Topics down to eight for five-year plan

During the course of this semester, workshops were conducted, ideas were gathered and opinions were requested, all with the goal of answering one question: How can the current education system work better for students?

This question drives the Quality Enhancement Plan, said Dr. Michael Turney, faculty coordinator for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools reaffirmation. The QEP is a new component of the SACS reaffirmation of accreditation process. The purpose of SACS, Turney said, is to help control the quality of education. He said SACS is shifting away from the expectation that every institution will fit identical standards, and starting to focus on quality assurance and the improvement of student learning outcomes as it relates to university mission statements.

A well-developed QEP is SAC’s way of promoting ongoing improvement, according to Turney. In an effort to acquire ideas on ways to improve student learning, an e-mail account, Blackboard site and many workshops were set up with the sole purpose of obtaining possible QEP topics for NKU. There is even a suite of offices in Founders Hall 502 dubbed “QEP Central.”

Hundreds of topics were submitted, many of them following common themes, Turney said. He, along with Dr. Samuel Zachary, chair of the QEP Theme and Concept Committee and dozens of others, worked to narrow 262 potential QEP topics suggested by faculty, staff and students into 28 distinct categories. The process continued, Zachary said, with a retreat to narrow down the topics even further.

Kristin Hornsby, a sophomore theatre major, was a student representative on the QEP Executive Committee who participated in an all-day retreat March 20 to whittle the 28 categories into eight topics. “Each committee member was allotted 10 votes to disperse over 28 topics as they saw fit,” Hornsby said. “When this initial vote was over, it was quite clear which topics the committee felt strongly about and which topics, although important, we felt were not befitting of the QEP selection.”

“After much deliberation, we settled on eight overall topics that included a variety of prominent issues,” Hornsby said.

The eight topics were displayed at the QEP poster sessions, held March 28 and 29, as potential ideas to improve student learning at NKU.

Build a community of communicators-A culture emphasizing communication and supporting an environment of critical thinking, creative expression and effective communication.

Create a culture of active learning-Faculty incorporation of active learning will be encouraged, facilitated and rewarded.

Enhance student success-The level of college readiness will be identified and student need will be matched to an academic success plan. Student progress will be monitored and curricular scheduling will align with student needs.

Enrich the student experience and create a sense of place-Create a student experience that will engage students in the university community, promote learning, and enhance achievement by expanding learning communities, encouraging career exploration and including more opportunities for faculty-student interactions.

Expand comfort zones-enhance student learning in a diverse and global environment by developing intercultural communication, helping students understand world perspectives and creating a safe environment where students can engage in dialogue about uncomfortable topics.

Expand international competence-promote student success in a global environment by collaborating in internationalized experiences, acquiring competence in non-English language and integrating international perspectives into their studies.

Promote career exploration-solicit pre- and post-graduation experience-based learning opportunities.

Value diversity-enhance students’ capacity to engage in communication with people of varying backgrounds and identities by designing learning experiences that will enable students to function successfully beyond their past and current experiences.

Hornsby said any of the eight potential topics will be beneficial to NKU and deserve due consideration, but feels strongly about diversity and globalization. “So often I see community members who misunderstand or harbor intolerance for people or groups who are different from them,” she said. “I think it’s important for our students, and the rest of the NKU community, to step out of their comfort zone, this cozy little world they have created, and expose themselves to different races, creeds, cultures, religions, nationalities and orientations.”

Zachary said three open forums will be held where faculty, staff and students may express their opinions on the eight topics. The forums will be held in AC 506 from 9 to 10 a.m. April 4, 12:15 to 1:15 p.m. April 10 and 11 a.m. to noon April 11.

After data is collected from the open forums and the survey, the topics will again be narrowed down by the QEP committees, to about three or four, and submitted to NKU President James Votruba, who will make the final topic decision, Zachary said. After the final topic is decided upon, another committee will begin a plan to implement the idea during the next five years. Zachary emphasizes that the final choice is very complex. “We have to be able to accomplish it, afford it and we have to be invested in it,” Zachary said.