North Central Self Study
Summary and Conclusions
This chapter provides a brief summary of the self-study, restating important conclusions and concerns, and in the process providing evidence that the criteria for accreditation have been met. The chapter ends with a formal request for continued accreditation.
Chapter One provides a general survey of progress made at the University of Nebraska at Kearney in the last 10 years. Several key strategic challenges are identified:
- Continued development as a University and as a distinctive campus within the University of Nebraska
- Seek excellence in undergraduate education while also nurturing complementary graduate programs.
- Emphasis on being a residential university while also serving off-campus and place-bound students.
Other issues requiring continued and/or renewed attention include:
- Planning and budgeting
- Student, faculty and staff diversity
- Enrollment stabilization and planned growth
- External funding
Chapter Two reviews UNK's accreditation history and provides a progress report on the 1994 NCA Team Report. It documents that the strengths identified in 1994 remain so, and the concerns identified have been addressed by the institution. Among the accomplishments cited are:
- Development of an extensive list of Cultural Diversity courses in the General Studies curriculum.
- Increased support for student and faculty research and scholarly activity.
- Significant improvement in retention and graduation rates.
- Progress in diversity hiring of faculty and in student diversity.
- Centers of excellence identified through the academic prioritization process.
- Degree Audit and space utilization processes are in place and functioning.
Chapter Three addresses Criterion One, demonstrating that the institution's mission and purposes are clear and appropriate. Major emphasis is placed on:
- Strategic Planning processes, including academic prioritization and Academic Program Review.
- Assessment of and commitment to teaching and learning.
Important issues requiring sustained planning include:
- It is unlikely UNK can reach the Board of Regents-established goal of being in the top 30 of like institutions nationwide without public understanding and support of our commitment to excellence.
- The role of graduate education needs to be more clearly defined and its importance to the University more clearly articulated.
- Planners must achieve a balance between residential education (and its ramifications) and the commitment and obligation to outreach activities to the region we serve.
Chapter Four presents evidence that UNK effectively organizes its human, financial, and physical resources (Criterion Two). Resource base information for the past 10 years is provided and evaluated in each of the three resource categories. External and internal governance structures and processes are described, including faculty, staff, and student governance mechanisms. Highlights of the resources strengths and concerns include:
Human Resource Strengths
- increasing quality of incoming students
- improving retention and graduation rates
- individual attention received by students
- increasing quality of faculty
- stability at the staff and managerial/professional levels
Human Resource Concerns
- enrollment decline
- student, faculty, and staff diversity
- small number of professional staff in the Student Life division
- potential retirement of one-third of the faculty in the next decade
- comparatively low number of support staff positions
Financial Resource Strength
- high priority placed on academic/instructional functions
Financial Resource Concern
- State of Nebraska fiscal situation and subsequent additional budget reductions
Physical Resource Strengths
- recent construction, renovation, and deferred maintenance projects
- computer technology and access
- "Smart" classrooms are plentiful
- distance education technology and capability
- Student Technology Fee
Physical Resource Concerns
- extensive backlog of maintenance and repair projects
- aging residence halls
- little success in fund raising for capital improvement projects
- diminishing resources for library
- aging campus information network
Chapter Five demonstrates that the University meets Criterion Three: it is accomplishing its education and other purposes. Many of UNK's programs are nationally accredited, and the chapter provides an overview of the programs offered by the academic colleges. Additional focus is on:
- General Studies Program
- Interdisciplinary programs
- Undergraduate student research
- Assessment of student academic achievement
- Effective teaching support
- Student services
It is clear from this chapter that UNK is accomplishing its educational mission. The mission and strategic planning statements of the colleges and General Studies program are consistent with and supportive of the UNK mission statement. Departmental strategic plans, outlined in Appendix B, are derived from the appropriate College mission statement and hence equally supportive.
Several issues addressed in Chapter Five will require further discussion, evaluation and planning to ensure continued success:
- Library funding, staffing and space all require constant review in order for this facility to remain at the core of student and faculty learning and teaching.
- Assessment of student learning outcomes must become more a part of the institution's culture.
- Assessment results must be incorporated into the new strategic planning and budgeting process.
Chapter Six provides patterns of evidence that UNK can continue to accomplish its purposes and strengthen its educational effectiveness, as required for Criterion Four. The chapter reviews the current resource base and describes the decision-making processes in place. Considerable attention is devoted to recent budget-reduction processes, documenting how the institution has remained focused on our primary mission throughout this challenging situation. Effective planning and assessment processes are in place to ensure continued educational effectiveness. In order to facilitate further momentum in this regard, several suggestions may be drawn:
- Strategic planning should begin immediately after the NCA visit and report.
- A means must be found to tie internal academic program reviews with the external accreditation process of specific academic programs.
- The organizational structure currently being put in place to coordinate planning, assessment, budget, and program reviews must become functional.
Chapter Seven documents how UNK meets Criterion Five by promoting integrity in its practices and relationships. The chapter reviews:
- The ways in which UNK articulates fundamental values and expectations.
- Processes developed to ensure that its actions and those of its employees align with these standards.
- Major indicators affirming that UNK remains committed to declared principles.
UNK's commitment to core principles and values has provided a strong foundation for continued improvement and is one of the most prominent features of the institution.
Request for Continued Accreditation
Evidence compiled, evaluated and discussed in this self-study documents that UNK satisfies the five criteria necessary for continued accreditation. The General Institutional Requirements, addressed in Appendix A, are also met.
The University of Nebraska at Kearney formally requests continued accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools for a period of 10 years. In addition, UNK is requesting:
- Approval to offer undergraduate and graduate degree programs via synchronous and asynchronous distance learning technologies, including both telecommunications/videoconferencing and web-based instruction.
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