Tag Archives: Provost

Provost Perspective: Summer Programs

While summer is a time for relaxing with friends and family as well as laying the necessary and important groundwork for the academic year that follows, it also provides our institution a wonderful opportunity for community outreach.

Thanks to the dedication of our legacy institutions, Georgia Regents University has several longstanding and respected summer programs that have made our school a destination of choice for students at all levels.

For over a decade, area parents have come to rely on Kids University to provide quality programming for students in elementary and middle school. This year, we’ve added a STEM-U program for grades 6-8, and it’s proved so popular we’re considering adding a couple of extra weeks. These programs average about 95 kids a week, and we’ve found many of these students end up going all the way through the pipeline, starting as students, becoming counselors in training, then student assistants, and finally full-fledged students at GRU.

GRU also hosts music conservatory programs and athletic camps, which continue to expose area students to the varied opportunities available at our institution while at the same time helping them follow their passions and develop as individuals.

On the Health Sciences Campus, a summer enrichment program known as SEEP (Student Educational Enrichment Program) has been introducing students to health sciences research since 1970. One of the nation’s oldest pipeline programs, it provided opportunities for underserved communities long before most schools were looking in that direction, and they proudly continue that tradition. This year, 17 pre-college students and 34 college students are participating in the seven-week program, receiving college credit for their time. Even more impressive than the program’s visionary nature is its success. Eighty percent of SEEP students go into health profession programs, with many matriculating here to GRU.

What better endorsement can you find than that, both for the quality of the summer programs as well as the desirability of our university? Both are obviously highly valued by the community.

Then there is the Student Training and Research (STAR) program which has been attracting students to our graduate programs for almost a decade. Whereas SEEP is really an educational enrichment opportunity to try to orient and bolster students’ understanding of the educational aspects of a health sciences career and give them a leg up in terms of medical terminology and practices, the nine-week STAR program allows students already in college to test the waters of biomedical research in a true research environment. And don’t think we’ve forgotten research opportunities for our own undergraduates, because for the last three years, the Center for Undergraduate Research and Scholarship (CURS) Summer Scholar’s program has been giving GRU undergraduates an opportunity to get real-world research experience in a variety of different fields.

While these programs have an established and well-earned track record of success, our new summer pre-collegiate academies have really raised the bar in terms of providing targeted programming to a select group of high school students. The Health Sciences Summer Academy and the Cyber Sciences Summer Academy have brought in diverse students from around the nation for an unparalleled residential academic experience.

The quality and timely nature of these camps has turned the spotlight on GRU at a time when cyber matters in particular have been making headlines around the world. Last Thursday, we were honored to have National Security Agency Director Adm. Michael Rogers visit our cyber students and give the address for our two academies’ first graduating class, an outstanding indication of our position as an emerging leader in cyber education.

A second week of these academies, held this week, is allowing us to reach even more of these eager students, many of whom will go on to do great things in these important fields. Hopefully, the experience will convince the majority of those to choose GRU to further their education.

While the summer education we’re providing is a part of our mission, it’s certainly true that it allows us an excellent opportunity for self-promotion and recruitment. Though we’re not obnoxious about it, we definitely want to make sure these students go home with some GRU swag. It’s not a hard sell, but simply an opportunity to showcase what we are and drive home the message that GRU would be a great place for them to further their education.

As our new residence halls quickly become a reality, our ability to offer these types of summer programs will only increase. Very typically, schools with residence halls use the summer months in exactly the way we’re doing now – to establish goodwill and position themselves as academic leaders. It’s something our legacy institutions have been doing for years and GRU is proud to call one of our best traditions.

Provost Perspective: Summer efforts

For those who don’t know the ins and outs of an organization as large and complex as the one we’re all fortunate to be a part of, spring commencement can seem like an endpoint. While the new graduates are heading out to meet their futures, to the uninformed, it appears as if those of us left behind have little left to do but tidy up, take a deep breath, and rest up for next year.

Of course, anyone involved in higher education understands how untrue – and unfair – that perception really is. While the spring commencement ceremony does mean closing the book on another academic year, and it certainly is that tangible achievement we all work toward, the reality is that the vast majority of us get to take maybe one breath before we go right back to making it all happen again.

Obviously, summer gives most of us the chance to recharge our batteries to at least some degree, and we hope that all our employees – faculty and staff alike – are able to do just that. However, I want to acknowledge that for the vast majority of us, summer merely means switching gears. For some, the work cycle doesn’t really change at all. For others, it even intensifies.

Take some of our operational and support units. For many of them, some of the hardest work of the year is being done right now. The Registrar’s Office, for example, is building the courses and looking into the academic planning required for the next year. Financial Aid also experiences a lot of activity during the summer months. For all intents and purposes, rolling out the new academic year is really going on now, and this work, though not always noticed or appreciated, is critical to the smooth kick off our faculty, staff, and students expect when classes resume at full strength in the fall.

Faculty members are also deceptively busy during the summer months. While some are teaching classes during the summer or helping a select group of undergraduates learn the ropes in various research fields through the CURS Summer Scholars program, others are gaining ground on the specific academic project goals that drive them. Summer is the time when many are involved in doing intensive scholarship – taking the trips, writing the papers, doing the research – that will both promote themselves and the university.

We do not overlook that work. In fact, we celebrate it.

This is also the time of year when our recruitment cycle begins to kick into high gear – not for this academic year, but for next. It’s now that we’re developing materials and strategies for the next recruitment cycle, which will begin in a few months. In fact, a facet of our previous recruitment effort will soon be rolling all around us, with several of our buses wrapped in the “I Chose” campaign, which has proved extremely popular with prospective students.

One of the things that is generating a lot of additional work for a lot of people is our Summer Academies program – a Health Sciences Summer Academy and a Cyber Sciences Summer Academy – that will launch in a few weeks. We hope these free, residential summer programs for high school freshmen, sophomores, and juniors will become part of the Governor’s Honors Program, a prestigious residential summer program for gifted and talented high school students.

Though these two academies, associated as they are with two of our most identifiable strengths, our already robust health sciences programs and the newly emerging Cyber Institute, are perhaps the most obvious of our summer offerings, we truly have a wide variety of different summer programs, from basketball camps to music camps to the Kids University, all of which provide area children genuine learning opportunities here on our campus, under our instruction, forming bonds with our institution.

In many ways, summer is when we plant the seeds that our future selves will harvest, which is one of the reasons I find this time of year so personally rewarding. Though others might be distracted by the countless diversions that go hand-in-hand with the season, I look around and am filled with an extreme sense of gratitude for the dedication and sacrifice displayed by our GRU family.

Thank you, all of you, for everything that you do.

Provost Perspective: Education Mission Strategic Plan

As many of you know, we’ve reached the comment and discussion phase of the Education Mission Strategic Plan, the document that will serve to map our educational priorities for the next four years.

For some, this won’t be the first time you’ve brushed up against the plan. After a comprehensive data-gathering period where we combed through our library of resources and amassed a considerable amount of homegrown material to which we later added additional strategic planning information from other institutions and scholarly publications, we assembled a series of focus groups. Over the past nine months, these groups, which included the Deans Council, the Provost Cabinet, as well as more than 100 individual faculty and staff members, worked to produce the draft plan which is currently posted on the Provost’s website for review and comment.

Link to plan here.

Now, it’s time to hear from you.

Though I have emailed most of the faculty and staff, I encourage everyone who is aligned with the academic affairs of this institution, including all the service units, to give it a serious look and let us know what you think.

We will be taking comments through April 23 and hope to have a final version by May 30, though it could possibly drift into June, given the large number of moving parts.

This education mission plan, combined with forthcoming research and clinical mission plans, will form the tripartite missions of the institution, and while they may be independent plans, they are by no means intended to stand alone. They are very interrelated, and together, these plans will flesh out in more detail what has already been heralded at a higher level in the university’s strategic plan, “Transition Forward.”

“Transition Forward” was formulated following a similar process to the one used in the development of this education mission plan and was completed in rapid fashion as part of the work leading up to consolidation. With “Transition Forward” solidly in place, we’re ready to build on it with these mission plans and then with unit and college-level plans.

Is the timeline flowing as orderly as we’d like it to, with “Transition Forward” cascading to the mission plans and then to the unit and college-level plans? The short answer is no. Modern life is a moving target, and rarely do things run in the perfectly orderly fashion we’d like them to, especially when it comes to planning. Because of accreditation reasons, for example, some of the colleges have already created relatively up-to-date strategic plans of their own. The mission plan will in no way conflict with these. In fact, we’re actually taking advantage of them to help inform the mission planning.

Eventually, however, the plans will fall into a cycle where everything is synchronized in the right order. The four-year mission plans will dovetail with the longer-range goals of the strategic plan, with the unit and college-level plans changing more frequently to reflect the real-time campus realities.

What you’ll find when you click on the draft plan is a list of the assumptions we began with – that we will have targeted and limited new resources during this time, that student enrollment will increase incrementally, that we are in a state of transitioning to more selective undergraduate admission standards – followed by the four strategic focus areas: student success, curriculum and pedagogy, academic programs and reputation, and culture and engagement. Click on any one of those and start or join the discussion. Because your input is an important part of this process.

Admittedly, one of the challenges for strategic planning is determining the scope. No matter who you talk with or who you get perspectives from, everyone has a little different feel for what it should include. That’s why we want to get as much input as we can – so we can accurately understand the common themes that are resonating with our academic community and then synthesize those messages into a final document.

While some might look at this plan and conclude it’s not granular enough, I want to stress that it’s important to remember that the goal of the mission plan is to broadly state the goals and objectives, not get lost in the weeds with too many details.

Remember, it’s a strategy, not a catalog of every single tactic we plan to use.

Lastly, I’d like to express my appreciation to everyone who brought us to this point and to all those who will move us on from here. Our progress as an institution is directly proportional to our commitment as individuals, and everywhere I look, I see people rolling up their sleeves and joining together to make GRU the very best it can be.

Provost Perspective: Employee Engagement Survey

As many of you know, Georgia Regents University and GRHealth have implemented an extensive Employee Engagement Survey to better understand the needs, desires, and concerns of our employees, who are the lifeblood of our institution.

The need for such feedback cannot be overstated. It’s vital as an enterprise to have an accurate understanding of how all our employees – our faculty and our staff – are feeling about their environment, about what they do, about their interaction with colleagues, and about how well they feel we are fulfilling our mission and serving the needs of our various clients and stakeholders.

Previously, we have not, as an institution, had a comprehensive program for doing this. There have been various periodic surveys of certain groups and cohorts as well as a fairly rigorous faculty survey at the former Medical College of Georgia, but nothing has ever really been done in terms of an all-employee engagement or satisfaction survey.

Therefore, given the absence of data and the fact that we’re a new institution made up of formerly autonomous parts, we felt it was important to get a reading of where we are so that we can make sure we’re moving forward as one unified organization.

We also realize that for us to accurately measure the effectiveness of this mission, we need to establish a baseline. We can’t get where we want to go without first knowing where we are.

Without question, people within our organization have experienced an enormous amount of change. Things have occurred that have impacted their lives and reorganized their worlds, so clearly the time is right to take stock. We want to know what employees think we are doing right, what they think we’re not, and where those opportunities exist for us to work together to improve our institution.

Though we engaged the services of one of the industry leaders in conducting this type of research, the size and scope of our institution necessitated two separate surveys – one for the university side and one for the health system side. Because the health system was anxious to move forward and the survey mechanics were more suited for their needs right out of the box, they went ahead and started their process in 2013. They received their results in March 2014, established and implemented action plans to address the identified concerns, and earlier this month, received very encouraging results from their second survey, which showed significant improvement across the entire health system.

At the university level, the rhythms are just different. With things running on an academic year and a semester cycle, we’re not as nimble as the health system, and in order to get meaningful information to work from, we decided to wait for some of the dust to settle after the consolidation process.

The survey was administered at the university level in April and May of last year, and a list of three organizational-level priorities were established based on the overall organizational results.

Communication, collaboration, and staffing/compensation were recognized as the priorities. A fourth area, job stress, was also identified, but it was decided that addressing the three other priorities would in all likelihood have a direct impact on job stress.

We were pleased, though not necessarily surprised, to learn that our employees value their immediate colleagues, reporting that many go above and beyond the call of duty to make the operation function smoothly. We see this dedication play out all the time, but it is still nice to hear.

Another thing that didn’t surprise us is the degree with which our employees are concerned about compensation. When we’ve been in a period of fiscal austerity like we’ve been in for the past five or six years, without any routine raises of any kind, it’s hard for that not to be a pressure point. We understand this, and Mr. Tony Wagner, Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration, is working closely with Human Resources to develop a total compensation statement to help faculty and staff understand the value of their total compensation. In addition, Mr. Wagner will work to analyze and identify underlying process issues that may reduce effectiveness and result in the perception of staff shortage.

And with as much change as the institution has experienced – and the swiftness with which it has occurred – it’s no wonder many employees also report feeling lost. They don’t know who to call anymore, and that uncertainty affects how people are able to accomplish the tasks they’ve been  assigned, while perpetuating the impression that the enterprise lacks a clear direction. To address this issue, Dr. Karla Leeper, Executive Vice President for University Relations and Chief of Staff, is working with the Department of Communications and Marketing to engage employees in a conversation to more clearly define our communication issues.

Collaboration opportunities to help units and departments work well together are also an area of focused attention. Dr. Caryl Hess, Director of Leadership Development, and I are working closely, taking action to foster collaboration and leadership opportunities for representatives of the University Senate and the Employee Advisory Council.

One thing I’d like to emphasize: Everyone from senior leadership on down shares the same desire to see the results of our action planning effectively implemented. All of us want to see this survey become an instrument of positive change rather than another binder on another shelf.

The health and well-being of any organization is absolutely dependent on its employees, and it’s important to me personally that every person believes we care about their welfare and are committed to improving it, not just because I say it, but because together we’re doing specific, tangible things to make it a reality.

Please continue to look to the GReport for further details and regular updates.

Career Services making key strides to keep students engaged

EDITORS NOTE: This is part one of a three-part series that examines student engagement and maintaining our student population. Part of the growth of GRU will depend on recruitment, but another key figure will be keeping them on campus and making sure they graduate. Guest writer Julie Goley examines some of the steps Career Services is taking.

Students often start college with great enthusiasm; they are excited about the new world, their freedom, and ideas about their future major and career afterwards. It is colored by the lens of their current knowledge about the world, coupled with expectations influenced by parents, their peers, and themselves to get to this point called college. Sometimes, the reality of the college world and the real world beyond does not meet expectations, and students become unhappy, or worse, disengaged from the learning process completely.

“Jane” wanted to be a nurse for years, only to discover she is unable to handle the rigor of science courses required to get her to that point. Or she determines it is not a passion for her, as Jane’s viewpoints and experiences of the profession expand and her self-knowledge truly begins to take shape.

The financial pressures of “getting in and getting out” of college to move forward in society and minimize college debt collide with an expansive lens of life many young students are just discovering and can’t quite zoom into focus. They realize that major selection and career planning are critical for their success. Unfortunately for some, this realization hits after several terms of academic struggle, confusion, and disengagement before they are propelled to figure it out.

Who are you? Why are you here? Where are you going? What are you doing now to ensure your success to get there? This explosion of inquisition is where Career Services can come into play by helping students (hopefully early in their college experience) explore more about themselves to make better decisions about their future, both at the university and for their career. Unlike Academic Advisement, the Career Services Office is not a mandatory service, but it offers many assessment resources for students of all types and sizes. We offer career, skills, and personality assessments online to help students get an early advantage. Couple this with a team of career advisors committed to meeting with students to review the results and the journey of discovery, and planning begins.

One of the assessments used is the Compass test, a five-minute online survey where students answer a brief series of visual questions designed to get a “snap shot” of their interests and potential careers to compliment them. This is a great starting point, and it is relatively simple for students to take on their own time as a precursor to some of our other assessments. It’s also effective for the procrastinating student who has to register on the same day and pick an alternative major “right now.” Another assessment, called Focus2, helps students assess their career interests and narrow down their major selection, while incorporating goal-setting exercises into the plan. Focus2 can be an effective bridge for students working with their academic advisor on the academic plan, while determining an overlay of their career plan.

Products like SkillScan target the student’s natural skill sets as it ties to career development. The Knowdell Cardsort determines values and motivating factors that can impact career choice or the ability to sustain in a major or career. We need to remember these students are often very young and they are still discovering things about themselves, making it difficult for them to make large choices when they are still learning who they are.

We also have a program called the DISC Index that we often use with nontraditional undergraduates and our graduate/professional students who have more self-knowledge to apply. The DISC assists students with honing their insights for professional and career development as the instrument determines strengths and behavioral tendencies in natural and stressed states of work. The department also offers the Strong/MBTI Career Report, a synthesized analysis of the two most popular career inventories that targets multiple factors which impact career and major planning, including behavior in group dynamics.

While these assessments can sound like a lot of work, we find that students typically enjoy the tests and the self-discovery, once they commit to seeking the help to begin with. Career advisors in Career Services meet with the students to guide them through which resources might be best for them, depending on their unique situation. If academic obstacles threaten a student’s perceived dream job, Career Services can help them determine alternate paths they may be more successful with that correlate to other majors and careers the student is not even aware of. Career advisors can help the student work through potential options to find one that works for them.

The reality of the career life cycle is changing in society, and Career Services is working to make sure the students understand that. It is not about “I’m going to do this job with this one degree in that field.” It is about aligning a major and career path to one’s strengths, interests, values, and abilities while they are keenly aware of their marketable and transferable skills that will serve them long after they graduate GRU.

The careers we prepare students for now may not even exist in 20 years, and if they do, they certainly won’t look and function like they do today. If students understand who they are, what they enjoy in a discipline, and how and where they uniquely add value, those are the marketable skills to help them navigate the uncertainties of their career path for life. The more they understand how GRU fits into their life and the real world, the more likely they are to see the value and graduate, even if they have some problems. In the end, it’s about building a better “you” with each student at GRU. If Career Services can help students discover how their unique talents, skills, interests, and personality can best integrate with a meaningful major and career plan at GRU, we are equipping them for success here and for the journey long after.

Julie Goley is the Director of Career Services and if you would like to learn more about Career Services visit gru.edu/careerservices.

Welcome to the beginning of a new academic year

As we gear up for a new academic year, I find myself thinking about how this time of year signals a critical beginning for our type of organization. For us, beginnings include new students, residents, and faculty and even new programs and courses. What other type of organization begins its new year with such exciting advancements?

I am particularly enthusiastic about 2014-15, when we’ll reach milestones that will have a lasting impact on GRU for many years. Further, these are milestones that we must reach together, because they will be our achievements.

In the weeks ahead, you’ll receive invitations to engage in various institutional endeavors. I understand how easily we overlook messages, emails, and other communications when we’re so engaged in our day-to-day obligations to students and to each other. However, I genuinely desire broad-based involvement in these major efforts to be assured that we’re heading in the right direction.

I hope you will take the time to participate in any institutional questionnaire or other feedback opportunity that you receive. However, the initiatives described below are particularly – and equally – crucial to our university’s success in 2014-15:

Academic Strategic Plan 

While we have adopted “Transition Forward” as GRU’s first strategic plan, I believe we need to articulate the strategic direction of academic affairs more specifically. I hope you will participate in this process by sharing which core issues you believe should be included in this plan.

Employee Engagement Survey 

Following last spring’s campaign to solicit participation in phase 2 of the Press Ganey Employee Engagement Survey, we achieved a 62 percent response rate from our GRU faculty and staff. The results of the survey have been analyzed and will be rolled out in stages over the next few months. In the early stages between now and early October, vice presidents and deans will review the results for their respective programs. Then, department chairs and managers will communicate results with their respective faculty and staff, culminating in the development of action plans by mid-December.

  • You can expect to learn about the survey results and next steps from your leadership by early October.

GRU Campus Master Plan

During the summer, we made great strides in understanding our desires and needs and assessing our systems to develop our University and Medical Center into a cohesive whole. With this information, we can bring out the crayons and start drawing scenarios for a Campus Master Plan that covers all three GRU mission areas of academics, research, and clinical service. We will need your help as we move to this critical stage in the process.

  • You can expect to receive an invitation to participate in a Town Hall Meeting to discuss our Master Planning efforts from the University Faculty Senate in September.

Quality Enhancement Plan

The QEP Core Team has evaluated the theme suggestions received last spring and identified a set of themes to be incorporated in our Quality Enhancement Plan proposal process. Between now and mid-September, you’ll be invited to explore the themes via a virtual dialogue. Then, in mid-September through October, the QEP Core Team will call for proposals for your ideas of what our QEP should look like. I hope you will be as engaged in this next phase of the selection process as you were in the theme gathering efforts last year.

  • You can expect to receive communications on how to participate in our QEP selection efforts via email and presentations beginning this week.

As you can see, we have much to accomplish in 2014-15, and getting there depends on your engagement in the early stages. I look forward to all of your contributions to these important efforts at advancing GRU.

GRU’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion: Three Years from launch to leader

Three years ago, we launched GRU’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, under the direction of Dr. Kent Guion, to centralize and energize initiatives to foster a climate of inclusion across our campuses and to prepare our students for success in an increasingly global economy.

In that short time, I am tremendously proud to say that GRU has emerged an industry leader of inclusive excellence, garnering national recognition for our robust and innovative program. We received the 2013 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award as well as the 2014 Award for Diversity and Inclusion by the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the Minority Opportunities Athletic Association — and we’ve only just begun.

Here are some ODI highlights:

  • Cultural competency training — Since launching the Healthy Perspectives program in 2013, more than 9,000 physicians, staff, and students have participated in cultural competency training designed to foster the delivery of high-quality health care that is respectful of and responsive to the needs of our diverse patients. Before-and-after tests show organization-wide cultural competency and inclusiveness across all groups has improved from 68 percent to 89 percent. Plans are in place to build on these successes with continuing education modules, a certificate program, and more. Thanks go out to the Health Care Georgia Foundation and the John and Mary Franklin Foundation for their funding support.
  • The GRU Healthy Respect website — Going live in a matter of weeks, this site will contain tips, webinars, an events calendar, and other resources to help cement our commitment to institutional civility and ensure an environment of respect and inclusion for all.
  • The annual GRU Diversity and Inclusion Summit has sold out for the past two years. Mark your calendars now for Sept. 12 and come be inspired by keynote speaker J.R. Martinez, a U.S. Army veteran who, while serving in Iraq in 2003, suffered an IED explosion that burned over 34 percent of his body. He not only survived, but he has thrived as a successful actor, effective advocate for burn victims and veterans, and inspiring motivational speaker.
  • Recognition as a national leader in inclusive excellence — As our reputation has grown, other organizations have reached out to us. This year alone, we are collaborating with Goodwill Industries, NCAA Division II college presidents and conference commissioners, Minority Opportunities Athletics Association, Sodexo, the American Dental Education Association, the Health Initiative, and more to both share what has worked for us and to learn of other opportunities to advance ODI values and goals at our institution.
  • Heritage-Themed Events — GRU’s heritage celebration events, from a dragon boat race to celebrate Asian-Pacific American heritage to Latin dance demonstrations to showcase Hispanic heritage, have been informative, fun, and popular.

Other initiatives in the works include implementing GRU Safe Zone training to create a safer, more inclusive environment for LGBTQ individuals; developing and disseminating a cutting-edge interactive, simulation-based online learning tool to teach health professions students best practices for communicating with patients through interpreters; integrating the GRU international employee and student visa programs into a single office; creating the infrastructure and data elements for our first formal GRU Diversity and Inclusion annual report; and hosting the first Georgia Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education meeting.

As you can see, GRU’s ODI has been busy. Please join me in thanking the many people across our campuses and community who have contributed so that we can continuously improve our level of cultural competency, create a climate of inclusion, and make best use of our diverse talent.

Dr. Kent Guion was the 2014 NCAA Diversity and Inclusion Award recipient and most recently was acknowledged by Insight into Diversity magazine as a 2014 Diversity Visionary Award honoree.

Make your voice heard on QEP Theme

Last week, we bestowed degrees on more than 1,000 new GRU graduates. These men and women will now take the knowledge and skills they gained from our faculty and contribute to their communities in meaningful and productive ways. For the last few years, we’ve imparted on them the knowledge that one expects of a university graduate and the skills expected of a competent professional.

But did we give them everything they need for this next phase of their lives? Is there anything else we could have taught them? Could we have taught them in a different way?

These are exactly the kinds of questions we must consider as we begin to select our next Quality Enhancement Plan, or QEP. If you don’t know by now, a QEP is a course of action that will positively impact student learning or the environment that supports learning. We must submit our plan to our accrediting body, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), in 2016 as part of the process for seeking reaffirmation of accreditation.

When our SACSCOC evaluators review our QEP, they will be looking for a few key elements. First, they expect to see that the QEP we’ve developed is aligned with our mission and our strategic plan. Second, they must be convinced that our QEP is realistic and can be implemented and assessed. And finally, our evaluators will want to understand that both selection and development of the QEP involved a broad-based process with participation from our key stakeholders.

To me, “key stakeholders” are those members of our university who are passionate about education. So basically, everyone. After all, who better to ask about quality enhancement related to student learning than you – the faculty, staff and students?

Therefore, a “broad-based process” to select a new QEP is currently underway and we need your involvement. There will be many phases in the process to selecting a QEP. Right now, we are looking for overarching themes that capture ideas with a new and inventive influence on student learning, an impact on large parts of the student population, alignment with the mission and priorities of the university, and the potential for outcomes that can be measured.

We not only want to hear about your specific ideas for a theme, but we also want your vital feedback on the themes that have already been submitted. Understanding others’ perspectives on the theme submissions, such as how you see a suggested theme as applicable to your program or what you foresee as a theme’s impact on resources, is extremely valuable as we progress toward choosing a QEP.

We currently have over 40 theme submissions from all constituent groups on the campus – students, staff, and faculty. We have created a website, gru.edu/qep/, for you to offer your ideas and serve as a clearinghouse for thoughts on the themes that have been submitted.

How we select the QEP is as important as how we execute it. Your involvement at this early stage will lay the groundwork for a dynamic, inclusive process involving all components of our institution.

The deadline to submit new themes will be May 23, and you will be able to submit feedback on the submitted themes until May 30.

The new QEP will be a multi-year initiative and truly a plan for the future – a chance to create a legacy that will enhance education for generations to come. The more input you can provide will allow us to make better choices, ultimately provide greater the benefit to the university as we aspire to greatness.

A matter of perspective

Editor’s note: Provost Gretchen Caughman has asked Dr. Rickey Hicks, the Dean of the College of Math and Sciences to share his unique personal experiences with you this month as a special guest columnist. She hopes that you find his experiences to be as interesting as she found them.

The creation of Georgia Regents University and the experiences of the past year on this campus are unique; consolidations are quite rare, and beyond that, a health sciences campus being merged with a campus mainly serving undergraduate students is that much harder to find.

But, they do occur and have occurred in the past, and I had the opportunity to see the impact of a very similar consolidation firsthand when I attended Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) as an undergraduate in the early 1970s.

I started at VCU as a freshman five years after the 1968 consolidation of two schools, the Richmond Polytechnic Institute and the Medical College of Virginia. The consolidation was at the request of the state government, of course, just as GRU was, and the schools didn’t have a whole lot of say in the matter.

I noticed immediately that even five years after the consolidation that there was a considerable rift between the two campuses. The two campuses were only physically two miles apart, but they seemed light-years apart culturally and administratively. They technically shared the same name, after the consolidation, but in many ways, they remained two separate universities.

Even as a student, I could see that the daily operations as well as the long-term planning of the university were very separated, faculty from the two former universities didn’t meet together, leadership didn’t work together to solve problems. I believe that this resulted in overall less efficient leadership and led to a university that often had difficulty solving common problems because it lacked a common identity.

I remember as an undergraduate, I needed to go to the medical library on the former Medical College of Virginia Campus. I was working on a project for a science class, and the library on the other campus had scientific publications that were not available on the undergraduate campus. Even in the library, I felt uncomfortable and unwelcome.

Even the signage was different: it may seem like a small thing, but sometimes the small things can make a big difference. In fact, the campuses at VCU didn’t have similar signage until the 1990s, over 20 years after the official “consolidation.”

I received a great education at VCU, due to the efforts, the hard work, and dedication of a group of faculty members who exhibited a positive attitude even under less-than-perfect circumstances, and I wouldn’t be who I am today without it. However, I do feel that the VCU administration at that time didn’t take full advantage of the opportunity that they had to effectively merge the two institutions..

When I first started the interview process at Georgia Regents, I admit, I had some concerns. Having been a part of a campus that had gone through a similar consolidation in the past, I asked some pointed questions during the interview process. I paid close attention to how the administrators discussed the two campuses and how they viewed the recent consolidation.

But, to be honest, I have been very pleasantly surprised. The leadership discussed the school as a whole and discussed the strategy for a school as a whole. In fact, they were even aware of many of the issues that VCU had faced during its consolidation, and were actively working to avoid those same pitfalls.

They had done their homework and it showed. I then became excited about the great opportunities that exist here at GRU.

While VCU became a great university, I always believed that it never really took that next step until it fully accepted the fact that it was one university and worked together to move forward. I believe years were wasted working apart, when they could have been working together.

But here, only a year after consolidation, I can see many of those same issues have been avoided, or confronted and solved. Everything is not perfect, and it never will be in such a consolidation, but to me it feels like GRU’s consolidation is years ahead of what I experienced at VCU and the leadership is treating the consolidation as the great opportunity it truly is.

This consolidation is an opportunity to improve on past mistakes, an opportunity to start with a clean slate and do things the right way from the start. This campus has years of experience, with administrators, faculty, and staff who know why some things didn’t work before and how they can improve on them.

GRU is working to bring everyone to the same table and work together.

I attend administrative meetings, and I see firsthand that everyone across the university is involved and working toward the same goals. The Health Sciences Campus leadership is present and actively involved trying to help with issues at the Summerville Campus, and even the leadership at the hospital is present at many of these meetings and is providing additional leadership in moving us forward as one university.  They also want our input from the Summerville Campus on their problems, and of course, we work to solve universal problems together.

GRU is already developing uniform signage across campus, 20-plus years ahead of VCU’s signage changes. And they are even working right now on the Health Sciences Campus to make the campuses have a similar appearance by installing complementary sidewalks. Sometimes the little things can mean a lot.

I spoke with one of my former professors at VCU (who is an alumnus of Augusta Junior College), and he was very impressed with how GRU is handing the first year as well. He said that he wished that the consolidation at VCU had only gone as well.

I look back on my time as a student at VCU, and I remember the professors that were optimistic about the consolidation and looked on it as an opportunity, the instructors who were looking to the future and working to make the best out of the hand that they had been dealt. As students, we responded positively to that attitude, because we, as all students, look to the future. There are a great number of faculty members here at GRU with this infectious positive attitude who will serve as role models for our students and the community. These faculty members are one of the major reasons I decided to join GRU on its journey to success.

I look at how far VCU has come, a great top-ranked American University, and I wonder how much faster they would have reached this point if they decided to work together from the start.

Then I see what we are doing at GRU now, and I know we are going to start bearing some of that same fruit much sooner than VCU did.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and we’re in on the ground floor of the building of a great university. The GRU leadership team is working tirelessly to rewrite how you evolve into a great academic and research university. All of us, faculty, students, staff, and administrators, are working hand in hand to develop the model of the future of higher education for the next century. Go Jaguars!

Laying the foundation of success

Happy 2014! In reflecting on the year 2013, I believe we would all agree it was a year of change and challenges; a year in which a huge volume of work was accomplished, and the results achieved were astounding. As a new institution, we have set an aggressive course for success, and 2014 will be a critical year in furthering progress toward our goals. Among our important goals, the recruitment, engagement, retention, and graduation of students (a constellation of elements collectively referred to as “student success”) will continue to be key components in our successful journey as a university. These critical elements are tracked not only locally by Georgia Regents University as institutional measures of success, but also by the University System of Georgia and by national entities tracking the progress of higher education in general as institutions address improving student success as a nationwide agenda.

Within any university, many different groups of stakeholders—faculty, staff, students—are critical to improving student success, and it is important that these stakeholders not be viewed as a series of individuals or units that act independently or as siloes, but rather as a highly coordinated system of teams, the collective actions of which translate to student success. Such a coordinated system requires everyone to participate and embrace the common goal of achieving the measures, as well as the commitment to recognize and act on any obstacles that might impede us reaching our goals. It is also important always to note that while the measures are ultimately expressed as aggregated numerical outcomes, these totals begin with single, individual students, who together add up to flourishing cohorts of students.

Substantial improvement in GRU’s student success measures as a whole is a long-term goal and must be undertaken as a marathon, not a sprint. However, some elements are right at our fingertips to grasp for immediate action, such as student engagement and retention that correlate directly to graduation rate increases. As previously reported, we were incredibly successful in launching the 4 YEARS 4 YOU initiative, earning USG recognition by moving from the Fall 2012 level of 9 percent of first-time, full-time freshmen taking 15 or more credit hours to 71 percent this past Fall 2013.  The initial redesign of the GRU advising unit and the extensive efforts of the advising team appeared to have notched an early success. However, as was expected, not all of the students registered in 15 hours completed them in their first term. Potentially, students could be jeopardizing their goal of finishing in four years if nothing is done to help them get back on track. The following data were compiled near the end of the fall term:

  • 41 percent (n= 307) of first-time freshmen earned 15+ credit hours
  • 27.3 percent (n=199) of ALL new freshmen took a “W” in at least 1 class
  • 86.9 percent (n=173) of those who took a “W,” withdrew from just one class
  • 11.1 percent (n=22) dropped 2 or more classes but are still enrolled
  • 0.70 percent (n=14) had a total withdrawal

Clearly, the fact that 41 percent of first-time freshmen ultimately earned 15 or more credit hours this Fall is a huge step forward compared to 9 percent. But it also means that 59 percent did not, so we must work collectively to continue to encourage timely student progression and identify the causes and action required when students begin to have difficulty in a course or resort to withdrawal.  The student advising unit itself continues its dynamic redesign, which will be finalized in the coming weeks and include the implementation of intrusive advising, early alert software, and additional personnel. A key goal for the advising unit is a regular, mandatory meeting schedule for students at 60 credit hours or less to meet with their assigned advisor. Should a student demonstrate signs of struggle within his/her course of study, the advisor will require additional meetings as needed to achieve the full benefits of the intrusive advising model.

It is important to remember that, once students are advised and registered, we must exercise a “team” approach in which staff advisors rely on faculty and staff to provide early alerts for struggling students that can be acted upon immediately. The intrusive advising model is designed to develop actions tailored to the student’s specific situation in an effort to encourage, support, and assist so that student will remain on the 4 years 4 U pathway. As a faculty and staff member, you are at the front line of triaging student difficulties very much analogous to patient diagnoses, the earlier the better. Early intervention success in managing each student’s situation may require single or multiple constituents but will be guided by advisors in coordination with the faculty and staff. The advising model being implemented is designed after those with documented successes within the USG and nationally. Our goal for GRU is the successful graduation of as many baccalaureate students possible in four years and a significant improvement in the six-year undergraduate graduation rate. Successful retention and progression do culminate in graduation!  Improving the graduation rate requires a team approach aimed at supporting each student in achieving the goal of mastering course content and completing successfully each course undertaken. Only through successful students are we successful in our academic mission as a university.

 EDITOR’S NOTE: The print edition of the GReport incorrectly listed some of the statistics. The statistics in this story have been corrected in this edition.