Many of our discussions on campus over the past year have focused on retention. However, I think you will agree that retention is simply one aspect of the much broader issue of student success. Discussions with faculty, staff and students suggest we have opportunities to dramatically improve student success by focusing on four areas:
- an academic culture that provides clear expectations
- support for strong academic advising
- academic and administrative policies and procedures that support a culture of student success
- reform of the undergraduate educational experience
Some issues are structural in nature and we have begun to address these with:
- New deregistration policy to ensure all students are adequately prepared to meet their financial obligations.
- Improved tools for academic progress reporting based on faculty feedback about cumbersome systems currently available. We are working to have new software in place for fall, and details will be coming soon.
- Better learning management system to replace Blackboard system. Again based on faculty feedback, we will replace Blackboard with the Canvas learning management system. Pilot groups of faculty are already using the system and additional training will be available this fall as we work toward full implementation by fall 2013.
- Appropriate academic advising for all students by clarifying our advising processes and providing resource support for our academic advisors.
Other issues are more philosophical in nature and go to the very heart of our values as an institute of higher learning. I am most appreciative of the various faculty who took the time this past spring to engage in debate about ways to strengthen our academic culture. These discussions have continued this summer.
A group of faculty is also serving on the University Academic Policy Taskforce and has been working this summer on reviewing our academic policies and procedures, which will result in recommendations for Undergraduate Council this fall.
Finally, the cornerstone of our efforts to refocus on student success is the development of a coherent and connected educational experience that prepares our students for their future. I am pleased that six teaching grants have been awarded to groups of faculty in support of innovative pedagogies and approaches to enhance student learning. Additionally, during spring term, more than 400 faculty and staff provided their comments and rankings of potential changes to the undergraduate curriculum. This fall, we will work with Undergraduate Council, CAA and Faculty Senate on these changes, including a meaningful assessment system. While assessment is important to monitor our student's abilities and accomplishments, it is also critical as we prepare for our reaccreditation visit from the Higher Learning Commission.
Although we already have many of the components of an integrated and connected undergraduate program, we could be even more effective with improved support and coordination across our various colleges. Thus, I have asked Dr. Sue Houston to work to reorganize the ways in which we support and coordinate the undergraduate curriculum and the various high impact programs such as learning communities.
Finally, we must also focus on the success of our graduate students. Implementing the various initiatives recommend by the Graduate Programs Task force will be important work this next year.