At the end of a decade-long mission to increase student engagement, VCU has a new plan to take the place of the old Quality Enhancement Plan that accredited VCU with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools-Commission on Colleges in 2004. During two town hall sessions debating the future of the QEP on Monday, Nov. 18 and Tuesday, Nov. 19, students and staff discussed the theme of the upcoming 10 years: enhancing student learning.
Mass communications professor Jeff South and English professor Gardner Campbell, Ph.D. are co-directors of the new QEP plan, which consists of four pillars for student success. The two presented the plan on Monday afternoon in the Student Commons Theater to more than 100 faculty and staff in a town-hall style presentation followed by a question and answer segment.
“The old plan was about student engagement,” said Laura Moriarty, vice provost and SACS liaison. “We built the University College, the summer reading program, the peer-advising program, and the core curriculum. All of that came out of the first QEP.”
Ten years after submitting a QEP proposal to increase student engagement, VCU needs another plan in order to have SACS accreditation reaffirmed. The process of developing the new QEP began 18 months ago, said South.
Those programs that were implemented in the first QEP led to an increase in student graduation rate over the 10-year period, but Moriarty said the current graduation rate is not enough.
“That 53 percent graduation rate, nobody’s happy with that,” Moriarty said.
In an effort to increase graduation rates and student success, university faculty and administrators have come up with a plan of four “Pillars 4 Success.”
The first pillar, “discovering connections,” plans to implement altered general education requirements across the university that lead to a better transfer of knowledge across fields.
Examples of the pillar implemented at the student level would be an extension of focused inquiry that emphasizes disciplinary histories, philosophies, methodologies and futures.
The second pillar, titled “contributing to a networked world,” wrestles digital engagement and how students can utilize digital technology to enhance their experience at VCU.
South said that “within this idea lies opportunities for individualized major programs and disciplinary blends as well as increasing the availability of online undergraduate and graduate-program classes.”
“We’ve got students here with full-time jobs pulling 15 credits per semester … the kind of students that we serve (have) very complicated lives, but there are things that we can do,” South said. “If we offer more online courses that allow students to spin ahead during the summer, taking courses that they ordinarily would take during the fall, then we can get them through the program faster.
Pillar three is called “mapping your learning journey,” and essentially proposes a restructuring of academic advising, explained South.
Changes to academic advising could include implementing “Degree Works” to create degree maps and expanding “Early Alert” so students know when they are slipping in their classes and can be notified with enough warning to fix the problem.
The final pillar aims to help students plan for a career after graduation. “Finding your vocation” establishes three “career intervention” points: early engagement and prognosis, career readiness and self-directed online exploration “so that students are not just going to the career center spring semester senior year,” said South.
The new QEP plan is expected to be approved by SACS in spring 2014, but the group will make recommendations as they see fit before authorizing the plan. Once passed, implementation of the QEP will take effect from summer 2014 to summer 2019.