Higher Learning Commission Accreditation Review


Institutional Level  – Highest Priority

The Foundations of Excellence® process has revealed that UNI already has a strong commitment to first-year students and provides them a number of important services.  It has also illuminated a number of opportunities for improvement.  Tables 18.1 and 18.2 describe the results of the FoE faculty/staff and student survey overall evaluations of the institution.  The difference in those evaluations is notable.  While responses to the student evaluation were above the target mean of 3.50, the responses on the faculty/staff survey fell below the target mean.  Such divergence of opinion is not surprising as one might expect faculty and staff to be more skeptical in their evaluation of the institution.  While the fact that students are generally satisfied with their experiences is a positive sign, the evidence detailed in the dimension reports and their associated recommendations suggests a need for change in several areas.


Table 18.1 Faculty/Staff Survey – Overall Evaluation



Question Text



1 or 2


4 or 5



To what degree does this institution's delivery of the first year demonstrate that the success of first-year students is an important institutional goal?






To what degree does this institution's delivery of the first year enhance students' personal development? 






To what degree does this institution's delivery of the first year enhance student learning? 






To what degree does this institution's delivery of the first year improve the probability that students will re-enroll at this institution? 






To what degree does this institution's delivery of the first year provide a high quality experience for first-year students? 





1=Not at all; 2=Slight; 3=Moderate; 4=High; 5=Very High


Table 18.2 Student Survey – Overall Evaluation



Question Text



1 or 2


4 or 5



Overall, to what degree has this institution provided you the right amount of attention and support?






Overall, to what degree has this institution helped you make the transition to college? 






Overall, to what degree has this institution been a good place for college students like you? 






Overall, to what degree has this institution helped you succeed as a student? 






Overall, to what degree would you recommend this institution to friends? 






Overall, to what degree are you satisfied with your decision to attend this institution?






Overall, to what degree is this institution committed to the success of first-year students?






To what degree has your college experience allowed you to expand your awareness of issues?






To what degree has your college experience allowed you to discuss a broader range of topics?






To what degree has your college experience allowed you to better defend your position on issues?






To what degree has your college experience influenced your ability to make better decisions?






To what degree has your college experience influenced your ability to objectively evaluate information?





1=Not at all; 2=Slight; 3=Moderate; 4=High; 5=Very High


Comparing the cost of attending this institution to the quality of the educational experience, please rate the overall value of the experience.





1=Very poor; 2=Poor; 3=Neutral; 4=Good; 5=Excellent



Creating a collaborative model was central to the development of the FoE committees.  The project was jointly chaired by Academic and Student Affairs personnel, and each dimension committee was co-chaired by a faculty member and a staff member from either the Division of Student Affairs or Academic Affairs.  Throughout the Foundations of Excellence® process, committee members shared positive experiences through their interactions with colleagues outside their divisions.  As a result, student affairs professionals and faculty alike gained a broader understanding and appreciation for their shared contributions to the success of students.


Unfortunately, committee members also reported that opportunities to bring faculty members and student affairs staff together in meaningful collaboration are rare and seldom intentional.  Throughout the self-study process, committee members reported a desire to promote intentional and collaborative efforts among these divisions within the context of a shared interest in fostering student learning and success.  This sentiment is evidenced in the formal recommendations described below.  Nonetheless, committee members felt strongly such partnerships should not be limited to programs impacting the first year.  Rather, FoE should serve a broader vision of creating a culture of collaboration throughout the institution in fulfilling UNI’s educational mission.


Assessing Needs of Transfer Students

Committee discussions and feedback received from the campus community during the review process revealed a strong desire to assess the needs of incoming transfer students during the current review process.  However, this review process was limited to first-year students enrolling directly from high school.  Such interest is not surprising considering the high number of transfer students who enter the university (nearly 40% of the new student population annually). 

transfer student orientation


The Policy Center on the First Year of College has recently completed the process of developing key performance indicators specifically aimed at measuring institutional effectiveness at fostering learning and engagement for transfer students during their first year.  Because of the interest expressed and the significant number of transfer students entering UNI, the University has entered into an agreement with the Policy Center to participate in the FoE process in the 2009-2010 academic year with a focus on transfer students.  It is anticipated that the upcoming review will be a more focused effort that considers those dimensions and performance indicators that have unique implications for transfer students.  The transfer review process is expected to begin in the fall 2009 term.


Prioritizing Recommendations

The FoE Steering Committee, which was comprised of the co-chairs of each Foundational Dimension committee plus selected personnel across campus (e.g., Associate Provost for Academic Affairs; Director of Academic Assessment; LAC Coordinator; student body President and Vice-president), was tasked with prioritizing the recommendations of the dimension committees.  The Steering Committee categorized the recommendations into four groups:  institutional level recommendations, “just do it” recommendations, recommendations for other task forces and initiatives, and department/unit level recommendations.  Four primary factors were considered in prioritizing and categorizing the recommendations: level of student impact, institutional priority, time for implementation, and need for and availability of resources. 


Back to Top

Institutional Level Recommendations – Highest Priority


Institutional-level recommendations were determined to be of the highest priority because they were judged to have high student impact and high institutional priority.  Additionally, these recommendations require broad institutional involvement to implement successfully.  Given the current economic realities, the FoE Steering Committee carefully considered the need for and availability of resources in prioritizing the recommendations.  While some of the highest priority items will require significant time and resources to implement, it should be noted that the first two recommendations require little or no financial support to execute.  Institutional recommendations include the following:


1. Create a First-Year Council Charged with the Oversight of First-Year Programs.  The Organizational Structure of the Council should have the Following Elements

a. This body should be charged with setting the strategic direction of the first year and for the assessment, monitoring, and reporting of specified first-year initiatives and learning outcomes, while the implementation of specific activities should rest with the appropriate departments or units.


b. Leadership of this body should reside jointly in the divisions of Academic Affairs and Student Affairs.


c.   While this body is strategic in nature, it is understood that curriculum control should not be granted to this body.


d. The current FoE Steering Committee should be assigned as the initial governing body and be charged with creating a permanent membership structure that ensures representation of students, faculty and staff, and key stakeholders in the success of first-year students from all over campus.


e. This body should report directly to the Executive Vice President and Provost for Academic Affairs, and the Vice President for Student Affairs.


2. Develop a First-Year Philosophy Statement and First-Year Learning Outcomes

a. Implement the draft philosophy statement (see table 9.2 in Chapter 9) developed by the Philosophy Committee.


b. Ensure that the ideals described in the first-year philosophy statement are integrated into future institutional strategic planning efforts.


c. Charge the First-Year Council to develop a list of specific first-year student learning outcomes through broad campus-wide input and in close collaboration with the Liberal Arts Core and University Curriculum Committees.


3. Develop a Comprehensive Plan for Faculty Development

teacher helping students

a. Educate the faculty about first-year students, the importance of a positive first-year experience, and how they can participate in ensuring a positive first-year experience.


b. Development of the plan should be an organized effort, developed with faculty and student affairs input.


c. Create a subsection of the summer fellowship award to include a 4-week summer fellowship option specifically reserved for those who want to submit proposals to engage in substantial curricula or pedagogical enhancement or development.  The first few years of this award could be targeted to first-year teaching, and could broaden after that to include other teaching enhancement or development projects.


4. Direct the First-Year Council to Develop a First-Year Cornerstone Experience for all First-Year Students

a. The experience should provide time for students to learn about academic expectations, critical inquiry, student services and other resources, and to discuss and reflect upon their personal experiences, personal development, and the purpose of higher education.


b. It should be developed in concert with the implementation of a more systematic evaluation of student needs.


c. Collaboration between Student Affairs and Academic Affairs in developing and facilitating this course should be emphasized.


5. Develop a Systematic Process to Define, Identify, and Assess the Needs of First-Year Students, Especially Underserved Populations

a. Move from an intuitive model of decision making to a data-driven process that identifies the unique needs of students.


b. Develop interventions to meet the needs of specific students based on those identified needs through the implementation of an early warning system (e.g., MAP-Works[1]) and enhanced communication and outreach (e.g., improved online resources).


c. Determine responsibility for the coordination and implementation of interventions for specific sub-populations of students.


6. Incorporate the Findings of the Foundations of Excellence® Process into other Institutional Improvement Efforts that Impact First-Year Students

a. The LAC Review Steering Committee, the Diversity Advisory Committee, and the Provost’s Undergraduate Advising Council should include representatives from the First-Year Council, who can be tasked with representing the interests of first-year students on these committees.


b. The FoE report should be shared and discussed among departments and committees that provide programs and services impacting first-year students.


7. Develop and Implement a Comprehensive Plan for Assessing and Improving First-Year Program

a. Annual assessment activities should be developed that specifically evaluate the programs designed to achieve intended first-year learning outcomes.


b. A systematic, coordinated effort should be put in place through collaboration among faculty, staff, and students to ensure results are used for improvement.


Just Do It Recommendations

“Just do it” recommendations were deemed to have a high impact on students and require little or no time or cost to implement.  These recommendations are included below and could be followed up on or implemented by the First-Year Council, once such a council is established.

  • Disseminate a fact sheet to department heads with information about first-year students and programs to be communicated to candidates during phone interviews and campus visits.
  • Provide information for first-year students and their parents in other languages on the University Web site.
  • Showcase more assertively the academic side of the university, including academic expectations, in all forms of communication with students.
  • Provide copies of an adapted version of the Panther Planner (or something similar) to students living off-campus, with content addressing the specific needs of off-campus and non-traditional students.
  • Draft a Philosophy statement for the first year.
  • Develop an informational unit on the importance of the first year for New Faculty Orientation.

Recommendations for Other Task Forces and Initiatives

As stated in institutional recommendation number six, the FoE Task Force believes it is essential to consider the needs of first-year students in other institutional improvement efforts.  The FoE Task Force developed a number of recommendations of importance in the areas of academic advising, diversity, and the Liberal Arts Core.  Since the Undergraduate Academic Advising Council, the Diversity Council, and the Liberal Arts Core Review Steering Committee already are engaged in significant improvement efforts in each of these areas, the FoE Task Force recommends these groups consider implementation of the relevant recommendations described in Table 18.3 and further recommends these bodies consult with the First-Year Council on its discussions and actions related to these recommendations.  In addition, the FoE Task Force recommends these groups provide information to the First-Year Council about how these recommendations have been implemented, in order to keep the First-Year Council informed about the work of these groups, as it relates to first-year students.


Table 18.3 Recommendations for Other Task Forces and Initiatives


Committee/Council/Task Force

Initiate a discussion regarding the “value” of faculty advisement when considering matters of tenure and promotion throughout the campus.

Undergrad Advising Council

A sub-committee or individual from the Undergraduate Advising Council should be designated to develop, monitor, and evaluate assessments related to academic advising. A written plan for administration and potential use of results should be a prerequisite for inclusion of material in academic assessment instruments.

Undergrad Advising Council

Implement a cohesive, collaborative, university-wide academic advising plan, involving academic advising and faculty advisors.  This would allow for professional development for faculty and academic advisors and provide for hiring additional academic advisors so that the ratio of Office of Academic Advising advisors to students is capped at 1:150 and the ratio of faculty advisors to students capped at 1:20.

Undergrad Advising Council

Develop a network of campus advisors to enhance communication, promote advisor development and share best practices.

Undergrad Advising Council

Recommend a minimum standard of training for departmental advisors who may wield considerable influence on student scheduling as they progress into major coursework.

Undergrad Advising Council

Create common learning outcomes for the first-year advising programs to help with delivery of services in a consistent manner and to provide a more effective means for assessment across advising models.

Undergrad Advising Council

Undertake a full review of the Liberal Arts Core (LAC). Those LAC courses that are taken during the first year should be carefully selected and structured to meet specific learning goals designed for first-year students.

Liberal Arts Core Review Steering Committee & LAC Committee

Develop a consistent and holistic philosophy for the LAC that goes beyond a menu of compartmentalized competencies and that integrates knowledge, student identity formation, and institutional expectations.

Liberal Arts Core Review Steering Committee & LAC Committee

A diversity component should be identified in the revised LAC.  This need not necessarily be an additional course.  Rather, courses that already address diversity issues could be identified and highlighted as such.

Liberal Arts Core Review Steering Committee & LAC Committee

The role and purpose of the LAC should be identified and clearly communicated to students.

Liberal Arts Core Review Steering Committee & LAC Committee

Appoint a committee to coordinate each of the courses in LAC Category 1.  These coordinating committees, while respecting the freedom of each faculty member to shape their own sections, should foster sharing and mutual support, and provide the forum for discussion and implementation of assessment driven improvements.  The Humanities Coordinating Committee may be a possible model.

Liberal Arts Core Review Steering Committee & LAC Committee

Refine the assessment process for the LAC through the following actions: clarify the student outcomes and objectives for each category; devise annual assessments linked to these outcomes and objectives; use the results in collaboration with faculty delivering the courses to make improvements.  

Liberal Arts Core Review Steering Committee & LAC Committee

Advertise the Liberal Arts Core Excellence in Teaching Award more broadly across campus and to other stakeholders.

Liberal Arts Core Review Steering Committee & LAC Committee

Provide specific faculty training for addressing diversity in the classroom, including infusing diversity into curriculum and diversity discussions. Individuals providing training should be rewarded for their efforts.

Diversity Council

Give monetary awards for faculty to attend conferences, workshops, etc., that focus on diversity.

Diversity Council

Establish a broader institutional definition of “diversity” to include currently underserved populations such as GLBTQ students, religious minorities, and non-traditional students.

Diversity Council

A clear and consistent message, regarding diversity and its importance, should be articulated frequently to the UNI community. 

Diversity Council

Identify the populations that are facing obstacles for access to opportunities on campus, and figure out ways to remove those obstacles,

Diversity Council

Institutionalize the espoused commitment to the retention of diverse populations of students and faculty.

Diversity Council

Continue to support already existing programs, like Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Jump Start, Academic Learning Center Programs, CME, etc. that contribute to diversity at UNI.

Diversity Council

Articulate and promote the value that diversity is the responsibility of the entire university community. 

Diversity Council

Institute the use of the Global Perspectives Inventory.

Diversity Council

Expand the programming and learning resources available for programs like “Character Counts” and directly articulate its utility in developing a civil campus community. 

Diversity Council

Include contribution to diversity as a criterion for merit, service awards, and other awards.

Diversity Council


Department/Unit Level Recommendations

Department/unit level recommendations, although important, had a lower institutional priority.  These recommendations were forwarded to individual departments for consideration and action and are listed in table 18.4 below.  The FoE Task Force recommends these departments/units consult with the First-Year Council on its discussions and actions related to these recommendations, and let the First-Year Council know when/if these recommendations have been implemented, in order to keep the First-Year Council informed about the work of these department/units, as it relates to first-year students’ needs.


Table 18.4 Department/Unit Level Recommendations



Develop an advisor handbook which includes key points of information that should be covered with all first-year students.  This could include suggestions for best practices as well as consistent learning outcomes for advisees.

Undergraduate Advising Council

Continue and enhance joint staff development opportunities between the Department of Residence and Academic Advising, and make current Department of Residence (DOR) staff training more overt in recognizing the connection between Academic Advising and the Department of Residence. 

Office of Academic Advising and Dept. of Residence

The assessment being done by the various programs in the Academic Learning Center should be made more accessible to the campus community.

Academic Learning Center

Expand the Office of Admissions electronic newsletter currently sent to a small number of high school counselors to a wider network of high school guidance offices or counselors.


Continue to clarify the function of the Center for Multicultural Education to emphasize its broader educational role for the entire campus, and not just as a center created exclusively for underrepresented minority students.  The recommendations of the Fall 2008 Task Force on the CME should be implemented.

Center for Multicultural Education

Increase university support for GLBTQ students.

Dean of Students

Create a Web site for first-year students which will include FAQs and a compilation of data/information/links to individual departments. This will assist students, but will also assist faculty and staff in making appropriate referrals.

Dean of Students/New Student Programs

In communications to parents, include more techniques and strategies for supporting their students’ academic success.

Dean of Students/New Student Programs

Orientation programs should be coordinated by the Coordinator of New Student Programs or a university committee to ensure that student outcomes assessments are completed. For all first-year Orientation programs, a designated coordinator (e.g., the Coordinator of New Student Programs) or a committee should be appointed to monitor and evaluate orientation assessments.

Dean of Students/New Student Programs

Implement assessment measures using different methodologies to assess intended orientation outcomes.  The New Student Survey is a good example of an assessment measure that evaluates the orientation program from a student outcomes perspective.

Dean of Students/New Student Programs

Create a standardized set of questions to be included on assessment measures for all orientation programs.

Dean of Students/New Student Programs

More clearly assess the needs of Jump Start participants to determine if current practices align with identified needs.

Dean of Students/New Student Programs

Enhance efforts to integrate international and multicultural students with the general student population.

New Student Programs/CME/International Programs

Create consistency by requiring Jump Start students to attend summer orientation and allowing Jump Start participants to select courses in collaboration with department, college, or intake academic advisors.

Dean of Students/New Student Programs

Create Welcome Week activities that provide opportunities for interaction among all students.

Dean of Students/New Student Programs

Springboard houses should be used to capture impressions of services offered, programming effectiveness, and as a focus group for other first-year assessment, since all students living in those houses are first-year students.

Department of Residence

Program participation rates in the residence halls should be more fully used as an indicator of interest in a particular topic or for historical prediction of attendance in the future.

Department of Residence

Students attending programming events in the residence halls should be given the option of providing basic feedback on that event through a brief survey for immediate feedback.

Department of Residence

External resources should be examined to improve assessing the goals of residence life programming.  Grant funding or UNI special allocation money could be pursued to specifically find opportunities to quantify traits related to behavior for trending over time. Collaboration with UNI’s strategic marketing services or other consulting companies should also be considered.

Department of Residence

Consider using other electronic methods to convey programming information to students as a supplement to programming efforts.  Examples include using a Facebook® group page, blogs, the Department of Residence Web site, and/or the UNI cable TV station.  Currently, marketing of survey participation primarily occurs through e-mail solicitation and personal requests from RAs.  Using additional methods could help to increase participation rates, share assessment information, and communicate helpful information to freshmen as they arrive on campus.

Department of Residence

A more formalized assessment review process should be examined to ensure improvements based on formalized assessment data are being completely reviewed for future changes.  The creation of an assessment review committee, comprised of RLCs, RAs, Residence Life staff, and perhaps other non-Residence Life staff that may be able to help with information analysis would be useful.  Applicable assessment findings should also be shared with the campus community or other departments for their feedback and knowledge.

Department of Residence

House surveys should be coordinated centrally as a means to compare results between different halls and increase participation rates.  Providing incentives to complete this survey should also increase participation, which has proven successful with other surveys within the Department of Residence.

Department of Residence

Evaluate the timing of surveys and the populations affected.  Also, examine how Department of Residence surveys coincide with University surveying efforts, if possible.  This examination would help ensure students are not over-surveyed and information is not duplicated among other University assessments.

Department of Residence

Increase opportunities for first-year and upper-class student connections through Department of Residence programs, and to explore other creative approaches to help students connect with faculty and staff members.

Department of Residence

Fund additional sections of developmental courses, including Intermediate Algebra (800:004) and College Writing Basics (620:002), to meet student needs.

Office of the Provost

Provide stronger visibility and emphasis on academic programs and academic experiences of students (e.g., undergraduate research, study abroad, internships) in print and other media forms (including recruitment presentations and campus tours), and include more frequent use of faculty profiles on marketing and recruitment materials.