CURRENT STUDENTS | FUTURE STUDENTS | FACULTY/STAFF | A-Z
|AQIP Systems Portfolio 2009|
CATEGORY 3: UNDERSTANDING STUDENTS’ AND OTHER STAKEHOLDERS’ NEEDS
WNMU uses many different formal and informal internal and external processes and environmental scans to identify changing student needs. These include student surveys (NL, NSSE, orientation, graduating senior, and alumni, faculty and courses, advising, and residential life), monitoring of high school and marketplace (employment) demographics, direct interaction with prospective and current students in a variety of venues, business leader and advisory board input, classes, information sharing with other colleges and universities, visits to high schools, attendance at professional meetings, and regular meetings with school superintendents. Both formal and informal mechanisms are used to collect student feedback and input. Students have the opportunity for direct input through committees of the Faculty Senate and the University, through the Student Government (ASWNMU) and the student newspaper (The Mustang), and through the ASWNMU’s Standing Report to the BOR. A student also serves as a regular appointed member of the BOR.
Information is processed and analyzed in many different ways including governance meetings; standing committees such as assessment and student evaluation; VPs, Cabinet, Chairs Council, Academic Council (AC), and Student Affairs “Attraction” and “Retention” meetings; SPP; AQIP Action Project teams; standardized reports on national surveys; etc. Student feedback is also gathered online through google.com/alerts, search.twitter.com, and tweetdeck.com.
Action follows these analyses; e.g., when the School of Education began aggressive recruitment of online graduate students in Mexico in 2008, Business Office staff identified an urgent need for fully online student services (such as online payment and fully electronic graduate, international admissions processes) that didn’t exist at the time. In response, a Western Improvement Network (WIN) team was quickly formed, composed of staff members from all divisions (Business, Student, and Academic Affairs). This group, named “Git ‘Er Done,” worked over the course of a semester to define and design a system for accommodating this emerging population of WNMU students. The results were online payment and graduate, international admissions processes being put into place in time for fall 2008 registration.
Basic analysis and action occurs regularly, generally at the lowest level possible. Action may involve a simple change, such as adjustment of a course syllabus date to accommodate student needs to adjustments in the student fee structure which is set based on ASWNMU recommendations to technology decisions. Or, it may involve changing delivery options as described earlier in regard to the online graduate students from Mexico.
What is more difficult, and which Western has historically done less effectively, is to integrate the various pieces of information coming from multiple sources in order to build a broader and deeper perspective and to involve all campus constituencies in identifying ways to address the results of such analysis. The Assessment Convocation and growing awareness of the importance of processing provide new opportunities for overcoming this concern, as does the more inclusive SPP. One practice adopted by the Strategic Planning Action Team is that of creating a department-specific “Communications Tree” by which all employees will have access to SP information as well as avenues for input. WNMU strategic priorities identified early in 2009 were disseminated to all employees, via email and through the Communications Tree, for feedback. Student needs were identified in the strategic priorities and are reflected in the new fiscal year budget, which is tied directly to the SP. While these initiatives are rather new, the potential for improvement in this area is closer to being realized.
To better address the historic difficulty of integrating data components, the VPAA/P and the Director of Data Analysis and Research established a number of research reports to assist academic departments to better analyze their enrollments and class scheduling. Also, the quarterly reviews of data from a macro and micro viewpoint are a basic element of the SP Team’s charter, and division-level scorecards are being developed for the first time. The campus is making progress in learning how best to use data and integrate different data elements into a more macro picture.
Relationship building with students begins even prior to recruitment, especially given the regional nature of the institution. Often students from surrounding counties come to campus for various programs, such as athletic events, Boy Scout activities, and academic competitions. A growing number of high school students in the region are taking advantage of the Dual Enrollment program at WNMU, as well. Through the program, high school students may take tuition-free college courses; this builds relationships with students and parents, alike, and involves staff as well as faculty.
Formal relationship building continues with recruitment. Recruiters return to the same schools each year and see students for several years. During the past two years the Admissions Office worked diligently to involve faculty and staff more directly in recruiting visits as well, including campus-wide emails informing employees of upcoming recruitment activities and venues, with invitations to participate.
This relationship with prospective students continues through a campus visit and tour where potential students are acquainted with academic programs, student activities, and organizations. Students are invited to a summer orientation where they take a diagnostic test, register in the appropriate classes, secure housing and food service, receive financial aid counseling, and are informed of fiscal obligations based on enrollment. Transfer students receive their transcript evaluation at orientation. A parents program at that same time begins building the relationship with parents.
Student connection with the University is deepened and likelihood for success enhanced though the Student Success Seminar, the learning communities, and a relationship with an advisor. This connection strengthens through small classes and the faculty’s understanding of their role in a teaching institution. Spontaneous one-on-one student/instructor interactions are commonplace and are noted by students as a strength of the institution. Western further supports its students by providing essential services through such programs as academic organizations and clubs, multicultural awareness, student activities, counseling, and tutoring. As students prepare to graduate, the Office of Career Services steps in to assist in preparing for job searches. After graduation, follow up studies occur and graduates are encouraged to join the alumni association.
Most offices on campus hire students as part of their work study obligations providing an opportunity to build especially valuable relationships. Not only do students gain experience that frequently connects to their career goals, but they also provide important feedback and suggestions for improvements at the institution. Use of student evaluations and responses to students in a variety of University forums (ASWNMU, the WNMU BOR, The Mustang, web-based feedback tools, focus groups and one-on-one conversations with administrators, faculty and staff) enhance the student/University relationship when students see a response to their concerns. Students also sit on University committees and contribute to decision making, and have full access to the Ombuds Office on campus.
Other ways WNMU builds and maintains a relationship with its students includes: special commencement events at campus centers, work study training, financial aid forums, acknowledging and validating the student, addressing inadequacies respectfully, follow-up across semesters, clear course objectives and expectations, cultural sensitivity, attendance and presentations at Student Senate meetings, involving students in planning processes, student evaluation of courses, traditions (such as the Great Race), professor availability, field trips, financial aid interviews, exit interviews with students leaving campus, bibliographic and one-on-one library instruction, and programs involving students in the community.
WNMU is sensitive to national, state, and local trends and needs. External stakeholder needs (employers, business and industry, community, feeder schools, alumni, and parents) are gathered informally through regular interaction with individuals and contact organizations and through surveys. Using these contacts, WNMU validates and assures that stakeholder expectations are clarified and understood. Formal methods include monthly meetings with local school superintendents, regular collection of comment cards from campus visitors, academic program advisory board programs, input from alumni surveys, WIN and AQIP Action Project Teams, the statewide employer survey, annual survey of graduates, and surveys of prospective student needs in targeted communities. Additional sources of information pertaining to stakeholder expectations are generated through feedback evaluation of campus visits, orientation surveys, financial aid interviews, residential life surveys, end of year reviews, BOR feedback, CUP, AASCU, alumni, parents, and community information and feedback. Significant feedback was obtained during the March, 2007 AQIP Quality Check-Up visit, where meetings with staff and faculty were open to the public, and also where an evening community forum was held specifically for this purpose. The Town and Gown Committee (elaborated on in Category Two) provides a new channel for input from community stakeholders on a regular basis.
As part of the institutional SPP, WNMU leaders regularly scan the external environment for opportunities and threats from external environments, and assess internal strengths and weaknesses. For example, when a large local mine began closure in 2002, significant changes to the SWOT analysis and institutional priorities occurred. Similarly, when all three local mines drastically reduced their workforce in 2008, and – at the same time – when a troubled economy threatened to cut state funding for higher education, WNMU’s environmental scan revealed shifting priorities within and outside of the University. The results were rapid-response instructional programming and student support services for displaced mine workers, and a new fiscal year budget that was built directly upon the 2009-2012 Strategic Priorities.
Data gathered in these venues are analyzed for impact on the institution’s ability to achieve its stated strategic goals, and actions are then implemented. By listening to community needs, campus recreational facilities and the Fine Arts Center Theater (FACT), the Global Resource Center Auditorium and other campus buildings were made more accessible for public use. This access improved town and gown relationships and the quality of life in Silver City. FACT revenue also more than doubled over a two year period. Meal tickets that can be purchased on a per-meal basis provide another example of hearing about a need and acting to provide stakeholder access to convenient meals at a reasonable cost to faculty, staff, and community members.
Figure 3P4.1 provides examples of some stakeholder relationship building activities and listening posts. Different areas of the institution are involved in identifying needs of key stakeholder groups because they interact with different stakeholder segments, often in diverse ways. Consequently, information is shared through meetings of department heads and directors and transmitted on to the Cabinet and SEAT. This information is then integrated into SPP along with the annual environmental scans. Relationship building and maintenance efforts are reinforced through faculty, staff, and student activities that involve stakeholders, such as invited class presentations, honorary positions at special events, campus club and organization projects, continuing education partnerships with the community through programs like the Western Institute of Lifelong Learning, fund raising, visits to local radio shows, tax return preparation for low income families, and other similar professional contributions. The Office of Institutional Advancement continues to re-establish contact with alumni and enhance alumni recognition, input, value and involvement (see Category 2).
Currently, the Noel-Levitz Student Satisfaction Inventory and National Survey of Student Engagement are administered annually. Results for both surveys are presented in 3R2. In addition, companion surveys for faculty and/or staff to each of these surveys are utilized on a less frequent basis. Graduating senior and alumni surveys are also done on a regular basis—the former within several months following the December and May graduations, and the latter annually for alumni who graduated five years previous. Recruitment visits to feeder campuses, attendance/participation at national conferences, and participation in national or statewide initiatives help identify public concerns regarding current and future program offerings. Student input to the SPP and its annual review of the strengths and weaknesses of the institution occurs through reports and survey results, and direct input from the ASWNMU president, the VPSA, and the Student Regent. Action plans developed in Student Affairs and in other campus areas address deficiencies and take advantage of opportunities derived from this information.
WNMU anticipates public concerns by maintaining open lines of communication with local and state leaders; being responsive to public requests for information and action; regularly assessing local, regional, state, and national trends for their impact on current and future programs; hosting state legislative committee meetings; actively involving key members of the community in WNMU programs and issues; and encouraging WNMU leaders and other staff and faculty to be actively involved in community life. Through forums such as “Town & Gown” meetings, and tools such as the Research & Polling Survey of Grant County, feedback on public concerns help leadership assess the potential impact of important issues on the community. WNMU also utilizes meetings with governmental agencies and bodies, school superintendents and business and governmental leaders in the region, advisory boards to academic programs, presentations to legislative committees and HED, dialogue with service clubs, and Regent input. To enhance communication at the state level, a governmental liaison is retained to represent WNMU.
The complaint management process has both formal and informal elements. The formal elements are outlined in the Faculty, Staff and Student Handbooks in sections delineating available complaint and grievance procedures. Students have formal grievance procedures for appealing admissions decisions, academic suspension, resolving student academic complaints such as grade appeals, suspension of financial aid, and sexual harassment complaints. Student complaints are heard by a discipline committee governed by defined rules approved by student government, University administration, and the BOR. The residence halls have disciplinary committees that deal with violations of residence life policies. An average of eight to ten residence hall infractions and an average of two to three student grade appeals occur annually. The annual student satisfaction surveys also provide substantive input on areas of dissatisfaction.
Established timelines in the grievance and appeals procedures assure that complaints are resolved promptly. The resolution of the grievance or appeal is reviewed either by the President or the appropriate vice president to ensure effectiveness and fairness. Policies and procedures are reviewed annually and updated if needed.
The administrative divisions of Academic and Student Affairs both have structured complaint processes. In 2007, AQIP Quality Checkup reviewers noted that “the Academic complaint process is the most developed and systematic, and all other University departments may desire to follow and use the model in place in the unit of the University. This will breed consistency across the campus and allow the University some uniform sense of policy development (p.7)”
The informal complaint process consists of the Internet, public input at the BOR and Alumni meetings, letters and phone calls to the various administrative offices, letters in the student newspaper, and concerns voiced at Student, Faculty and Staff Senates. Additionally, the University Ombuds Office was established, upon recommendation by the AQIP Communications Team, to serve students, faculty and staff.
For formal processes, actions are communicated as directed by the policy or procedure being followed. For informal processes, communication is provided directly to the individual who self-identifies. Currently there is no mechanism to communicate feedback from web-based complaints if no one is identified. However, general academic complaints are discussed in Academic Council and documented in minutes which are posted on the Web and distributed via faculty and staff listservs.
As discussed in earlier sections, the institution regularly administers the Noel-Levitz, NSSE, graduating senior, and alumni surveys. Employer surveys are administered by CUP every three years. In addition departments also use local surveys to gain information. These include discipline administered, new student orientation session, and residence hall satisfaction surveys. Student Success Seminar data also provide information regarding student satisfaction. Data from these surveys are collected and analyzed regularly. Discussions are held with various groups on campus regarding how to address concerns. Frequently, WIN Teams are utilized to address satisfaction issues. Graduation and retention rates are also determiners of student satisfaction: this type of feedback helped identify WNMU’s AQIP Action Project on the First Year Experience (Foundations of Excellence®). Figure 3R1.1 summarizes measures of effectiveness for each stakeholder group.
Every two years, WNMU conducts the Noel Levitz Student Satisfaction Survey. Figure 3R2.1 presents the latest results. Conclusions from these data are:
1. Our students’ expectations about services have increased
2. Evidence points toward a stable level of service provided but, due to the increased expectations, our student satisfaction is reduced.
3. Our strongest areas are instruction, campus support, advising, and safety.
4. Our weakest areas are campus life and student centeredness.
5. Although our students feel welcome, they tend to perceive that staff are unavailable and that they are too often faced with the “run around.”
6. Our students are generally dissatisfied with the food selection and perceive the activity fees are unproductive.
7. Hispanic and Anglo students are similarly satisfied with the institution although Hispanic students have a tendency to respond with higher values in both importance and level of achievement.
8. Our freshmen students are the most satisfied group while our sophomore students are the least satisfied group.
Key to prompts in figure 3R2.2:
1. Institution requires significant amounts of time for study and academic work
2. Institution provides support to help you succeed academically
3. Institution encourages contact among students of different economic, social, and ethnic backgrounds
4. Institution helps you cope with non-academic responsibilities
5. Institution provides support to thrive socially
6. Institution provides interesting campus events
Key to prompts in figure 3R2.3:
1. Student asks questions in class or contributes to class discussion
2. Student makes a class presentation
3. Classes include diverse perspectives in discussion or writing assignments
4. Student comes to class without completing readings or assignments
5. Student worked with other students on projects during class
6. Student worked with classmates outside of class to prepare class assignments
7. Student participated in community-based project (service learning) as part of a regular course
The Graduating Senior Survey Results for 2008 show overall satisfaction with curricula and support services at WNMU. Overall Satisfaction with the University is also high, although these results clearly indicate a gap with respect to a sense of “community” on campus.
Graduating Senior Survey results for 2008 (figure 3R3.1) show that approximately 85% of those surveyed would attend WNMU again. This speaks to building relationships at the institution and to the quality of the education that they received.
Ongoing development of the institutional scorecard, WNMU by the Numbers, provides a structure for capturing stakeholder satisfaction action item results and illustrates gaps that need to be addressed. The Student Affairs scorecard is presented in figure 3R4.1.
Performance results for stakeholder satisfaction are presented throughout this portfolio and include:
Other results related to key stakeholders’ satisfaction include graduating senior surveys discussed in Items 3R2, new staff orientation surveys, growth of the Western Institute for Lifelong Learning, and an overall rise in enrollment (traditional, online, and dual). These are complemented by extensive fiscal responsibility measures, which many governmental and citizen stakeholders view as important.
Strengthening of community relationships has been the focus of the Office of Institutional Advancement for the past several years. Creation of the Group of Twenty, Town & Gown, and expansion of alumni and community activities are the results of these efforts. These are detailed in Category 2.
A proxy for peer satisfaction with the quality of WNMU academic programs is the University’s successful accreditation results from the organizations listed in Category 1. In each case, WNMU’s attention to bringing accrediting body criteria or standards to life by adapting them to WNMU’s culture gave rise to excellent results for all the specific WNMU programs. At the same time, the availability of these standards provides guidance about important areas on which to focus limited resources.
In late 2006, when the Office of Institutional Advancement assumed administrative responsibility for Alumni Affairs, more than 85% of the WNMU Alumni Bulletins mailed twice yearly to approximately 12,000 graduates were being returned as undeliverable. In 2007, IA launched the WNMU Call Center to reconnect with alumni, and subscribed to a web-based service, Prospects Research Online, to assist with finding alumni and potential donors. To date, nearly 6,000 alumni have been located, and their contact information has been updated in what is now a viable and accurate alumni database. Alumni chapter activity in Grant County, Albuquerque, Las Cruces, El Paso, and Indiana is growing, and a new chapter is being established in the Phoenix area. As a result of this relationship building, the family of a former WNMU employee designated $3.3 million in an irrevocable trust for WNMU during the 2008-2009 academic year.
Audit findings yield another stakeholder relationship building result. In the 2007 Quality Checkup Report, the AQIP site examiners noted that the WNMU audit cycle was disrupted by past findings. In late 2004, an individual filed a complaint with the State Auditor’s Office, delaying that year’s audit. The next year, allegations from several other members of the community created further delays in the process (findings were not significant), the end result of which was the 2004 audit was not completed until July, 2005. Later that same year, the University had to select a new audit firm and, in October, findings were that the “WNMU Foundation didn’t adequately track net asset activities by specific donor.” Foundation audit findings continued until this year; however, findings between 2005 and 2008 delayed the institutional audit process. In 2007, WNMU went out to bid once again in order to procure external auditing services. The VPBA was successful in obtaining an exception from the State Auditor’s Office to have an audit firm audit the Foundation. At the same time, the University entered into a multi-year agreement with a new audit firm. Even though the current auditor notified the University too late to meet the deadline for the FY ending June 30th, the new audit firms were able to submit the audit to the State and get back into the proper cycle for 2008. Reportable audit findings are presented in figure 8R2.5.
WNMU continues to build relationships with stakeholders in the community by assisting displaced workers. In the most recent series of regional mine closures, WNMU senior leaders formed the Displaced Workers’ Assistance Team (DWAT). The University President called a meeting of campus personnel, representatives of the local mining company, and Workforce Solutions staff as soon as he was informed of the impending layoff. The group met once a month from January through May 2009. Discussions focused on various grants available to the displaced workers, course and program offerings to best suit their needs, and how to facilitate their transition from work to school. Nearly 150 displaced miners enrolled in fast-track programs offered through WNMU’s School of Applied Technology. Areas of concentration include welding technology, electrical technology, computer technology, financial services, and carpentry. Thirteen of these students are enrolled in the Criminal Justice program, and three enrolled in Early Childhood programs. The DWAT and WNMU leaders moved quickly to transition these individuals and facilitate registration, financial aid, and advising services.
Other performance results for building relationships with key stakeholders are detailed in Category One.
When compared with other peer NM institutions, WNMU shows mixed results with respect to stakeholder satisfaction levels. According to the CUP Performance Effectiveness Report for 2008, student satisfaction is lower than four of Western’s five in-state peers even though this is an area where the institution already places substantial attention. This indicates an area where WNMU can focus further improvement efforts. Alumni satisfaction levels, by comparison, are consistent with all state peers.
Recent improvements in Understanding Students’ and Other Stakeholders’ Needs include:
Measurements for use of expanded services, student and faculty assessments of online course and service delivery, Jump Start and Dual Enrollment student feedback, continued community forums and surveys, and student input in key University committees ensures ongoing dialogue between WNMU and its stakeholders.
WNMU’s rapid response to the displaced workers in Grant County is typical of one of the institution’s greatest strengths: agility. Our culture and infrastructure allowed us to respond to urgent, regional economic needs, quickly and decisively, twice in the past decade. Targets for improvement are driven by student retention, an ongoing challenge for the University. Successes with Dual Enrollment, online courses and programs, introduction of two new, high demand graduate programs in the MSW and MOT, and approved funding of the Director of the First Year Experience position, are examples of how WNMU has selected specific processes for improvement. Continued work with alumni and the community, vastly improved communications, and ongoing implementation of the WNMU Marketing & Controls Plan, with its specific targets for institutional improvement, also provide a framework for selecting processes and targets for better results in this category.
PO Box 680 Silver City, NM 88062
Phone: 575-538-6149 Fax: 575-538-6243