Phase I / Section 1


WASC Self Study

The quad area in front of Performing Arts

Phase I

Introduction: Relationship to Missions, Goals and Strategies

California State University Fullerton's process to reaffirm its accreditation with the Western Association of Schools and Colleges began with the adoption of a new mission statement for the University in Fall, 1994. For 18 months, the University Planning Committee (UPC) worked on an analysis of the strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats (a SWOT analysis) defining the University's current position. Periodic bulletins issued by the UPC invited campus response to succeeding drafts of the proposed new mission statement. The final mission statement (see Appendix 1-A) reaffirmed a widely shared campus commitment to student learning and established an organizational focus on eight specific goals designed to support the learning emphasis. Thus, the mantra, "learning is preeminent," entered the CSUF vocabulary.

For our WASC reaffirmation, the SWOT analysis is instructive because it identified, for the 1994-95 place in time, a community consensus on our learning and teaching strengths. The process was iterative. The UPC issued a "discussion document" in March, 1994, and invited campus feedback and response. The second "discussion document," released in May, 1994, contained major revisions reflecting the community’s concern with what many thought was a negative and overly simplistic assessment of strengths and weaknesses. The final analysis, issued in February, 1995, reordered some of the original items and presented a more clearly articulated set of findings. The University pointed with pride to a set of indicators that stressed its learning orientation:

  • Small class sizes
  • Direct student-professor contact, particularly in joint research projects
  • Internships, student assistantships and other experiential learning programs
  • Rich cultural diversity in and out of classrooms
  • Varied class schedules to accommodate students' needs
  • Strong community interaction, facilitating service-based learning
  • A faculty that balances teaching and research
  • Growing expertise in educational technology and communication
  • A well-equipped, safe and secure campus
  • Helpful staff

The SWOT analysis also highlighted what the campus considered to be its internal weaknesses. Among the more critical problem areas were:

  • The lack of a "distinctive image"
  • A complex, inefficient bureaucracy, perceived to be slow to make decisions
  • Declining budget support
  • Inadequate program assessment
  • Some marginal classroom facilities
  • A library collection lacking in sufficient books and periodicals
  • Support services for students
  • Under-appreciation of faculty and staff

The SWOT analysis examined opportunities and threats external to the immediate campus, highlighting the rich resources available in our major metropolitan area, our state, our alumni and our cost effectiveness, but balancing these assets with the uncertainty of the California economy, the political nature of the budget process, and a perception that there is a lack of vision and trust of higher education among the public and our elected representatives.

The SWOT analysis coincided with the development of the new mission statement for the University. Again, the process was iterative. The first draft was issued by the UPC in May, 1994, and it contained the mission statement and an unranked set of 18 goals. The second draft, in October, 1994, revised the mission statement slightly and expanded the goals to 23. This draft also contained a concept map, reproduced below, that positioned "learning" as the center of the mission.

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A third draft, issued November 4, 1994, kept much of the original mission statement and organized the goals under eight themes. After minor modifications, President Gordon approved the goals on December 19, 1994, and initiated implementation to begin with the 1995-96 budget.

The mission statement reads as follows:

Learning is preeminent at California State University, Fullerton. We aspire to combine the best qualities of teaching and research universities where actively engaged students, faculty, and staff work in close collaboration to expand knowledge.

Our affordable undergraduate and graduate programs provide students the best of current practice, theory, and research and integrate professional studies with preparation in the arts and sciences. Through experiences in and out of the classroom, students develop the habit of intellectual inquiry, prepare for challenging professions, strengthen relationships to their communities and contribute productively to society.

We are a comprehensive, regional university with a global outlook, located in Orange County, a technologically rich and culturally vibrant area of metropolitan Los Angeles. Our expertise and diversity serve as a distinctive resource and catalyst for partnerships with public and private organizations. We strive to be a center of activity essential to the intellectual, cultural, and economic development of our region.

The eight goals consist of the following:

I. Ensure the preeminence of learning;
II. Provide high quality programs that meet the evolving needs of our students, community, and region;
III. Enhance scholarly and creative activity;
IV. Make collaboration integral to our activities;
V. Create an environment where all students have the opportunity to succeed;
VI. Increase external support for university programs and priorities;
VII. Expand connections and partnerships with our region;
VIII. Strengthen institutional effectiveness, collegial governance and our sense of community.

Each goal is followed by a set of strategies (see Appendix 1-A for the complete statement) designed to bring more specificity and definition to the goal. Since the adoption of the goals, the University has funded "Planning Initiatives," projects proposed by members of the university community as ways of implementing the goals and strategies. Part of our Self Study will be reviewing those initiatives as they relate to our Self-Study themes.


WASC and University Planning 

Integration of planning into the assessment of university performance is a major goal for the University. The University is heavily committed to assessment of its programs. Each academic unit undertakes a seven year Program Performance Review (PPR) involving a systematic analysis of each program component and usually including a review by one or more consultants from outside the institution. (In some cases, the PPR is combined with a national accreditation. For instance, many programs in the Schools of Arts, Business Administration and Economics, Engineering and Computer Science, and Communications receive national accreditation).

The third Town Hall in the University's American Dialogue series focused on issues facing the African-American community in Orange County.

In addition to PPRs and specialty accreditation self studies, all divisions in the university submit annual reports. Annual Reports are conceived as a short-term planning tool; PPRs are considered long-term. Annual reports implement goals outlined in PPRs while updating and modifying PPRs as circumstances change and new evidence emerges. Furthermore, individual centers conduct specific, more focused studies through campus surveys and other instruments as the need arises.

However, in a report prepared for the Vice President of Academic Affairs in March, 1998, the Office of Analytical Studies and the Associate Vice President for Academic Programs stated that the PPRs and Annual Reports process has been beset with several problems.

One specific criticism of annual Reports and Program Performance Reviews in the past has been that feedback following their submission has been less than hoped for by those who have labored in their preparation. Like the personnel files submitted by faculty members. . . .ARs and PPRs have often swelled to proportions that make careful reading by deans and vice presidents a daunting task.

New guidelines for Program Performance Reviews have been adopted and are currently being implemented. The changes include a requirement to do a SWOT analysis, similar to the analysis that resulted in the new University mission statement. PPRs now focus on the "Missions, Goals and Strategies" for the University and incorporate "quality indicators" and "productivity benchmarks" as part of an overall focus on assessment of programs. They are intended to be analytical and not just descriptive, with measurable outcomes and concrete results. Because the new format for PPRs is designed to cover both support and academic units, programs were invited to connect campus practices to key issues in the national higher education conversation. They are also shorter, and definitely more readable.

Several "exemplary practices" examples are documented later in this study. The Student Affairs Division conducted a self study review in 1997-98 that applied external standards established by the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS), and linked Division practices to the University’s Mission, Goals and Strategies. This evidence constitutes the "first entry" in Phase II of the Self Study. Prior to the introduction of the new guidelines, several academic programs conducted PPR studies that were especially useful for their incorporation of assessment and outcomes measurements, and these are also noted.

Phase I of the present Self Study relies heavily on PPRs that have been compiled in the past five years. Because PPRs were not written with the Self Study as a model, we at first feared that the questions addressed by the Self Study might not be reflected in individual program self analyses. However, though some recasting of information is occasionally required, individual programs and departments have, in fact, been consistently concerned with the issues around which the Self Study is designed.

The Self Study Proposal

The Self-Study Proposal was written by a planning team and approved by WASC during the Fall, 1997 semester. The following recapitulates that proposal.

As described in the proposal, the institutional self study, as well as the process for drafting the self-study report, makes it a unique project for the campus. Stressing assessment based on the reflective analysis of existing and newly gathered information, the self study is intended to appraise progress in accomplishing the University’s Mission, Goals and Strategies, and documents the strengths of the University in key areas related to its Mission. The study’s three themes are drawn directly from the campus’s Mission, Goals and Strategies: Student Learning, Faculty and Staff Learning and the campus Environment for Learning, aiming through thoughtful self-assessment to develop a clearer sense of the University’s future directions and a campus-wide understanding of the implications of those directions. Tied directly to the University’s mission and intended above all to be of value for campus planning, the self study aims as well to satisfy with distinction the requirements for reaffirmation of the University’s WASC accreditation.

What makes it possible for the University to undertake the theme-based, mission-directed self study, rather than a self study like all previous such studies, focused on and organized according to the nine accreditation standards of WASC’s Handbook of Accreditation (1988) and its predecessors? A full answer is complex, yet it can be summarized simply: WASC has invited and encouraged us to conduct such an experimental self study. Ralph Wolff, Executive Director of WASC’s Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities, has discussed on several occasions over the past two years the multiple factors leading to WASC’s invitation. Among the reasons for WASC’s change in emphasis are the following:

  • WASC is in the midst of tremendous change. It has restructured internally, and it is struggling with the implications of telecommunications and distance learning, responding to stringent new U.S. Department of Education regulations, and working on new accreditation standards and a new Handbook to be published in the year 2000.
  • WASC is attempting to respond to the same conditions of rapid change that its member institutions are facing. An important part of its strategy is to shift from being an organization that is primarily regulatory to one that is primarily service oriented. It has set up task forces and work groups to explore and implement its new orientation. It has striven to support the planning efforts of institutions, develop a user-friendly visit process, and become a vehicle for sharing good practices within the region. And, with institutions like Fullerton, whose reaccreditation is not in question, it has encouraged experimental self studies and visits.
  • WASC recognizes that it, too, must be accountable. WASC’s interactions with campuses are very expensive. A typical UC visit and preparation for it cost the campus $250,000 to $300,000. CSU self studies and visits typically cost the institutions $150,000 or more. Campuses should derive clear value from such expensive undertakings.
  • The current model of accreditation dates from the 1950s. Although over the years it has become more comprehensive and linked to strategic planning, it needs to become even more responsive to the needs of each campus. Therefore, WASC is moving from a "one-size-fits-all" model to a "tool kit" model for the self study process and report. With WASC support, recent experimental self studies and visits have occurred at CSU Sacramento, Chico, Fresno, and Humboldt and at Westmont College, Santa Clara University, Dominican College, and others. New models are also evolving for research universities like the UC, USC and Stanford.
  • In an emerging model for campus self studies, WASC’s existing standards serve as a continually present background. However, institutions that are in "good standing" with WASC, that is, have neither been placed on probation nor given only preliminary accreditation, have been encouraged to design self studies that explore themes and topics tied to the campus’s mission and that contribute to its planning efforts.
  • A key goal of such thematic, mission-based, planning-directed self studies is to foster within institutions a "culture of evidence," that is, an expectation among all campus constituencies that decisions will be based on data, that systematic assessment will be part of every program, and that claims about quality will be supported by documentation. The challenge for campuses and for WASC has always been how to validate self studies. The solution proposed is to base the self study on the assessment of evidence.
  • Traditional self studies placed heavy emphasis on documenting the material resources available to the campus, but gave little attention to the outcomes achieved with those resources, frequently ignoring student learning outcomes, perhaps hardest to assess, yet central to the purposes for which colleges and universities exist. Placing student learning at the center of a campus self study raises important questions: what are the right learning outcomes? What are the best forms of assessment? Out of the answers to questions such as these, WASC hopes to develop its new standards for 2000 and beyond.

This is the context in which WASC has offered CSUF an invaluable opportunity to use this self-study process to learn more about itself, to document its strengths, and, through the results of the self study and the responses of a WASC visiting team, gain perspectives that will be invaluable in planning its direction for the future.

Goals of CSUF’s Self Study

Two documents set the context for our self study and shape the questions that it seeks to answer: The University’s Mission, Goals and Strategies and the CSU’s Cornerstones. Of these two, the first is the most important. The campus’s articulation of its mission has now been in place for almost four years. It has shaped our discussions and guided our priorities. The timing of our self study is opportune: we need to assess how well we are doing in implementing the goals and strategies we have agreed upon. For the CSU as a whole, Cornerstones establishes goals for the coming decade that have an immediate impact on individual campus priorities. Cornerstones promises to be important to the future of the CSU and therefore to CSUF.

Themes of CSUF’s Self Study

Taking the Mission, Goals and Strategies as centrally important to CSUF’s self study, the themes of the self study are tied directly to the University’s overriding goal of being and becoming a place where learning is preeminent. What does it mean to us "to make learning preeminent," to what extent have we succeeded, and what further steps can we take to achieve this aspiration? What are the key indicators of learning that can offer us guidance into the future?

For many years, CSUF has striven to combine the best qualities of a teaching university and a research university. By tradition, as well as by emphasis in CSUF’s Mission, the University stresses not just student learning, but faculty and staff learning as well, believing that the three are integrally linked. We propose, therefore, that in focusing on learning, the self study explore three closely related themes:

    Focus on Student Learning                                        

    Professor David DeVries (Communications) and a GE class on visual communication.

    Using information derived from surveys, tests, focus groups, and other sources, the self study will document the University’s contributions to

      1. student academic development, performance and achievement;
      2. student career development;
      3. student personal development; and
    student satisfaction with their learning.

    In short, we are attempting to answer the questions, "What are the ‘marks’ of the Fullerton student?" and "What are the ‘marks’ of the Fullerton graduate?" Current student and alumni voices, as well as their performance and achievement, will be sources of evidence in connection with this theme. Furthermore, this theme directs our attention not just to what students know and can do, but to how we go about determining that, thereby leading us to reconsider the methods we employ in assessing student learning and in determining program effectiveness.

    Focus on Faculty and Staff Learning 

    Professors Anil Puri and Jane Hall (Economics) useWEB CT to put their course,  Economics 335,  on line.

    Using information derived from surveys, focus groups, and other sources, the self study will explore the University’s contributions to

      1. the professional accomplishments and achievements of faculty and staff;
      2. the professional development of faculty and staff and institutional support for it; and
      3. faculty and staff satisfaction with support for learning on the campus.

    The assumptions underlying this second focus are that student learning is linked inextricably with faculty and staff learning and that campus conditions fostering faculty and staff learning are an important part of what is required for the creation and support of powerful student learning communities.
    Focus on the Environment for Learning

    Students explore the X-ray Crystallography Facility in the Department of Chemistry

    Using data from all available sources, including surveys and focus groups, the self study will explore the quality of the University’s environment for learning, both internal to the campus and in the external community, for students, faculty and staff. We will assess the quality and effectiveness of multicultural communication and interaction on campus; our evolving sense of community; and our facilities, technology, and other infrastructure for the support of learning.

    By focusing on these three areas, the self study will enable us to assess our campus climate, the adaptation of the campus to and for the diversity of its students and employees, the contribution of campus governance, and the interrelations of the social and physical contexts that provide the setting for learning at the University.

    For each focus, we need to

    • identify relevant data, indicators, and studies that we already have available from the past five years;
    • identify relevant assessment tools that we can employ during the next 12 months; and
    • identify events, activities, and projects planned for the next year that can contribute to the self study.

    The Self Study proposal concludes by suggesting some of the available data and resources that are incorporated in the ongoing analysis of the three themes.

    II. Progress thus far: The three subcommittees
    Subcommittee on Student Learning

    Mechanical Engineering students built a robotic device for spray-painting small parts in their senior design class.

    Pat Szeszulski, Department of Child and Adolescent Studies, Chair

    Members: Joe Arnold, Associate Dean, School of the Arts, Professor of Theater and Dance
    Marilyn Powell Berns, Community Member
    Kristine Buse, Student
    David Fromson, Associate Dean, Natural Science and Mathematics, and Professor of Biology
    Richard Pollard, University Librarian
    Judy Ramirez, Chair, Child, Family and Community Services Division; Professor of Child and Adolescent Studies
    Ephraim Smith, Vice President of Academic Affairs
    Darlene Stevenson, Director, Housing and Residential Life
    Dolores Vura, Director of Analytical Studies

    As has been the case with all the subcommittees, the Subcommittee on Student Learning has engaged in a variety of activities in order to define the scope of its work. Members of the subcommittee have read a number of philosophical papers on student learning, gathered and considered a great deal of evidence on issues related to student learning at CSUF, and met regularly to discuss all the evidence. During this process, the subcommittee made the decision to focus on a limited number of key issues related to how to educate a diverse student body for the 21st century. Furthermore, the members decided to study each issue in great detail rather than covering all possible issues superficially. To facilitate consensus regarding which issues would be pursued, members of the subcommittee participated in a three-hour brainstorming session using Ventana GroupSystems, a software program that allows participants to contribute their ideas anonymously and simultaneously while working at separate workstations. The subcommittee’s session in the Library Studio Classroom on April 28 comprised three phases. First, 82 ideas were generated in response to the prompt, "What questions about student learning should this subcommittee examine in order to be able to address whether or not University practice is consistent with the goals of its mission?" Second, the responses were reviewed and redundant ideas were combined. Third, participants used a 5-point scale (strongly agree to strongly disagree) to vote whether each of the remaining 76 ideas should be considered by the committee. Independent reviews of the resultant data yielded a "philosophical/definitional" category (e.g., What is learning? What is assessment?) as well as the following four broad categories of "evidence" (particular foci) related to educating a diverse student body:

    • Who Are Our Student Learners? (Demographics; Student concerns and preparation)
    • Factors That Influence Learning (Academic &Technological resources; Student/faculty collaboration, Community-based and co-curricular experiences )
    • Learning Goals (Marks of a CSUF graduate/education; GE and selected other programs that have developed learning goals)
    • Assessment of Learning (Graduates/seniors opinions; Selected programs/departments and initiatives (e.g., Fullerton First Year) working on assessment)

    The subcommittee is analyzing the four perspectives in order to address the following:

    • How students experience the University
    • How students come to understand their relation to other learners
    • The relationship between (a) and (b) and what we do in the curriculum and the classroom.
    • How assessment of (c) informs our planning for the future.

    The subcommittee continues to summarize existing evidence for each of the issues and to determine which area will require further exploration.

    Subcommittee on Faculty and Staff Learning

    Delegation of Chinese banking executives met with faculty and students from BAE

    Dave DeVries, Department of Communications, Chair

    Members: Rhonda Allen, Assistant Professor of Political Science and Criminal Justice
    Friedhild Brainard, Office Manager, Financial Aid
    Don Castro, Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences
    David Falconer, Associate Dean, Engineering and Computer Science; Associate Professor of Computer Science
    Harry Gianneschi, Vice President of University Advancement
    Willie Hagan, Vice President of Administrative Affairs
    Jessica Medina, Student
    Sandra Sutphen, Professor of Political Science
    Larry Zucker, Associate Vice President of University Advancement

    The Subcommittee on Faculty and Staff Learning decided quickly that many of the traditional indicators of faculty learning were good measures that stood the test of objective assessment. An enumeration of peer-reviewed publications, exhibitions, performances and conference presentations is part of the "culture of evidence" that demonstrates continued professional involvement, and presumptively, continued learning. Sources for these data are easily gathered from departmental year-end reports, Compendium announcements, and acknowledgement at the Vice President for Academic Affairs’ annual recognition day. In addition, there are numerous indicators, some easier to collect and organize than others. Among these are

    • workshop attendance
    • grants received
    • school/departmental retreats
    • new courses developed
    • active membership in professional associations
    • use of new technology
    • classes taken

    The subcommittee anticipated that the Faculty Development Center will work closely with the subcommittee, both in providing data from past efforts sponsored by the Institute for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning (the Center’s predecessor) as well as informing us of new directions for faculty learning. For example, the members agreed that it would be useful to have comparative data from other institutions, especially those with a long history of formalized faculty development.

    Arriving at measurements for staff learning was less straightforward. The subcommittee found some obvious indicators:

    • Classes taken at CSUF and elsewhere ("fee waiver")
    • Degrees earned while working at CSUF
    • Performance Salary Increase (PSI) awards and other recognitions
    • Workshops/conferences attended
    • Use of new technology

    During its discussions about staff learning, the subcommittee felt the need for what the members called "anecdotal" material, or "data" based on responses about opportunities for learning from staff who had taken advantage of these moments. (At the same time, the subcommittee began to get a bit of feedback from some staff members about their own experiences). Because the University has recently redirected resources to provide a staff development program headed by Naomi Goodwin and Robin Innes, the subcommittee expect to find not only more courses and workshops but also more data to support the "culture of evidence" about staff learning.

    The University has the results of a number of studies that have been done on campus—including some that have gathered longitudinal data—about faculty involvement in learning, but little material has been gathered in the past to document staff learning. The subcommittee anticipates that correcting this deficiency will be a high priority for its work in 1998-99.

    Subcommittee on the Campus Environment for Learning

    The fourth Town Hall of the American Dialogue Series focused on Orange County's multicultural Asian-American community.

    Ray Young, Department of Geography, Chair

    Members: Judith Anderson, Executive Vice President
    Dorothy Edwards, Human Resources
    Tom Klammer, Associate Vice President for Academic Programs
    John Lawrence, Professor, Management Science and Information Systems
    Jeff Newell, Student
    Robert Palmer, Vice President for Student Affairs
    Melinda White, Physical Plant
    Colleen Wilkins, Environmental Health and Safety

    The campus environment for learning is a deceptively straightforward construct. To many observers the first environments which come to mind are the meso-scale "bricks and mortar" of the campus such as particular buildings or their internal classrooms and offices, and the infrastructure necessary to make those function effectively. Yet, our learning environments reach far beyond that while also operating in more subtle, behavioral domains. A full assessment of the environment for learning must include macro-level components literally from "A" (the arboretum) to "Z" (Desert Studies Center at Zzyzx).

    The subcommittee also noted the importance of service and business environments that can facilitate or distract from learning. These include such components as the Admissions and Records department, Disabled Student Services office, campus food services, computer facilities and services, Library, parking, Public Safety, and the Titan Student Union. Moreover, the essence of Cal State Fullerton is expressed by its connections with the larger regional community, through which the public learns about our breadth and strengths. Those connectivity environments range from athletic events and fine arts programs to special recruitment or fundraising efforts and CLE, the Continuing Learning Experience, an organization targeted at persons desiring to pursue learning after retirement.

    The subcommittee has identified more than 50 distinct components to the campus learning environment which may provide indicators of how well the university is implementing the campus Mission and Goals. After generating an extensive list of environmental components, the subcommittee arrived at a consensus about a subset that deserves closer attention for the WASC accreditation process. The subcommittee agreed upon the following rank-ordered components of the learning environment. The list combines general elements (e.g., "classrooms") with specific campus service departments and offices (e.g., Admissions and Records, Physical Plant).

      1. Classrooms
      2. General campus aura
      3. Landscaping and pathways
      4. Parking
      5. Faculty offices
      6. Building appearance
      7. Safety elements, including campus lighting
      8. Admissions and Records
      9. Mission Viejo campus

    10T. Physical Plant and support services

    10T. Service areas / work rooms

    12. Staff and administrative offices

    13. Student services units

    14T. Outdoor gathering places

    14T. Student interactive spaces

    16T. Residence Halls

    16T. Student organizations

      1. 18. Titan Student Union

    Presenting such a list quickly begs at least two interpretive questions: Do these components represent areas of concern (that is, areas of weakness) or are they components simply believed to be very important attributes of a strong university . . . or both? Could some components of the campus environment for learning have been omitted from this list because they are now perceived of as functioning quite well (such as the Library)?

    While there are various sources of evidence to paint a clear picture of some of these components, the subcommittee foresees considerable research to determine how users (various groups of learners) rate the importance of, and their satisfaction with, other elements. The subcommittee plans to conduct further research, including focused surveys, during the coming months to expand knowledge about many of these themes. A reexamination of existing evidence, coupled with new perspectives, will provide a more thorough assessment to the campus and to the WASC reviewers but, just as importantly, provide planning guidance to on-campus decision-makers long after the formal WASC process has concluded.