North Central Self Study
Chapter 3: Criterion One
The institution has clear and publicly stated purposes consistent with its
mission and appropriate to an institution of higher education.
Processes, involving constituencies,
through which the institution
evaluates its purposes.
A major theme of the last decade has been to develop an institutional planning process that is,
- collaborative, in that it honors the principles of shared governance and considers the perspectives and expertise of students, faculty, administrative staff, and the wider university community,
- comprehensively introspective, in that it proceeds from thorough analysis of core values and purposes, mission, situation, and the impact (effectiveness) of ongoing activities,
- consequential, in that plans influence decisions on programs and budgets.
In the period since the last NCA Report, the first major analytical and planning effort evidencing these aims was the development of UNK's strategic plan, issued in 1995. This overall design for the next decade was produced in a process that involved extended analysis of the institution's situation, mission, and objectives. Essentials of this process were as follows:
An iterative planning system as described above was implemented in 1993. Its purpose was to plan strategically, that is, to understand the decision-making environment (external and internal factors) and outlook; to focus on mission, priorities, and opportunities; to develop broad objectives in light of the appraisal of situation and mission; and to plan, program, budget, and evaluate operations in light of those objectives. In the Chancellor's view, this new process would differ from earlier planning in two fundamental ways: it would identify objectives firmly grounded in the mission assigned to the campus, and it would be used thereafter to guide decisions about operations and resources. In short, she meant to make the strategic plan - and subsequent planning -- both realistic and consequential.
Strategic Planning Process
During 1993-94, several Administrative Council planning retreats were held in order to review prior plans, to discuss UNK's mission and vision, and to decide how to take planning forward. As academic year 1994-95 opened (and just after the report of the 1994 NCA evaluation had been completed), a new Strategic Planning Committee was formed and charged with the responsibility to prepare, by the end of that academic year, a new strategic plan. Members of the committee included all campus constituencies and - for the first time - representatives of the surrounding community.
The 1995-2005 strategic plan resulted from committee work that included the following benchmarks:
- During September-November 1994, the committee prepared a new mission statement that was favorably reviewed by relevant constituencies including the Faculty Senate and Administrative Council. The committee also produced an "environmental scan" surveying key planning factors (this report is appended to the plan).
- In December 1994 the Chancellor issued guidance to major campus units (headed by members of the Administrative Council), asking each to draft a plan for review by the committee. The guidance identified major principles and factors that each unit plan should consider. It also required units to include both long-term and short-term program objectives and an appraisal of resource requirements.
- The Committee heard presentations on unit plans in February and March, 1995. Clarifications and adjustments resulted.
- The Committee then prepared a university-wide strategy expressing the Chancellor's initial guidance and linked thematically to unit plans (which were included as chapters of the campus-wide plan).
- The completed strategic plan was issued in August 1995.
The plan was intended to be a "living document." That is, while its fundamental commitments have remained in force, details of UNK's strategic posture have been worked out in implementing decisions and adjustments over time. Each such refinement results from a process that appropriately replicates the main parameters of the strategic planning process, including a re-examination of applicable institutional purposes, values, and the status of current activities.
Among the ways in which these adjustments have been developed are the following:
Strategic Planning Committee
The Strategic Planning Committee, composed to represent all constituencies and stakeholders, has continued to function under guidance of the SVCAA as a source of advice both for the Chancellor and for the preparers of plans, programs, and budgets in areas of strategic import. Areas of special interest have included information technology, marketing and communications, academic prioritization, and student recruitment. While the committee, per se, did not prepare plans in these areas (responsible managers did), it monitored activities and advised administrative leaders and planners about challenges and opportunities. It also served as a forum to generate campus-wide understanding of and collaboration on high-value projects. The Committee also undertook discrete special projects that included refining the UNK mission statement (1996-97), analyzing the essential characteristics of a teaching university (1997-98), and managing UNK's participation in a Pew Roundtable consultation and planning process (in 1997). These initiatives concentrated attention on core attributes that leaders have sought to preserve and advance as they have decided budget allocation and reduction issues.
In the immediate future, the most important project undertaken by the Strategic Planning Committee will be to develop a new strategic plan. As was the case a decade ago, this process will begin once the NCA Self-Study and Team Report have been completed, so that planning can take fundamental direction from those assessments.
Top-Level Planning Meetings
After publishing the strategic plan, Chancellor Johnston used annual summer planning retreats to review the status of top-priority projects and to move forward on high-impact initiatives serving strategic objectives. These meetings included, as a matter of course, all members of the UNK Administrative Council, plus faculty, staff, student, and community representation. University Regents have also participated, where they had special interest in the subject matter. Retreats were held annually starting in 1994 through 2001. Topics addressed were chosen annually, based upon the Chancellor's judgment (after Vice Chancellor and Administrative Council input) about the areas needing most attention. They included strategic/budget planning, student recruitment and financial aid strategy, UNK's marketing/communications plan and program, residence hall development, campus diversity, and academic priorities and quality enhancement.
Beginning in 2001, top-level planning has had two major aims: (1) concerted preparation for budget reduction scenarios, involving all campus constituencies in continuing evaluation of university purposes, priorities, and operations, and (2) deliberate self-study preparing for the NCA's 2004 visit and review, which has also involved sustained and comprehensive appraisal of UNK's mission and situation.
Within the overall design of the strategic plan, UNK prepared a number of implementation plans to guide programs and budget decisions in key areas.
- A committee composed of faculty, staff, students, and administrative and Kearney community leaders, and chaired by a member of the Board of Regents, developed a Facilities Master Plan in 1997. This overall design has been further elaborated in an extended (and ongoing) planning process led by the VCB&F for each major construction and renovation project discussed elsewhere in this self-study. A master plan to renovate and refurbish the residence halls will be completed by May, 2004.
- An information technology strategic plan was prepared in 1998 by a campus-wide committee led by the SVCAA. Implementation began in January 1999. This plan assessed UNK's information technology situation, identified shortcomings and opportunities, and recommended initiatives calculated to broaden student and faculty use of technology and to streamline administrative processes. Since that time, we have put over 300 computers in laboratories across campus, completely wired all residence halls for internet access, implemented Lotus Notes e-mail system for all faculty, staff, and students, deployed an on-line student services package (Web For Students), and implemented a campus-wide online course delivery package.
- Planning for institutional marketing and communications activities took initial bearings from a 1995 Image Study prepared by an external consultant and based on constituency survey data. Several iterations of a strategic plan for marketing followed, and a comprehensive plan was issued in 1999 after thorough review and comment by university stakeholders. The Chancellor's summer 1999 planning retreat included extended discussion of marketing activity generated by the plan. Most recently, Varner Hall and campus marketing planners surveyed statewide audiences about university issues. Results have shaped subsequent communications/marketing strategy and activities.
- Concern about declining enrollment led to a draft enrollment management plan in 1997 and comprehensive revision of recruitment and financial aid strategies in 2000. The new strategies were adopted at the summer 2000 planning retreat, after review and comment by all constituencies including community groups such as the Kearney Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Council. These plans are further revised annually in light of recruitment results.
- As the programmatic implications of UNK's aim for distinction in undergraduate education became clearer, Student Affairs and faculty planners generated several initiatives designed to improve student retention. These collaborative projects are reviewed in Chapter 2 and included residential learning communities and a first-year experience program.
UNK's strategic commitment to develop focused excellence in each college was reinforced by the University of Nebraska's academic prioritization process in 1999-2001. Directed by University President L. Dennis Smith, in 1999-2000 a University-wide Commission developed a comprehensive framework to be used by campus planners in evaluating academic programs and identifying those deserving special emphasis. The Commission's plan consisted of a nine criteria template to be applied to programs on each campus. Considerable latitude was allowed, however, and programs were not required to excel on all nine criteria in order to be selected.
In academic year 2000-01 UNK, in a process led by the SVCAA and monitored by the Strategic Planning Committee, identified 14 such programs. Materials describing this process and result are posted on the Academic Affairs website and are also available in the Resource Room. This analytical process, highlighting fundamental university purposes and values, was reviewed on a continuing basis by University Regents in open meetings, and its results were received favorably both by the Board and by various media and interested publics. Nonetheless, in some quarters concern remains that such a program can lead to departmental and program rivalries, and that as of this date non-priority programs have not had a chance to be reconsidered.
Academic Program Review
The Academic Program Review (APR) process at UNK provides a common base for systematic scrutiny - and ultimately improvement -- of all academic programs in light of educational objectives and outcomes. It is department-based, while also including students, alumni/ae, and external consultants, and it is overseen by the SVCAA in coordination with the college dean and the Graduate Dean, if appropriate. Review results are considered in short- and long-range planning. The APR process is normally undertaken for each department in 5-year cycles. Departmental self-studies and APR reports are placed in the Calvin T. Ryan Library archives. In addition, external reporting required by the Board of Regents, the Graduate College, and the Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education have been included or generated from program review documents. Materials pertaining to the APR process are posted on the Academic Affairs website and are available in the Resource Room.
External and Internal Advisory Committees:
UNK leaders have made a sustained and systematic effort to inform key external constituencies about campus issues and to enlist their assistance, advice, and support. Perhaps the most prominent such initiative was the Chancellor's Advisory Group, established by Chancellor Johnston in 1995 and continued by Chancellor Kristensen. This group, composed of prominent Nebraskans, meets several times annually to review major campus challenges and opportunities, to advise administrative leaders about community viewpoints, and to devise ways in which community supporters might assist UNK. This group's support proved vital on such major strategic issues as obtaining legislative support for a new College of Education Building and determining public views about an effort to accredit UNK's business programs. Its input has also influenced UNK marketing and student recruitment programs. At the Chancellor level, moreover, internal advisory committees, representing all concerned constituencies, have played a prominent consultative and collaborative role on subjects including gender equity, diversity, and information technology.
Assessment of Teaching and Learning
The process of on-going assessment is intended to provide information about student learning, engagement, and teaching in order to ensure "a quality educational experience" for students at UNK. The assessment data is gathered and evaluated to assist planning for the improvement of teaching and learning experiences at UNK. The assessment process occurs at a variety of different levels. These are explained below.
Assessment Policies: The assessment policies and guidelines have been undergoing a number of changes during the past three years. The original policies and guidelines were developed in 1992. At that time, the Faculty Senate Academic Affairs Committee developed a draft of policies and guidelines which were reviewed by a number of faculty and administrative groups and approved by the SVCAA. In 2000-01, a new strategic plan for assessment was developed by the SVCAA and an ad hoc Faculty Senate Assessment Committee was appointed to review the existing guidelines. The committee then developed assessment policies and guidelines that more closely met the intent of assessment as specified by the accreditation requirements of the North Central Association. The ad hoc committee's guidelines provided direction for the development of assessment plans and reports by academic departments and interdisciplinary programs.
The Assessment Committee currently reviews all plans and reports and provides feedback to departments and programs. In response to one of its charges, the Assessment Committee is currently developing plans for a permanent committee, which will be transferred from the Faculty Senate to the Office of the Senior Vice Chancellor of Academic and Student Affairs. Within that office, the following administrative changes have been or are in the process of being implemented.
- A Director of Assessment (responsible to the Vice Chancellor) was appointed on an interim basis in August, 2003 to establish the position and chair the ad hoc committee in order to complete the tasks charged to the committee.
- The personnel assignments and positions were reorganized during the fall semester of 2003 to provide a more coherent focus on assessment. The restructured positions include: a permanent Director (who will be appointed as part of a position assisting the SVCAA in the spring semester of 2004), a .50 Coordinator of Assessment (to be appointed as the result of a national search in the spring of 2004), and a Web Site Manager (with a .25 assignment).
- The Assessment Committee will be a permanent committee that recommends assessment policies for the assessment of student learning, engagement, and teaching.
- The roles of the Director and Coordinator will consist of the coordination and implementation of those policies with Colleges, Departments, and appropriate programs that impact students. They will also coordinate the dissemination of data to appropriate groups.
- The Senior Vice-Chancellor will be responsible for the implementation of assessment at UNK. The Deans of the Colleges will be responsible for oversight of the implementation of assessment policies within their respective colleges. The departments and programs will be responsible for developing and maintaining assessment processes that are consistent with the policies and guidelines approved by the Assessment Committee and the Senior Vice-Chancellor.
Assessment at the Institutional Level: Assessment at the institutional level consists of administration of the National Survey of Student Engagement to randomly selected freshmen and seniors. Other surveys administered at graduation include: Graduating Student Survey (administered by the Office of Student Records and Registration), the Graduation Survey, Employment Status of Career Services Registrants, and the Employment Interview Questionnaire (the latter three are administered by the Office of Career Services). The results of these surveys are reported to the SVCAA and posted at the UNK Assessment web site.
Assessment of General Studies: The General Studies Program is assigned to the Office of the SVCAA. Its Director and Council are responsible for setting policy for the program and the assessment of students. It is in the process of implementing a comprehensive assessment plan. It includes an analysis from the Academic Program Review conducted in 2001-02 which includes indirect measures of student perceptions of the program, a curriculum evaluation of course and program objectives conducted in 2002-03, the implementation of a phased process for assessing student learning through direct measures developed by departments offering courses, and analysis of student responses on a standardized national survey (NSSE). The Council has a sub-committee for assessment that guides the process for data collection and analysis. The data is presented to the Council as a whole for discussion and consideration in its planning efforts.
Assessment of Interdisciplinary Programs: Interdisciplinary programs include the Women's Studies Program, Honors Program, and the First Year Program. These programs are assigned to the Office of Academic Affairs. The directors of each program work directly with the UNK Assessment Committee Director and an assigned sub-committee to develop assessment plans.
Assessment at the College Level: The Deans of each College are responsible for oversight of the assessment processes undertaken by the academic programs within their respective College. The Deans work in conjunction with the SVCAA and the Director of Assessment on matters related to the assessment policies and guidelines adopted by the UNK Assessment Committee. The College of Education conducts extensive assessment of teacher certification candidates as a requirement for NCATE and Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) accreditation. Assessment for NCATE and NDE accreditation is supervised by the Dean's Office through the College of Education NCATE Assessment Committee which has been chaired by the Associate Dean. Efforts have been made to link the College of Education assessment processes with those specified by the North Central Association.
Assessment at the Department/Program Level: Assessment of graduating students within majors, both undergraduate and graduate, is the primary responsibility of the department or program. Assessment plans are developed based upon the guidelines and policies of the UNK Assessment Committee. The UNK Assessment Committee facilitates assessment plan development by providing feedback to the department regarding the use of assessment "best practice" criteria. The Director of Assessment (and the Coordinator of Assessment when employed) will assist departments as needed with assessment planning, implementation, and evaluation. Departments periodically report the results of the assessment of students learning to the UNK Assessment Committee, Director, and Coordinator. The report is posted at UNK's Assessment Web Site by the Web Site Manager (See http://aaunk.unk.edu/asmt/dptAsmt/dptasmt.asp). The assessment data is to be incorporated into the Academic Program Review developed by the department as part of its self study and planning process.
The Role of the Faculty Senate
Pursuant to the By-Laws of the Board of Regents, the Faculty Senate is charged with the responsibility of representing the faculty in the process by which UNK evaluates its purposes, especially on academic matters that affect more than one College, and on issues of general concern including institutional planning and the articulation of the role and mission of the University of Nebraska at Kearney. Several Faculty Senate standing committees are involved in the processes by which UNK evaluates its purposes, including committees that address: (a) academic affairs, (b) academic freedom and tenure, (c) academic information technology, (d) athletics, (e) continuing education, and (f) faculty welfare. Further details regarding the Faculty Senate and its committees may be found in Chapter 4.
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