Northwood University - AQIP in Action

April 2008

The April AQIP in Action features Northwood University’s move from a term-based to a semester-based system.  As President Pretty said in his recent announcement:
“The question we must ask ourselves when we make any change is ‘will the proposed change improve the quality of education received by our students and ultimately increase the value of a degree from Northwood University?’ The study determined a number of positive aspects of the calendar change. Opportunities for in-depth study, expanded extracurricular and internship opportunities, more time for student involvement, increased opportunities for study abroad, easier transitions for transfer and guest students, and reduced processing for registration and financial aid were key benefits cited. This conversion allows for all operating units to follow the same calendar as well as the possibility that students could be finished earlier in the summer in order to take advantage of summer internships and jobs.”

Planning for the transition is being led by Kayte Aspray, associate academic dean, Michigan; Lea Holland, MIS chair, Texas; and Kevin Petrovsky, associate professor of science and associate academic dean, Florida.  The Semester Transition Team (STT) Executive Board is now in place and will meet for the first time during this first week in April.  In addition to the tri-chairs listed above, the team consists of:

  • Mike Anguiano (TX) representing Student Services
  • Tina Brisbois (Central) representing the Registrar offices
  • Jamie Burns (MI) representing the Curriculum Committees
  • Theresa Dennings (Central) representing Information Technology
  • Julie Hanna (Lansing) representing UC
  • Justin Harmon (FL) representing the Professional Standards Committees
  • Susan Ridgway (Central) representing Budget and Finance
  • Lisa Seals (TX) representing Financial Aid
  • Dan Toland (MI) representing Admissions

As the format invitation to the members said, serving “will require considerable commitment, time, patience, creativity, and a keen sense of humor.  However, it was your strengths in these areas, your expertise, and your commitment to the University that led to your nomination for this process.”  We sincerely appreciate our colleagues’ acceptance of this role and commitment to the betterment of Northwood University.

We know not every constituency is addressed within the STT Executive Board but please note their work groups (addressed below) will involve all operating units and functions. The STT is overseeing all facets of transition and implementation.  It will meet regularly over the next 30 months to ensure an efficient and seamless transition for students, faculty, and staff. The team will report to our Ops Management Council and, ultimately, into my office.

Phase I Work Groups are already being established and they are as follows:

  • Academic Records and IT co-led by Tina Brisbois and Theresa Dennings with oversight from Kayte Aspray (this group will address all support components for registrar and IT conversions),
  • Budget and Finance (including Financial Aid) led by Susan Ridgeway with oversight from Kevin Petrovsky (this group will address the conversion of financial aid and overall budget monitoring and reporting functions),
  • Calendar Development led by Dr. Dennis Bechtol (FL) with oversight from Kevin Petrovsky (this group will be developing the traditional program calendar – including mini- and summer sessions), as well as the UC calendar – and will also work with Professional Standards on class scheduling formats),
  • Curriculum Development led by Jamie Burns with oversight from Lea Holland (working with program chairs in all operating units, this group will develop the specific curriculums within each major),
  • Professional Standards led by Justin Harmon (FL) with oversight from Kevin Petrovsky (this group will address faculty load, contract issues, class scheduling, and other faculty-related issues), 
  • Transition Curriculum Development led by Kayte Aspray (including representation from Admissions and International Programs, this group will address the conversion of terms to semesters for enrolled and transfer students and articulation agreement students).

We anticipate that many to most Northwood faculty and staff will be called upon to participate in this process – in some way – as additional work groups are created throughout the phased development and implementation plan.

And as per our norm, we need your feedback throughout the process! The Semester Transition Team Executive Board and other representatives will conduct scheduled, open forums for students, faculty, and staff on each campus and within each operating unit.  Forums will present work team efforts, solicit feedback, and answer questions.  This will give students an opportunity to participate in the process.  The first forums are tentatively scheduled the week of May 5th. The STT encourages your input, ideas, and questions.  Please feel free to contact any team member!

Please also allow me to take this opportunity to reaffirm a few items for clarity. We are changing our delivery system – not our entire curriculum. We have recently upgraded and appropriately strengthened our general education offerings and we will not be revisiting those changes from a structural, large picture perspective – let’s teach them through one full cycle (2010) and assess from there. Yet, we should be asking, for example, can a change to semesters allow us to think about delivering our general education package in new and innovative ways? How else can we better reinforce the general education and business confluence? Can we explore various elective choices within our agreed upon areas of study?

Thus, I am asking the STT Executive Board and Work Groups to address this transition from an AQIP perspective – let’s ensure we use a plan-do-study-act approach as we consider all elements related to the change. We are empowering our colleagues to think through our current processes and offerings and ensure they meet and exceed requirements of our students, advisory boards, and the like. Our executive board and work groups are tasked with best practice thinking as we address what prospective and current students as well as employers are telling us about what is important to them:

  • Graduate outcomes: Students that are most transformed in business acumen, critical thinking, and personal effectiveness,
  • Our ability to provide a global and free enterprise perspective,
  • Quality of academic program/major at Northwood and overall academic reputation,
  • Quality of faculty as teachers and mentors and ability to impart expertise in their field of study,
  • Convenient and flexible learning environment.

This is an opportunity for programs and majors to reflect on their overall package of offerings – as our colleagues in Texas have already done – and refine as appropriate. This is an opportunity for us to think differently about learning outcomes not necessarily based on seat time. This is an opportunity for us to think fresh about faculty loads and our compensation system, our student services, and to integrate business and general education, the globalize curriculum, and ensure flexibility within our calendar offerings  – many of the elements issued as calls to actions in last month’s AQIP in Action.

We, therefore, cannot and must not be constrained by the past and what we’ve done to date. We must allow our STT and work groups to operate in an open environment – one in which we question our current processes and offerings to better ensure we are developing the future leaders of a global, free-enterprise society. We all have preconceptions about what semester formats might include and certainly there is a great deal of current literature on standard and even best practices regarding this calendar format.  Let’s remain entrepreneurial and practice what we teach – implement a calendar transition to ensure Northwood’s differentiators are clear and compelling!

Enjoy April and all the transitions it brings!

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