Initiatives and Current Issues
The University of Northern Iowa has made a continuous and concerted effort to create and maintain the nation's finest learning environment. As we consider our progress over the past ten years and look toward the future, several issues are worthy of brief review, specifically the nature and needs of Iowa and our student population and more generally the needs of society as a whole, as they relate to the University's ability to fulfill its mission.
Ninety-three percent of UNI's students are from Iowa, and 74 percent of our graduates remain in Iowa after graduation. While we may expect that percentage to drop over time, for the foreseeable future, UNI is an institution created and sustained to meet the needs of Iowans and Iowa. Therefore the University is responding to increasing pressures and opportunities to contribute to Iowa's economic development efforts.
UNI's ability to successfully accomplish its strategic priorities is directly tied to the economy of Iowa, the synergistic relationship between the University and the State, and the willingness of the State of Iowa to continue its historically strong funding of University initiatives.
To assess and respond to the needs of students and the State of Iowa, UNI has undertaken several initiatives since the last NCA study:
1. Center for the Enhancement of Teaching. The Center (http://www.uni.edu/teachctr) provides leadership and support for teaching through faculty, instructional, and organizational development initiatives. The Center director conducted an in-depth needs assessment in spring 1993 to design Center programs and services that respond to faculty, department, college, and university aspirations for teaching excellence. The Center offers a range of voluntary opportunities that collectively stimulate and engage the entire faculty to continue to develop their teaching knowledge and skills and to improve student learning. In addition to individually designed projects based on particular needs and objectives, the offerings of the Center reflect the qualities of collaboration, collegiality, community, inclusion, and networking as core values. UNI faculty from all academic departments„as well as professional staff, administrators, and students„use Center resources and participate in Center activities, which are overviewed in Criterion III, Section F. Recognition for the quality of Center activities also is indicated by the acceptance of, and awards received for, peer-reviewed presentations by UNI faculty at professional meetings such as the annual conference of the Professional and Organizational Development (POD) Network in Higher Education.
2. Qualities of an Educated Person. UNI faculty, staff, and students engaged in a three-year "Qualities of an Educated Person" project that undertook a careful analysis and campus dialogue focused on the qualities desired of UNI graduates. Recent national studies confirm that those qualities we believe characterize an educated person are also those most highly desired for a 21st century workforce. Through this process, we have identified the knowledge, skills, and values we think are necessary for students to live thoughtful, free, and productive lives.
3. Experiential Learning. Since 1996, with an infusion of over $300,000, UNI faculty have made the formal commitment and connections to ensure that students have valuable experiential learning opportunities. The spring 1998 Graduating Senior Survey showed that more than 90 percent of graduating seniors had at least one experiential learning activity; more than 30 percent had as many as ten experiential learning opportunities.
4. Campus Technology. Technology is viewed as a means by which the University can better advance its strategic initiatives and mission and as a basic literacy for students, faculty, staff, and administrators in many facets of university life (see UNI 2001-2006 Strategic Plan). Since the last NCA review the University has undertaken a major communications infrastructure upgrade, completely reorganized technology services, and committed itself to taking advantage of new possibilities offered by technology. These changes in direction and new priorities culminated this year in the University's receiving "Honorable Mention" in the prestigious EDUCAUSE awards for "Excellence in Campus Networking" (http:www.educause.edu/awards/network/winners.html).
5. Program of Study. Developed at UNI and now in its pilot phase, the Program of Study (POS) is a cutting-edge computer program that will help students schedule courses and will change the way this university, and presumably others, will approach the task of course planning in the future. The Program of Study is designed to give incoming students the ability to see what courses they need to graduate in their major and plan when they want to take those classes. It will allow students to better plan their progress toward a degree and help the University more efficiently predict the demand for courses. The POS system provides tools to enhance the planning and advising process that are easily accessible from one location, the POS Web site, http://www.uni.edu/pos. The site currently provides online access to degree requirements and individual student degree audits, including the capability to request hypothetical degree audits based on proposed major changes.
6. International Opportunities. Since so many of our students come from Iowa, the University acknowledges special responsibility for providing to them a global experience. UNI provides a variety of opportunities, including study abroad and Camp Adventure (http://www.uni.edu/campadv), for students to gain international experience. As a result of the increased emphasis on this learning experience, UNI was ranked in 1999 by The Chronicle of Higher Education as first in the nation in its category (regional universities) for the number of students having an international experience.
The University of Northern Iowa has a long-standing reputation for excellence. We intend to deliver a 21st-century education to the students of Iowa in preparing Iowa's workforce Ü from teachers to social workers to business leaders Ü and Iowa's global citizens. The liberal arts education provided by UNI's General Education program continues to be the foundation of its undergraduate programs.
Some of the current issues are:
1. Promote the appreciation and integration of a liberal education to an increasingly vocation-oriented student body.
2. Maintain our traditional focus on full-time professors in the classroom while experiencing ongoing enrollment growth.
3. Expand learning opportunities through distance education where appropriate and effective.
4. Build on the progress we have made in enhancing the diversity of students, faculty and staff.
Central to addressing these initiatives and issues is a high-quality faculty. UNI has historically prided itself on offering students full-time professors in the classroom. Indeed, our 2001-2006 Strategic Plan calls for 75 percent of all classes (currently at 65 percent) to be taught by tenured and tenure-track faculty, with an 80 percent target for classes in the major. We believe it is fundamental to our students' education to be mentored by experienced professors who are active in their chosen fields.
UNI is no longer "Iowa's best kept secret." Students have been enrolling in record numbers each of the last several years, and UNI has grown nearly 8 percent in the last five years. At the same time, UNI has experienced a sharp increase in faculty turnover, due in large part to the retirement of those who were hired when the "baby boomers" entered college. Without significant increases in tenure-track faculty lines, we needed either to increase class size or to hire more low-cost, part-time instructors. We chose to maintain average class size without increasing the number of large classes by seeking out the best-qualified adjunct faculty available. The downside is the increased reliance on part-time instructors (though few are graduate assistants). Further exacerbating the situation, the salary bill allocations in the 1999-2000 legislative session were inadequate to fund fully the salary policy and increased benefits costs, forcing the University to use its tuition increase to fulfill these salary requirements. This precluded the normal dedication of tuition increases to quality initiatives in our Strategic Plan.
In 1995, the University had 619 tenure-track faculty. To maintain class size, given the enrollment growth, we would presently need 667 tenure-track faculty. In fact, during 1999-2000, as we reported to the Board of Regents, we had a total of only 593. In Fall, 2000, we are back up to 616. The reduction of tenure-track faculty provided the funds to maintain class size by hiring greater numbers of full-time temporary and adjunct faculty. As a consequence, we now offer 65 percent of our classes by tenure-track faculty, well short of our goal.
The University has identified fully-funded salary increases as well as the addition of 65 critical faculty positions (at a cost of $3 million) as its primary initiatives in the 2000-2001 Legislative Session as well as an argument for significant tuition increase. The funding environment, however, is not expected to be generous, due to many competing state needs. It is already clear that increasing K-12 teacher salary levels will be a top priority in the 2001 session.
We have proposed creating new tenure-track faculty positions in high-demand areas. Well-documented needs compel us to augment teacher education, early childhood education, and the professional development of school principals and superintendents. We will expand in areas of business, computer science, natural sciences, and various areas of the humanities and social sciences, such as communication.
We expect that the addition of tenure-track faculty will contribute to several key areas. More tenure-track faculty will help us enhance the quality of education across the University, improve retention and graduation rates, increase collaboration between the liberal arts and professional programs, increase students' responsibility for their own learning, enhance student learning through experience, and increase the technological sophistication of all graduates.
To continue to build on the University's reputation for providing the highest quality education for our students, UNI has embarked on its largest capital campaign in its history. Success in this campaign will provide more scholarships for more students, move programs to higher levels of excellence, and add much-needed facilities in key areas. Further, the University has aggressively sought to increase financial support through federal funds. UNI achieved record-high levels of funding from federal sources this past year. All of these initiatives will help ensure that the University accomplishes its mission.
Last Modified: 02/14/01