Senate Document Number 0299F

Date of Senate Approval 9/09/99

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Statement of Faculty Senate Action:



September, 1999

The University of North Carolina at Asheville seeks approval to pursue the Alternate Model for Institutional Self-Study in preparation for the Reaccreditation Review by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools scheduled for spring, 2002. For reasons explained in the second part of this proposal, we would like to use the self-study as the occasion to study how to enhance the development of students in accordance with our mission as a public liberal arts institution.


This section documents UNCA's compliance with the threshold requirements for the Alternate Model for Institutional Self-Study, including discussions of our institutional effectiveness program, compliance with the Criteria for Accreditation, recent compliance history, and record of financial stability.

Institutional Effectiveness Program

UNCA's institutional effectiveness program is informed by its history as a public liberal arts university, its membership in the University of North Carolina system, and the recommendations and suggestions it received from the SACS visiting team during the campus visit in 1992. The program employs regular planning and assessment to make budgetary decisions and provide for continuous improvement. The program applies to all four principal administrative divisions--Academic Affairs, Student Affairs, Financial Affairs, and University Relations. It was first implemented in the academic area and has been gradually extended to the other divisions. During the last few years, a team for planning and assessment has been visiting all the departments of the faculty and main offices of the other divisions of the University. In the past academic year, it concluded its first complete cycle of visits.

The institutional effectiveness program is supported by the Office of Institutional Research, an integral part of the planning and assessment activities throughout the university. The Director of Institutional Research serves as the University Planning Officer and coordinates the strategic planning process. The Director also serves on the Chancellor's Council and the University Planning Council, the group that is responsible for reviewing assessment information, budgets, and planning. The Office of Institutional Research also provides regular and ad-hoc reports that help to guide decision-making by individual faculty and staff, department chairs and unit managers, vice chancellors, groups with an institution-wide perspective (the University Planning Council, the Chancellor's Council, and the Board of Trustees), and the Chancellor.

Such are the broad outlines of UNCA's institutional effectiveness program. Its specifics can be set out most clearly by first showing a bottom-up view of the program in operation and then outlining the planning process.

A Bottom-up View of the Institutional Effectiveness Program. To present the institutional effectiveness program more concretely, we will trace it from the bottom up and on the academic side of the organization. This view is basically representative, for the program applies fully to Student Affairs, Financial Affairs, and University Relations as well, although with slight difference in details. Thus we begin our description with the individual faculty member. The annual evaluation for faculty includes elements of assessment, feedback, and planning for improvement. The process includes numerical and written evaluations by students which are overseen by the Office of Institutional Research, with results sent to faculty, department chair, and the director of any interdisciplinary program the course may belong to. Observations of teaching by peers and evaluations by interdisciplinary program directors figure into evaluations and the results are shared with the evaluee. These evaluations and the annual Faculty Record compiled by the faculty member are used in the chair's annual evaluation, which is reviewed by the faculty member and discussed in conference with the chair. The annual record incorporates a section wherein the faculty member proposes professional goals for the following year, in consultation with the chair. The fulfillment of these goals figures in future evaluations. At decision points for re-hiring, promotion, and tenure, the review is more broadly based, with input from department members and an elected faculty committee. For tenured faculty, a post-tenure review is conducted every five years, in which the person's contributions for that period are assessed and, in case of deficiency, a program for improvement may be required.

Immediately beyond the individual faculty member is the department or program; for the sake of brevity we will use the word "department" to include non-departmental academic programs, which play a large role at UNCA. Every year departments file reports and the Office of Institutional Research compiles information pertinent to the evaluation of departments, publishing this in the Department Profile. These results are fed back to department chairs, who use them for improvement, for planning, and as a source of information to support budgetary and position requests. The Profile is also used by Academic Affairs in assessing majors, planning, and acting on budgetary and position requests.

Two important elements in the annual assessment and planning activities of each department are its Plan to Improve Student Learning and the end-of-year meeting. The Plan describes the mission of the department, its objectives, and the assessment tools used to evaluate the attainment of its objectives. The Plan serves as the basis for collective discussion at the end-of-year department meeting. It is here that careful assessment of departmental teaching activities and curriculum takes place and changes in support of learning are suggested. The end-of-year meeting also provides an opportunity to plan and make budget recommendations.

The final element that applies to the department is its Annual Operating Plan, which is produced at the end of each academic year. The Operating Plan reports on the department's teaching, scholarship, and service activities for the year just completed; assesses the extent to which it achieved its plan for the year just completed; develops an operating plan for the year to come; and presents a budget for the year to come that ties the operating plan specifically to its Plan for Improving Student Learning. The Operating Plan is distributed to all members of the department for their use during the year to come and is also transmitted to Academic Affairs, which uses it for assessment, for planning, and for budgeting. The Operating Plan serves as a basis for end-of-year discussions that the department chair has with the staff of Academic Affairs, including its Vice Chancellor.

Immediately beyond the individual department or program is Academic Affairs itself. As previously mentioned, Academic Affairs receives annual Faculty Records from each faculty member and Annual Operating Plans from each department and program. In addition it receives from the Office of Institutional Research the annual Department Profile along with the annual New Student Survey and the annual Graduating Senior Survey. This information is used to assess the overall academic program, to plan, and to formulate budgets.

At the end of each academic year Academic Affairs reports on and assesses its activities during the year just completed, develops a plan for the year to come, and develops a budget in accordance with the plan. These, along with similar reports from Student Affairs, Financial Affairs, and University Relations, go to the Chancellor's Council for discussion and reconciliation in light of the university's strategic plan. During the year, the staff of Academic Affairs meets weekly to monitor its activities. Monitoring is supported by reports prepared by the Office of Institutional Research and Enrollment Management.

Beyond Academic Affairs is the Chancellor's Council, which is comprised of the Chancellor, the Vice Chancellors of the four administrative divisions of the university, the Planning Officer, other administrative officers, and the Chair of the Faculty Senate, who sits by invitation. This group, which meets weekly, operates in light of the university's strategic plan, with careful attention to the mission of the university and the "guiding concepts." It assesses performance by the divisions, sets plans, and makes budgetary recommendations to the Chancellor. The Office of Institutional Research supports these activities through its periodic Perceptions of Administrative Offices Survey and various surveys of students; a periodic Alumni Survey compiles information about recent graduates. The Chancellor's decisions about planning, assessment, and budgeting are subject to approval by UNCA's Board of Trustees and the General Administration of the University of North Carolina system. Thus the policies and procedures of those bodies also play a role in UNCA's institutional effectiveness program.

Strategic Planning. Planning at UNCA takes place on a five-year cycle with embedded cycles of one and two years. The process is guided by the University Planning Officer (Director of Institutional Research) in conjunction with the University Planning Council, a group of faculty, administrators, and students that, in addition to playing a central role in strategic planning, reviews and critiques programs and budget proposals of administrative units, including academic departments. The first phase of the strategic planning process takes place during the first six months of the five-year planning cycle. It is devoted to developing an overall vision statement that identifies environmental opportunities and constraints and matches them with institutional strengths. The group reviews the university's mission and, in light of the previous matching, develops "guiding concepts" that give substance to the mission. In phase two, previously existing goals and plans are aligned with this new strategic vision. Phase three carries the new goals into the university's plans with respect to finance, enrollment, human resources, organization, and facilities. The last phase of the process develops new plans for departments and other units and reviews budgeting. Academic and other programs are added or deleted in accordance with the Strategic Plan.

After the first full year of the planning process, phases two through four repeat, using feedback from the last iteration of the process so that the current plan is continually revisable in light of experience. At the end of five years, the planning process is repeated in its entirety. Please see Appendix 1 for a schematic of UNCA's strategic planning process. The practical implications of strategic planning are spelled out in a document, UNCA Action Plans, which is updated annually. Please see Appendix 2 for an example.

The results of the planning process are disseminated throughout the university community. In this way the mission of the university, as translated through the "guiding concepts," forms a background for planning, assessment, and improvement.

Summary. UNCA's institutional effectiveness program is extensive and applies to all units of the institution. It incorporates strategic planning, as well as annual planning and assessment, to make budgetary decisions and provide for continuous quality improvement. Its planning, assessment, and uses of assessment take place on many levels and are coordinated by common reference to the strategic plan.

                    Compliance with Criteria for Accreditation

The University of North Carolina at Asheville takes to heart Socrates' admonition that the unexamined life is not worth living. Likewise, it is only through planning, acting, reflecting in light of assessment, and repeating the cycle continually that an institution becomes worthy of support. In light of this commitment and the institutional effectiveness program discussed above, the university believes that it is substantially in compliance with the Criteria for Accreditation.

Recent Compliance History. UNCA was last engaged in the accreditation process of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools during 1990-92, the visiting team being on campus during April 20-23, 1992. As a result of that visit the team made 24 recommendations to the university. Please see Appendix 3 for a complete list. In response to the team's recommendations, UNCA formed a committee to take appropriate action and reply to the recommendations. The reply was sent to the Southern Association in a document dated September 30, 1992. As a result of the visiting team's recommendations and UNCA's reply, the Commission on Colleges reaffirmed the accreditation of the university at its meeting on December 7, 1992. At its meeting the Commission requested a First Follow-Up Report on 16 recommendations, which the university submitted on September 30, 1993. Upon receipt and study of the report, the Commission requested a Second Follow-Up Report on 5 recommendations, which the university submitted on October 7, 1994. Subsequently, on January 4, 1995, the Commission requested a Third Follow-Up Report on one recommendation, which the university submitted on May 1, 1995. In order to fully address the final recommendation, "that the university incorporate a competency dimension including evaluative measures which insure competence in oral communication in each major," UNCA reworked its academic requirements during fall, 1995, to ensure competency in oral communication. On January 4, 1996 the Commission informed the university that no additional report was requested. UNCA's fifth-year report, submitted on September 29, 1997, required no subsequent action by the university.

A recurring theme in the original 24 recommendations made by the visiting team from the Southern Association and the subsequent Follow-Up Reports requested by the Commission was concern about the process for systematic planning, assessment, and use of assessment at UNCA, as well as the documentation of these processes. Given a better institutional effectiveness program, presumably, many of these recommendations would not have been made. UNCA's current institutional effectiveness program, described above, is notably superior to the program of eight years ago, and we believe that the concerns that gave rise to most of these recommendations no longer apply. The university believes that it is substantially in compliance with the Criteria for Accreditation. Furthermore, the university now welcomes the opportunity for continuous quality improvement that systematic planning, assessment and uses of assessment present.

Financial Stability

The University of North Carolina was the nation's first state-supported institution of higher education and the University of North Carolina system has a reputation as one of the most respected state university systems in the country. Within that system, the University of North Carolina at Asheville has the unique designation as North Carolina's public liberal arts university. UNCA draws substantial financial stability from its membership in the UNC system and its unique educational role. From fiscal year 1991-92 through 1998-99, state appropriations increased 43 percent and total current funds expenditures increased 53 percent. During this time, state appropriations continued to provide about 58 percent of total funding, with the remaining 42 percent being provided by student tuition and fees, sales and services, contracts and grants, and investment and endowment income. During this same period UNCA's total endowment increased from $4.5 to $13.3 million, an increase of 190 percent.

In April 1993, UNCA received an "A" credit rating by Moody's Investors Service ("A3" under Moody's 1996 refined rating scale). This upper medium rating was upgraded from the previous "Baa" rating, with the report explaining, "A history of strong state support has contributed to a sound financial record, indicated by a trend of growing operating surpluses. Demand for the University's services is strong relative to other public institutions, and the character of this small liberal arts school makes it unique among North Carolina's public universities." Moody's Investors Service affirmed UNCA's credit rating in December 1998.

In short, UNCA, a unique member of a highly regarded state university system, has been experiencing strong demand for its educational services, has had a recent financial history characterized by increasing operating surpluses, and recently had its bond rating upgraded. These characteristics reflect UNCA's financial stability.

Summary. This section has addressed UNCA's compliance with the threshold requirements of the Alternate Model for Institutional Self-Study. It has shown that UNCA has a functioning institutional effectiveness program, believes that it is substantially in compliance with the Criteria for Accreditation, has a history indicating no major problems with compliance, and has a recent history of financial stability. During the 1999-2000 academic year UNCA will face the future with a new chancellor, Dr. James H. Mullen. There could be no better time for the university to undertake a thorough examination of its most important responsibility--enhancing the development of students. A full examination of this strategic focus is presented in the next section.

         II. Strategic Focus: Enhancing The Development of students

Context. UNCA is fairly young as a four-year institution. It grew out of a locally supported community college that was founded in 1927. In the 1960s it became a four-year, state-supported institution with a distinctive mission, recognized by the state legislature, as a public liberal arts college. In 1969, Asheville-Biltmore College became one of the constituent institutions of the University of North Carolina and adopted the present name. The Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina has recognized UNCA's role as the state's public liberal arts university, committed to high-quality undergraduate education. In 1992, UNCA was reclassified as a "Liberal Arts I" institution under the new Carnegie terminology.

Today, we have a student body of about 2700 FTE pursuing degrees in the arts, humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and "selected pre-professional and professional programs firmly grounded in the liberal arts." We also offer a modest Master of Liberal Arts program, and, additionally, the campus provides space in the evening for a number of graduate programs offered by other UNC institutions. The campus is also home to the North Carolina Center for Creative Retirement and its College for Seniors program. For a good part of its existence, UNCA drew most of its students from the immediate local region. A large majority were commuters, many were older, and many were part-time. While the University could take pride in the high quality of its academic program, its co-curricular programs and services were minimal. Gradually over the past fifteen years, we have come to have more traditional-age students, more from outside Western North Carolina, and more residents on campus (1113 beds available for 1999).

This pattern of change suggests that it is time for a careful examination of UNC-Asheville as a community that should be fostering personal growth in its students along several dimensions. The strategic focus we propose for our Alternate Model Self-Study is studying how to enhance the development of students in accordance with our mission as a public liberal arts institution. The project would entail clarifying goals for student development, examining the match between programs and goals, and developing strategies for assessing outcomes. It would emphatically not be limited to a study of Student Affairs and related programs, but would extend fully into the academic area and other divisions of the university, for directly or indirectly, virtually every part of the university is engaged in the development of students.

How the strategic focus was identified. Historically, UNCA has promoted the intellectual development of its students through rigorous and, in some ways, distinctive academic programs. These include a substantial general education program with interdisciplinary core courses in arts and humanities and a language requirement for all students, as well as courses in social science, natural science and math; a prominent national position in Undergraduate Research; a requirement that teacher-certification candidates complete a major in a liberal-arts field; and an Honors Program.

More recently, we have seen a substantial increase in co-curricular programs and activities designed to promote student development in other areas. These recent additions include a First Year Experience program, learning communities, Bulldog Day (a service learning project), and others. Since fall, 1996, each freshman student entering UNCA has had the opportunity to participate in a First Year Experience course. Many of these courses are traditional beginning courses augmented with activities and information important for academic success. UNCA launched its first officially designated Learning Community in fall, 1998. In this pilot project, twelve students enrolled together in a cluster of five courses that fall and then in two courses in spring, 1999. This diverse group of students and faculty participated in service learning and cultural events and traveled to Texas and Mexico. Service learning and participation in cultural events have been incorporated into the core Humanities Program. The Key Center for the promotion of service learning was established in 1998. Clearly, faculty and staff alike have been taking an increased interest in the development of the whole student.

Over the past year the Office of Student Affairs sponsored several lunch meetings where faculty members were invited to meet with student affairs staff to discuss ways to better integrate the student affairs and academic programs for students. There is a recognition on campus that these two aspects of student development need to be more closely united. Last spring, as the faculty began to discuss the possibility of the alternate model self-study, the question, "What do we want our graduates to be like?" emerged repeatedly. Meetings were held with the department and program chairs, the University Planning Council, the Academic Policies Committee, the Faculty Senate, the Academic Affairs staff, Student Affairs staff, and the Chancellor's Council. All the bodies that were consulted supported the idea of pursuing the alternate model, and the Senate voted to approve it. General e-mail was also sent to all faculty and staff inviting suggestions regarding the focus for an alternate model self-study. All the responses were strongly positive. The outcome of these meetings and discussions was the focus on enhancing the development of our students in the light of our mission.

Goals for the alternative self-study. The general goals are--

Long-term benefits that we hope would follow from the effort would include better retention, a stronger campus community, and more connection with the surrounding community.

It is part of our plan for the enhancement self-study to engage the campus in a discussion about goals for the intellectual and personal development of students in a public liberal arts institution. At this point we are unable to provide a detailed description of that discussion. However, it is likely that the goals for student development will include--

Structure and Process. An Executive Committee will guide the self-study effort. Its membership will include at least the self-study Director, the Editor, the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs or his representative, the Director of Institutional Research, the Chair of the Steering Committee for Enhancement, and the Chair of the Steering Committee for Compliance. Members of these two steering committees will provide leadership for subcommittees and task forces. The enhancement self-study will begin with faculty and staff meeting to consider models for student development and to reflect on the qualities that we believe our graduates should exhibit. Students and other groups served by the University will be involved. Some of these meetings will incorporate discussion of recent scholarly literature on student development. We expect to extend the study of how to enhance student development into almost every corner of the University, from academic departments to, for example, facilities planning and management. The process will move from the formation of goals, through the assessment of present programs, to forming ideas for change. Through the Executive Committee, information from the compliance audit will be fed into the enhancement study and into the University's system of governance. After the conclusion of the self-study and visitation, the University's strategic planning and Institutional Effectiveness Program will incorporate the findings.

Preliminary Time Line:

Fall, 1999. As the first step in the enhancement study, broadly based discussion circles are formed to clarify goals for student development. Consultation between faculty bodies and administration leads to defining the structure of the enhancement study and the membership of the Executive Committee and the Steering Committees. The editor is appointed. The teams for the compliance audit assemble and begin work. Appropriate consultants and institutions with interesting and successful programs for student development are identified.

Nov. 17. Kick-off visit from SACS representative.

Spring, 2000. The subcommittees for the enhancement study are formed, with broad representation from the university community and its constituencies. This team disseminates the results of the preliminary discussions and develops a body of ideas about how existing programs and activities might relate to the different aspects of student development. It sends requests for information and self-assessment to offices, departments, and programs, so that most components of the University will be involved in analyzing how their work bears on the development of students.

Fall, 2000. Enhancement subcommittees gather information on existing programs and activities, begin assessment, and encourage components of the University to generate ideas for improvement. The Steering Committee for Compliance feeds into the enhancement study guidelines from the SACS Criteria and preliminary findings from its inquiry that bear on student development. Action plans may begin to emerge from the work of the compliance subcommittee whenever it discovers a deficiency according to the Criteria.

Spring, 2001. Enhancement subcommittees offer preliminary feedback to programs and offices, consider ideas for change, and report to the Steering Committee for Enhancement. The Steering Committee shares summaries and preliminary drafts with the campus community and asks for responses. The Executive committee consults with SACS about identifying the members of the visitation team.

Fall, 2001. The compliance team and the editor complete a draft of the compliance report by early fall. During the semester, the enhancement report is drafted. Findings of the compliance report that bear on student development are integrated into the enhancement report. Both reports include a plan for action. Drafts of both reports are shared with internal and external constituencies. SACS visitation is scheduled for the following semester.

December, 2001. The complete Self-Study Report is turned in to SACS and disseminated locally. An assessment of the self-study effort begins.

Spring, 2002. SACS teams for compliance and enhancement visit simultaneously. Recommendations and suggestions from the consultancy are disseminated. Conclusions of the study are incorporated into Strategic Planning and the Institutional Effectiveness Program.

Visitation teams. We expect to develop a definite list of areas for consultancy and a tentative list of specific consultants during the first phase of the study, Fall 1999, when we will enlist a substantial cross-section of the university in a discussion of goals for student development. However, there have been preliminary discussions on this topic. We would hope that both visitation teams would have some members from institutions similar to UNCA, public and private liberal arts institutions that primarily serve undergraduates. These are some tentative ideas about the kinds of expertise that we will be seeking from the enhancement consultants:


UNCA would welcome the opportunity to direct much of the institutional energy required for a self-study into a concentrated examination of our goals for the development of students and how we might improve our practices in this area.