty scholarship in support of our mission.

Indicator C3: Accepted professional practice is used in awarding graduate academic credit for prior learning
The Office of the Registrar completes initial evaluation of graduate credit earned prior to enrollment. In doing so, the Registrar is empowered to certify the accreditation of institutions and of each applicant's degree(s), determine the authenticity of academic work, and assure that an official transcript is on file, that coursework is indeed at graduate level and taught by graduate faculty, and that the credit is in compliance with our recency requirement. The Registrar also evaluates and assigns UNI course equivalencies to post-baccalaureate credit earned at other institutions. Departmental graduate program coordinators, graduate admission committees, and appropriate department heads all review graduate admission applications, as well. Departmental faculty ultimately determine whether courses will apply toward credit in a specific program.

Indicator C4: Graduate programs are approved, taught, and evaluated by a graduate faculty that possesses appropriate credentials and experience
Associate or regular members of the Graduate Faculty teach graduate courses. Associate members can teach specified graduate courses, assist in advising graduate students, and serve on, but not chair, master's thesis committees under specified circumstances. Regular members of the graduate faculty, with the appropriate terminal degree at the assistant professor level or above, can teach courses designed only for the graduate level, advise graduate students in their programs, and serve on and chair master's thesis committees; they may serve on, but not chair, dissertation committees.

Faculty serving as chairs of doctoral committees must have demonstrated substantial involvement in graduate education, including chairing master's theses and serving on both master's thesis and doctoral dissertation committees, and must show evidence of continued scholarly productivity after completion of their terminal degrees.

All departments recruit faculty with a terminal degree in their discipline and a documented record of research and publication. These individuals are appointed to the Graduate Faculty through the Graduate Dean's Office and the Graduate Council, and only then are they assigned to teach graduate-level courses.

In addition, there are procedures for the temporary appointment of someone who is not a regular member of the Graduate Faculty to teach a graduate course, but these are rare instances and occur under only very limited and controlled circumstances.

Indicator C5: Graduate programs use results of regular internal and external peer review processes to ensure quality
The Board of Regents, State of Iowa, mandates Academic Program Reviews, the purpose of which is to create a regularly scheduled, structured opportunity for programs at the University of Northern Iowa to assess their role with respect to the missions of the University, their college, and their department; to examine and/or assert their place within appropriate strategic plans; to address program quality, effectiveness, and viability; and to stimulate program planning and improvement. Program review also enables academic programs to obtain external peer opinion for assessing programs. External reviewers are invited to visit UNI to assess programs conducting Academic Program Review (APR) and to report their assessments in a written external review.

Academic Program Reviews are scheduled so that each University program is evaluated at least once every seven years. It is assumed that all of a department's programs, both undergraduate and graduate, will conduct academic program reviews in the same academic year, but the focus of individual reports is on programs. Copies of the updated master schedule are distributed to the Academic Deans and the Dean of the Graduate College at the beginning of each fiscal year.

Since 1999, Student Outcomes Assessment (SOA) has been an integral part of the graduate Academic Program Review process. An initiative by the Graduate Dean to institute program-specific Student Outcomes Assessments in the Graduate College was begun in 1995. While not under the same State mandate as undergraduate programs to engage in SOA, the Graduate SOA Committee represents a proactive response to findings regarding the benefits of such mechanisms in achieving overall institutional effectiveness. The original charge to the Graduate SOA Committee was to oversee the development and review of SOA plans from each graduate program. The SOA plans were to reflect the discipline-specific nature of the assessment task. The Graduate College SOA Committee charged reviewers with the evaluation of the SOA plans from each graduate program. Reviewers determined the appropriateness of the evaluation measures and procedures and recommended revisions, where needed. Subsequently, the SOA Committee notified departments of the results from this review and recommended further action. To strengthen the SOA program and its process, the UNI Graduate Council reviewed current practices in the SOA programs and recommended actions at its meeting on January 27, 2000, Graduate Council Minutes No. 892. The ongoing process, which ultimately includes notification of departments and reciprocal assurance of implementation for approved plans, demonstrates a commitment to item number four in the Graduate College's Strategic Plan, as well as with Objective 1.5 in the University's 2001-2006 Strategic Plan: build on excellence in graduate programs.

Accreditation reviews occur on a regularly scheduled basis. The MBA program, for example, was successfully reviewed as part of the two AACSB accreditation efforts in 1993 and 2000. The School of Music and the Departments of Communicative Disorders and Art were reviewed, and subsequently reaccredited, in 1991, 1994 and 1997, respectively. The Master of Social Work is currently under accreditation review. External reviews take on other forms as well. In the Study Abroad Programs of the Department of Modern Languages, an external review was conducted of the UNISSIST program in Spain in the summer of 1999, the results of which are being used to make improvements in that program.

Other critical measurements of UNI's graduate programs, while not part of a formal review process, provide compelling evidence for evaluating accomplishments. For example, in a sample of 1998-1999 graduates from UNI's graduate degree programs, over 96% either were employed or went on to further education. In addition to highly ranked programs in the Department of Communicative Disorders cited earlier, U.S. News and World Report most recently ranked our music program among the top 75 in the country. Building on such accomplishments in graduate programs is part of the institution's effort to expand and maintain programs that distinguish the University, serve as magnets and attract students to the University of Northern Iowa (see 2001-2006 Strategic Plan, Objective 1.4.).

 

Introduction

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