CRITERION III: Accomplishments

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G. Student services effectively support the institution's purposes

As Robert J. Menges and Maryellen Weimer (Teaching on Solid Ground: Using Scholarship to Improve Practice, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1996) observed, "better undergraduate education begins with a more complete and informed understanding of students and learning" (p. 13) and "what happens to students in classrooms relates to their lives outside of the classroom . . . any given experience is part of a web of experiences that ultimately affect individual students" (p. 18). This larger perspective for understanding students and their learning experiences at UNI is reflected in the emerging close working relationships between Academic Affairs and Educational and Student Services. Well-grounded and executed studies provide insightful and useful information about the expectations, preparation, experiences, satisfaction, problems, and achievements of our students. Such scholarly inquiry is essential for the mutual understanding and informed, coordinated action of personnel in both academic affairs and student services. Our focus here is limited to one central question: What evidence indicates that student services support the educational purposes of UNI? An array of studies and surveys that respond to this question are described.

A review of retention rates, persistence data, enrollment data, our ACT freshmen profile, and the high school rank and ACT scores of entering freshmen provide evidence that the educational services afforded to undergraduate students are effective and commensurate with the abilities and expectations of students who are admitted to the University. This conclusion is also supported by a comparison of ACT scores, retention, persistence, and graduation data (Additional information is avavilable in the NCA Report Appendix. Print copies are available for review at UNI's Rod Library).

The University seeks to improve its services to students in a variety of ways. Student services are evaluated and improved using formal techniques that include institutional surveys, standardized instruments, outside consultants and focus groups. Examples of these include:

1. Enrollment Management Study, sponsored by the President and the Vice President for Educational and Student Services and conducted by Williams-Crockett and the Noel-Levitz Center for Enrollment Management in 1993. An Executive Enrollment Potential Analysis was conducted to provide feedback regarding our current approach to marketing, recruiting, and retention as well as to provide recommendations for short-term actions that would enhance enrollment. As a result, computer automation was increased; staff training and development were provided for professional admissions counselors; promotional strategies were developed for target student groups; the inquiry pool was developed; a comprehensive enrollment plan was developed; an analysis of financial aid effectiveness was conducted; and assistance was provided in building an enrollment management database needed to support enrollment planning and decision-making.

2. Student Wellness Recreation Center Study, sponsored by student government and the Office of the Vice President for Educational and Student Services. This initiative solicited student opinion and concerns and resulted in the development of a concept paper used by the architects in designing the Wellness Recreation Center.

3. Student Involvement Survey, under the sponsorship of the Office of the Vice President for Educational and Student Services. This survey was conducted to gain a better understanding of how students spend their time outside the classroom in employment, student activities, and academic endeavors. A major outcome of the study was expanded weekend programming funded by student fees. The study also provided insight into the role of employment both on and off campus in student success.

4. Student Alumni Survey, sponsored by the Office of Placement and Career Services, the Office of the President, the Center for the Enhancement of Teaching, and the Center for Social and Behavioral Research and conducted by the Center for Social and Behavioral Research. The purpose of this periodically administered survey is to examine the relationship of undergraduate education with work and other post-graduation life experiences. Information is gathered about the reasons for selecting UNI and a major, satisfaction with UNI and a major, student experiences, the purposes of an undergraduate education, qualities (skills, knowledge, and values), the job search process, first and current work positions of graduates, interests and needs for continuing education, and interest in participation in UNI activities. Findings from this survey have been used as evidence of the need for the University's Experiential Learning Program and other Placement initiatives. The data have also been used to examine student knowledge and opinion regarding the University's General Education program.

5. Student Health Clinic Evaluation, sponsored by University Health Services and conducted by a team of outside medical consultants from Allen Memorial Hospital, Waterloo. The purpose of the study was to conduct an overall review of the operations of the Student Health Clinic. This study resulted in recommendations affecting women's health care, supervision of the medical staff, implementation of a Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) program, and accreditation of the clinic.

6. University Food Services Study, co-sponsored by the Maucker Union and the Department of Residence, and conducted by Ricca Planning Studios. The purpose of this study was to assess customer satisfaction, needs and preferences for food services on the campus, evaluate equipment and facilities for support of future services, and to determine the most efficient and effective use of campus resources. The findings of the study prompted a redesign of the food services of the campus: Residence Dining will have exclusive food service responsibilities in the Union and for other operations on campus, as well as in residence dining centers. Additionally, extensive facility modifications are planned for residence dining centers and the union in order to respond to customer and market conditions.

7. Residence System Annual Satisfaction Study, sponsored by the Department of Residence and conducted using a benchmarking firm's survey (Educational Benchmarking Information). The purpose is to assess residents' satisfaction with the on-campus living and dining experience, to learn of areas of strengths and weaknesses, to use the information to build on strengths and address weaknesses, and to use the data to monitor satisfaction in relation to peer departments on other selected campuses. The results of the assessments have contributed to: provision of weekend custodial services, residence hall substance-free houses, smoke-free environments, staff training and development modifications to achieve results in areas of weakness, expanded housing options, and food service enhancements.

8. Student Use, Satisfaction, and Climate Surveys, sponsored and conducted by the Office of Information Management and Analysis (Institutional Research). Numerous and ongoing studies about student use of and satisfaction with various student services are conducted annually and reported by the IMA office. These studies are widely distributed and considered by institutional officials in program delivery modification and funding.

The net result of these efforts is that programs and services are developed or modified on the basis of expressed student needs as well as the expertise of outside consultants with knowledge of best practices.

In 1996, the Division of Educational and Student Services established a standing Student Research Committee. The committee's charge is to "conduct assessments to facilitate the improvement of divisional programs and services which impact students." To date the committee has sponsored two studies:

1. College Student Experience Questionnaire: Administered twice by the ESS Research Committee (Spring 1999 and Spring 2000), the CSEQ is helping us establish baseline and trend data of student self-reported learning experiences and outcomes associated with a liberal education.

2. Study of Withdrawing/Non-returning Students: The purpose for this study was to gather feedback regarding why some students do not continue at the University of Northern Iowa.

Establishment of a standing ESS Research Committee reflected a desire to move beyond assessment of programs and services to consider questions of institutional climate and educational impact. A further step was taken in 2000 with the employment of Stamats Communications to look at student service delivery across the institution, including financial, academic, and administrative student services.

At the graduate level, an Associate Dean for Student Services (Graduate College) serves as the academic adviser for all non-degree students. This individual is also responsible for articulating, monitoring, and implementing (on behalf of the Dean of the Graduate College) graduate academic policies and procedures related to admission, academic progress, the development and implementation of individual student academic programs, graduate student academic grievances, and the orientation of new graduate assistants.

In conclusion, changes in student services over the past ten years have been incremental, deliberate, and increasingly based on formal methods of assessment and knowledge of best practices. What is judged as appropriate or educationally purposeful depends ultimately on clearly defined and broadly accepted learning outcomes for students. Over the past ten years, our expected learning outcomes have been expressed specifically (e.g., learning that results from experiential education) and more broadly (e.g., as the knowledge, skills, and values expected of an educated person). Effectiveness in student services is realized when students achieve these expected educational outcomes.


Criteria I
Criteria II
Criteria III
Criteria IV
Criteria V
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