Northwood University - AQIP in Action

March 2008

In this month’s AQIP in Action, we thought it best to provide an overview of common themes from our recently completed Program Reviews for all undergraduate academic programs. We visited with department chairs and faculty in Florida on February 25-26, Michigan on February 27-28, and Texas on March 3-4.

At the heart of AQIP is the focus on “where you are” and “where you are going” as an institution by addressing processes, results, and improvement opportunities – a pulse check of sorts. Accordingly, our Program Reviews began with a base of information on each department’s mission and outcomes; student profile and evidence of student learning; feedback from alumni, employers and advisory committees; faculty profile; internal and external partnering opportunities; resource availability; and a SWOT (Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats) analysis. Not coincidentally, these areas address, in part, the nine AQIP categories we use within our accrediting and improvement process.

The discussion-based sessions revealed several common themes. These include:

  • Faculty are deeply engaged in the teaching/learning process and willing to be further engaged as we move forward. This engagement especially came through in discussions regarding collaborations with admissions, advancement, alumni affairs, external advisory committees, and international programs. Our call to action is to ask admissions and advancement personnel to engage more fully with deans and department chairs on possible growth opportunities.
  • Hands-on, practical, experiential learning is crucial to our enterprise, as is the continued growth of our undergraduate sites as they develop further into full-service undergraduate campuses.
  • Freshman engagement with full-time faculty seems to be a characteristic of many departments experiencing enhanced freshman to sophomore retention. Our call to action is to ask deans and departments to consider such as they review departmental retention data and teaching assignments.
  • Capstone experiences appear to be an avenue for appropriate closure in a student’s experience. Our call to action is to ask departments to give further thought on how capstone experiences can be enhanced.
  • It is quite clear there is a desire for further integration of general education and business disciplinary skills – blending a focus on critical thinking, reading, writing, and math skills across the curriculum and crafting content and assignments to fully engage our learners no matter what course or program. Our call to action is to ask deans to consider how we can continue to champion critical thinking integration across the curriculum.
  • It is also readily evident that soft skills are crucial throughout all programs, desired by advisory committees/employers, and key to what we do for all courses as we develop future leaders of a global, free-enterprise society.
  • Department chairs serve as key student advocates. Our department chair role is variable, though, beyond this. We have opportunities to think through both the curricular and administrative and leadership functions within and across departments and campuses. Our call to action is to consider – with the help of Professionals Standards Committees and Curriculum Committees – how to maximize One Northwood curriculum identity, embrace, and protect campus curriculum identity, and address department administrative activities in a more efficient, robust, and empowering manner.  
  • There appears to be a readily available opportunity to provide courses and defined course content across campuses via ITV and/or online venues. Our call to action is to ask deans to work with chairs in identifying opportunities that may exist in the immediate future.
  • We see a defined need to provide further support for students via learning centers. Our call to action is to ask deans to work with faculty in moving toward full-service learning support centers on each campus.
  • We see a learning environment opportunity relative to classroom design, classroom furniture, and the like. Our call to action is to begin addressing these issues via our strategic plan.
  • Enhanced support for faculty would be appreciated. Areas discussed and thus our call to action includes providing: a refined instructional improvement program and opportunities for professional development; on-ground and practical assistance with assessment activities; actionable and accurate data about students and programs; online teaching assistance related to instructional design and online standards; and an environment whereby our library services continue to reflect student and faculty needs.
  • We have made great strides in the IT area over the last several years. Our call to action is to ask IT to continually assess faculty end-users relative to needs and overall satisfaction and address gaps uncovered in the process.
  • Faculty Summits are falling short of maximizing total value (for faculty of all types, locations, and disciplines). Our call to action is to work with the Professional Standards Committees in proposing on-going summits (in-person, virtual, etc.) focused on cross-campus departments collaborating on curriculum development/mapping, delivery, assessment, and improvement issues.
  • Advisory Committees offer great value to departments that use them in a semi-structured to more formal manner. Further, general education faculty agreed it would be useful to take part in advisory committee meetings in some way. Our call to action is to ask department chairs to consider the current structure of their advisory committees, seek to continually improve such, and converse with general education faculty about involvement in these committees.
  • Adjunct and full-time faculty pay issues are a continuing concern. Our call to action is to make sure these are addressed in an ongoing process via strategic planning, each budget cycle, and each new hire.
  • Terms to semesters is an issue that seemingly every faculty member is ready to resolve. Pros and cons were cited for either format and the majority of faculty conveyed that a possible conversion would involve a repacking of courses and course material – something our Texas colleagues have already undergone due to changing State guidelines. Our call to action is to provide a decision after the Officer Team strategic planning session in mid-March.

Many other departmental opportunities arose during the sessions and the academic deans will provide feedback on those (e.g., textbooks, internship coordination, study abroad opportunities, etc.). The Program Review reports and visits will be used as an input into our strategic planning activities as we advance toward providing the Board of Trustees with our strategic plan in May.

In summary, a key takeaway is the need for enhanced collaboration up, down, across, and throughout campuses and programs. Please note we will be constructing similar Program Reviews for the DeVos Graduate School of Management, University College, and International Programs in the short term.

Thank you for your time, energy, and engagement in the Program Review process. Keep on improving the teaching and learning process for our students and each other!

Have a great month of March!

John Jasinski
Executive Vice President/Chief Academic and Operating Officer Northwood University