Florida Gulf Coast University |
SACS Self Study Report
This Self-Study Report has been a collaborative endeavor in which over a hundred faculty, staff, and students have worked on fourteen study committees to comprehensively analyze all university operations and programs. While the primary goal of the self-study has been an examination of the extent to which the institution is in compliance with the Criteria, five institutional issues emerged as critical areas of inquiry, which are examined in this Self-Study Report. This Summary, compiled at the conclusion of the self-study process, briefly recapitulates each of the five institutional issues and the institutional response to that issue, identifies the recommendations and suggestions which address each of the issues, and finally lists all recommendations and suggestions along with the persons/groups charged with addressing those concerns.
The five institutional issues addressed in the self-study are:
· Evaluation and refinement of the Mission statement.
· Development and implementation of an Institutional Effectiveness plan.
· Development and approval of Policies necessary for the effective functioning of the institution.
· Examination of the institution's use of Technology during its inaugural year.
· Examination of three Functional Areas: Graduate Programs, Library Services, and Student Development Services.
The mission statement, developed as an integral part of the 1992 Ten Year Development Plan for a New University in Southwest Florida, was a definitive guide for the development of FGCU and its programs. It described the undergraduate focus of the institution, identified the five-county service area, and emphasized what would later become the most salient characteristics of the institution: alternative teaching and learning systems, faculty and student community service, and an emphasis on environmental studies.
Three factors prompted a review of the founding mission statement.
· First, the initial statement included a section describing the relationship of the new institution to the University at South Florida at Fort Myers. While that transition was an important consideration during the years prior to FGCU's opening, it was relatively unimportant once the new institution opened.
· Second, the founding mission statement stated that "the primary emphasis of the university will be on undergraduate education" and indicated that "within ten years, up to fifteen percent of the instructional load will be at the graduate level." However, needs assessments conducted in planning academic programs suggested there might be a greater demand for graduate programs; indeed, graduate enrollment was near fifteen percent during the institution's first year of operation.
· Third, to complement the mission statement, the university had developed in 1996 a set of guiding principles that established quality goals and affirmed academic ideals. The Commission on Colleges Candidacy Committee Report concluded that the mission and guiding principles documents provided the university a clear sense of purpose, and the report included a suggestion "that, as part of its upcoming self-study" the university review the two documents and consider "updating the language and consolidating the two statements into one."
In response to these factors, a review of the mission statement was designated as a major institutional issue for the self-study. Early in the self-study process the university Institutional Effectiveness Committee drafted a consolidated statement of vision, purpose and commitment, and later the Institutional Purpose Self-Study Committee sponsored a University Forum for faculty, staff, and students. As a result of these deliberations it was recommended that the USF references and the graduate enrollment cap be deleted from the mission statement, and that the new consolidated statement be approved. Following review by a number of administrative groups the FGCU vision, purpose, and commitment statement was approved by the president on August 11, 1998.
A more detailed analysis of this issue is found in Section II of this Self-Study Report. The recommendations and suggestions related to this issue indicate that FGCU needs to step up the pace of operationalizing its mission through promulgation of university-wide goals and by making the mission and goals more widely known throughout the university community and its various constituencies. In addition the university needs to ensure that in the future the size of its faculty and fund-raising efforts enable it to achieve its goals.
As noted in Section III, FGCU was conceived and has been developed as an institution that considers institutional effectiveness as one of its core values. Assessment is identified as one of the university's eight guiding principles, and an Office of Planning and Evaluation, directed by a dean, was established to foster accountability and excellence in all university operations. Prior to the formal opening of the institution, professional development workshops in the areas of assessment and institutional effectiveness were conducted, and in the fall of 1997, shortly after the opening of the institution, an Institutional Effectiveness Task Force was established. An Institutional Effectiveness Plan was adopted which required each operational unit to establish a mission consistent with the university mission, formulate goals, assess the attainment of goals, and use the results to enhance operations. Undergraduate and graduate student learning outcomes were established in January 1997 and January 1998 respectively.
An initial survey of all units conducted prior to the opening of the institution indicated that most had indeed developed mission and goal statements, and had begun to develop assessment strategies as well as plans for utilizing results. Since many units were still operating with only a skeletal faculty or staff, however, these early efforts were uncoordinated and inconsistent. Concurrent with the self-study, the Institutional Effectiveness Committee and the Office of Planning and Evaluation developed plans to work with all units in developing their institutional effectiveness plans. At the time this Self-Study Report was published, staff of the Office of Planning and Evaluation were conducting those workshops and preparing a report for the Institutional Effectiveness Committee.
A more detailed analysis of this issue is found in Section III of this Self-Study Report. The recommendations and suggestions in this area will move the university's institutional effectiveness process forward to the next critical phases. The university will complete the linkage between unit mission/goals and the university-wide mission/goals, establish outcome measurements, and generate information for use in program planning and enhancement. In addition it will begin to grapple with the issue of measuring student outcomes at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Finally, FGCU will strengthen its institutional research process by establishing appropriate priorities and by maintaining better coordination among the units that collect or generate data. These efforts will strengthen the institutional research function and thereby the institutional effectiveness process.
One of the unique challenges facing a new university is the development, approval, and dissemination of institutional policies. As a member of the State University System of Florida, many of FGCU's policies were mandated by the rules, bylaws, and policy statements of the Florida Board of Regents and Department of Education. Over a year prior to the formal opening of the institution, and, of course, prior to the hiring of most faculty and staff, policies were being developed and used to guide institutional decision-making. A full year prior to the formal opening, university administrators were sent a list of all policies and procedures mandated by the Criteria for Accreditation, along with a reminder that all such policies should be in writing, approved through appropriate institutional processes, published, and consistently implemented.
As various study committees reviewed institutional polices, they concluded that some policies had been developed but not formally approved, and that, indeed, there was not an institution-wide formal approval process. As a result, the Assistant/Associate Deans Council was initially given the responsibility of reviewing policies in the Division of Academic Affairs. Eventually that group was instrumental in drafting an "official policy process" which had just been approved by the President as this Self-Study Report was being finalized.
A more detailed analysis of this issue is found in Section 6.1.4 of this Self-Study Report. The recommendations and suggestions strongly affirm that FGCU needs to ensure that all university policies be in writing, be approved through appropriate institutional processes, be published and available to those affected, and be implemented and enforced by the institution. Some of the areas identified as needing attention include college-level grievance procedures, certain academic policies affecting students, certain faculty policies, and policies regarding contracts, grants, and consortial relationships.
One of the most distinctive aspects of the FGCU mission statement is the emphasis it places on technology. This emphasis appears in the earliest documented planning for the "new university in southwest Florida" and has been identified as one of the university's guiding principles. The infusion of technology in all functions of the university is readily apparent. All full-time faculty and staff have computers with e-mail and Internet access. Training classes are provided for faculty, staff, and students. Student records are maintained electronically. Classrooms feature electronic podiums. One complete program and numerous individual courses are offered through distance learning. It was appropriate, therefore, that technology should be identified as one of the major institutional issues to be addressed in this self-study.
A more detailed analysis of this issue is found in Sections 4.5, 5.1.4, and 5.3 of this Self-Study Report. The Self-Study Report notes that FGCU needs to work toward the achievement of the goals in its distance learning plan. In addition, the recommendations and suggestions direct the university to provide the appropriate support to faculty in terms of training and students in terms of providing full services off campus, to ensure the success of its distance learning initiatives.
One of the initial considerations in identifying institutional issues was that they should be issues which involved the entire institution, and four of these were identified prior to the self-study; all units, it was believed, should be concerned with mission, institutional effectiveness, policies, and technology. The institution organized a response to these issues as part of the self-study process and a status report on the institutional response is included above in the sections of this Summary describing those institutional issues.
As the Steering Committee reviewed final study committee reports, three other areas were identified which appeared to deserve special consideration. For lack of a better term, they were designated as functional areas and include the following: Graduate Programs, Library Services, and Student Development Services. These three areas are described in this section. Selected self-study leadership and study committee chairs met with representatives of these areas to review self-study findings.
Graduate Program. Although undergraduate education was identified as the primary mission of the university, the institution has been authorized by the Board of Regents to offer ten graduate programs, and regularly enrolls over 350 degree-seeking graduate students in those programs. The programs are administered within each college and are significantly different from undergraduate programs in specialization, breadth of content, and depth of coverage.
A more detailed analysis of this issue is found in Section 4.3 of this Self-Study Report. The Report observed that FGCU does not have all the appropriate mechanisms in place to effectively coordinate the development of graduate education. The recommendations and suggestions address the need for better coordination as well as more thorough review of existing and new graduate programs. The Self-Study Report also notes concerns regarding library resources to support graduate programs, as well as catalog information regarding graduate programs.
Library Services. The mission statement describes the library as the "heart of the University's learning environment." At the time of this self-study the library had accumulated 118,000 volumes to support academic programs. Also, consistent with the FGCU mission, the library views information technology as an important vehicle for ensuring access to learning resources.
A more detailed analysis of this issue is found in Section 5.1 of this Self-Study Report. While recognizing that the university has achieved success in establishing viable library services in a short period of time, the Self-Study Report notes the need to expand the size of the collection, particularly for graduate programs, and of the physical facilities. It also recommends that the Library Services staff collaborate with faculty in developing policies and with staff of the Office Instructional Technology to enhance services, including off-campus accessibility.
Student Development Services. The Division of Student Services functions to provide programs and services which supplement and enhance the student's formal education. Services provided by the division include admissions and recruitment, registration and records, financial aid and scholarships, academic advising, counseling and student health, housing and residence life, multi-access, recreation and leisure, and student activities and organizations.
A more detailed analysis of this issue is found in Section 5.4 of this Self-Study Report. The Self-Study Report, in noting the importance of student services in the educational development of students, affirms the need for a thorough program of assessment of services provided by the Division of Student Services. It also recommends that all student services policies have formal approval and be published, and notes the need for program enhancements in certain areas, including health services, counseling services, and services for distance learning students.
Recommendations and Suggestions
As a result of this self-study, the Steering Committee has found that FGCU is in compliance with most of the criteria and that, as an institution, the university is adhering to its mission. To further support the mission, the Steering Committee has made 38 recommendations and 108 suggestions that will enhance the university's effectiveness.
Study committees were asked to formulate recommendations or suggestions if a change or an action is desired to help correct weaknesses or to build on the strengths of the institution. Recommendations were made when, in the judgment of the study committee and with the endorsement of the Steering Committee, the institution needs to take some action to comply with one of the "must" statements in the Criteria for Accreditation. Suggestions were made when, in the judgment of the study committee and with the endorsement of the Steering Committee, the institution needs to take some action to comply with one of the "should" statements in the Criteria for Accreditation, or to improve operations in ways which did not link to specific criteria statements.
This Self-Study Report concludes with a list of the recommendations and suggestions, along with the persons and/or groups having primary responsibility for responding to those findings. These individuals are being asked to develop time frames for addressing and implementing the recommendations and suggestions, as well as to describe indicators of success. An addendum or progress report on actions being taken by the university to address the recommendations and suggestions will be prepared immediately prior to the Accreditation Committee visit.
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