North Central Self Study
Chapter 6: Criterion Four
The institution can continue to accomplish its purposes and strengthen
its educational effectiveness
Current Resource Base
Clearly, the human potential resource that makes up the UNK community is the single most important contribution to the continued success of the institution. The level of student achievement has seen a significant increase over the past decade. Improved ACT scores, grade point averages and class rank for incoming first year students has resulted in greater long-term retention of students and enhanced graduation rates. The goal of greater diversity within the student population, while improving, remains an institutional commitment.
Faculty members, dedicated to academic excellence both in the classroom and through research and publication, continue to achieve impressive educational results. With nearly three-quarters of the faculty possessing terminal degrees, students are challenged to attain their full potential and, in turn, benefit from high academic expectations. The institution will soon face another challenge resulting from one-third of the faculty becoming eligible for retirement during the coming decade. Improved financial resources will be needed to maintain a highly competent faculty body.
Because the need for added financial resources is an ever-growing dilemma in higher education, UNK, like its sister institutions within the University of Nebraska, will continue to face difficult decisions pertaining to program needs. While academic achievement at UNK has continued to improve, even during times of financial stress, the institution's physical plant, even with recent additions and renovations of buildings, still requires substantial additional improvements.
Strong evidence exists that the decision-making process at UNK is clearly defined and results in institutional resilience and adaptability. Under the leadership of two different Chancellors in ten years, the institution's strategic plan, based on a focused vision of excellence while allowing for flexibility in accomplishing that vision, has served as a beacon, giving direction to program, budget and policy decisions. Using the strategic plan for guidance, the Chancellor's Administrative Council, the Council of Deans, the Faculty Senate, Staff Senate and Student Senate as well as open forums have all been a part of the decision-making process.
Without the abundance of human resources that exists in the UNK community and the spirit of cooperation and a commitment to accomplish the best results possible, often within severely limited options, the decision-making process would be burdensome at best. But a "can do" attitude prevails, giving a positive outlook toward a bright future.
A wide variety of assessment processes are in place for the purpose of identifying both institutional accomplishments and needs. Paramount among these processes is the systematic assessment of student learning. These established strategies, both formal and informal, result from the recognition that continued assessment of student learning outcomes and the extended broad range of extra-curricular experiences offered to students, is the life-blood for future institutional progress and achievement.
Effective Planning Processes
Continuous planning is the hallmark of an efficient and effective institution. At UNK three levels of planning allow for coordinated efficiency:
- University of Nebraska-wide planning begins with the Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education (CCPE), which oversees all institutions of higher learning in Nebraska. The University of Nebraska Central Administration coordinates the four university affiliates under the authority and guidance of the Board of Regents.
- Campus-wide planning begins with the UNK Strategic Plan 1995-2005 and is administered by the Strategic Planning Committee, whose membership includes the Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs (Chair), all Vice-Chancellors, a dean, representative Faculty Senate leaders and faculty members, staff members, students and community representatives.
- The third level of effective planning resides within each College, Department and Major Unit. With a constant flow of information up and down the administrative continuum, Deans, Department Chairs and Unit Directors oversee and implement the short and long-term vision of the planning process.
Resources Organized to Strengthen Institution
The University of Nebraska at Kearney is well positioned to continue accomplishing its purposes while, at the same time, strengthening its educational effectiveness. Although significant educational achievement is juxtaposed with continued critical institutional needs, it is the spirit and vitality of UNK's human resources that predict a bright future for the university. With an effective strategic plan in place and administrative units capable of implementing the vision set forth in the plan, a spirit of cooperative accomplishment continues to prevail. Even with continued budget cuts resulting in necessary restructuring of some administrative units, administrators, faculty, staff and students have cooperatively and effectively maintained forward momentum that will define the future quality of higher education at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.