Charting Our Campus Future
Charting Our Campus Future: WASC Notes

Issue # 2 • Summer/Fall 2007 | California State University, Fullerton

The WASC Steering Committee thanks the campus community for its thoughtful participation in the discussion activities and your responses to the campus wide survey. We also express our appreciation to President Milton A. Gordon and Vice President Ephraim P. Smith for their generous support and encouragement.

Engaging the Campus -- Spring & Summer 2007

This edition of the WASC Notes reports the numerous reaccreditation activities that took place over the spring and summer of 2007 and summarizes the major findings from a campus wide electronic survey. Our university must develop and submit an Institutional Proposal to the WASC staff by October 15, 2007 that denotes the broad campus research themes and actions for the remainder of the three-year review period and, ultimately, will guide the campus toward institutional improvements. Because the reaccreditation focuses on quality improvement more than on simple compliance, the WASC Steering Committee engaged the campus in a systematic and inclusive process in order to determine these research themes.

describing themenes

The process began in January 2007 with the Academic Affairs Forum. One hundred thirty members of the campus community participated in breakout sessions on “Brainstorming Campus Futures” and the following themes emerged [listed in alphabetical order]: assessing student learning and success, enhancing campus community, growth and institutional quality, supporting faculty and staff needs for effectiveness, and the intersection of growth and campus planning.

In February and March, the WASC Steering Committee conducted outreach discussions with several key groups. Multiple constituencies on the campus were encouraged to participate in these discussions, although not all elected to do so. Representatives of the Steering Committee met with the Academic Senate, Associated Students board, Student Affairs staff, Executive Vice President’s staff, Alumni Association board, Information Technology staff, Academic Department Chairs, and Pollak Library staff.

The Access to Excellence workshop (March 21, 2007) drew 263 attendees who were invited to enumerate campus strengths and areas for collective improvement within the larger domains of ensuring success in student learning and building faculty and staff excellence to promote that student success. Finally, the discussions among the 182 participants at the Complexities of Growth forum (April 5, 2007), focused on an extensive range of topics: infrastructure challenges, financing, our imprint on the local community, staffing levels and staff support, and inherent predicaments in the nature of growth per se.

The WASC Steering Committee received several specific charges from the WASC Commission. First, the Committee is required to address “areas of [needed] attention” noted by the WASC Commission in its July 2000 reaccreditation letter to the university. These included (1) refining the definition and improving evidence of learning, (2) continued strengthening of general education, (3) improving the Program Performance Review, and (4) supporting faculty learning and development. The Committee also conducted a Preliminary Institutional Self-Review in relation to each of the four WASC standards: (1) defining institutional purposes and ensuring educational objectives; (2) achieving educational objectives through core functions; (3) developing and applying resources and organizational structures to ensure sustainability; and (4) creating an organization committed to learning and improvement. With the information and feedback from the various meetings and activities, the Steering Committee prepared a formal All-Campus Survey that sought to determine the perspectives of the collective voice of our campus.

Convergence of Perspectives and Themes:
The All-Campus Survey

As a final mechanism for collecting evidence, the Steering Committee developed an electronic All-Campus Survey that was posted on campus portals for five weeks in late April and May. The survey questionnaire was organized into six major domains of interest:

• Addressing the Needs of Students
• Ensuring Student Learning
• Faculty Excellence and Effectiveness
• Staff Excellence and Effectiveness
• Campus Planning and Vision
• Campus and Community Partnerships

For each of 48 items distributed across these domains, respondents were asked to react to two dimensions: How well is the campus doing in this area? How important is it to address this area now? A total of 1,242 valid surveys were completed, representing a good cross-section of the university community. Of note, more than 430 individuals offered specific comments under the open-ended question at the end of the survey. The overall distribution of respondents was as follows:

Distribution of Respondents

Group

Number

Percent of Total

Students

408

32.9%

Administration

94

7.6%

Staff

334

26.9%

Part-Time Faculty

124

10.0%

Full-Time Faculty

282

22.7%

Total

1242

100.0%

Survey Findings

Detailed survey results will be posted this fall on the reaccreditation web site: www.fullerton.edu/wasc. A wealth of evidence emerged from the survey responses, indicating both strengths and challenges of our campus. One informative measure of the Cal State Fullerton strengths is to view those activities and qualities which respondents regard as the university doing “Very Well” and are considered to be “Very Important.” Prominent assets and strengths include our strong technological infrastructure, welcoming and accessible environment of the university, attention to student success, and service to the needs of our regional community, along with the needs of our students.

In contrast, the survey found general concerns about staff sufficiency and for more integrated campus planning and vision. Campus challenges were identified through cross-combinations of areas which were marked as both “not well done” and “very important” to address at this time. Students also expressed an interest in having more engagement with faculty and more out-of-classroom experiences.

Additionally, 34.7 percent of all respondents took the time and effort to provide written comments at the end of the questionnaire. Taken as a whole, these written comments demonstrated a qualitative richness behind the quantitative patterns raised in the questionnaire statistics.

URGENT AGENDA ITEMS -- RANK ORDER OF RESPONDENTS

(At least 20% of Two Constituencies Marked "Very Important" and "Not Well" Done)

Summary of survey results. HTML graph to come

The Reaccreditation Research Questions

Based on the confluence of information from the spring semester engagement activities, the self-review, and the findings from the campus wide survey, the Steering Committee identified three themes and six questions that will guide the campus-wide approach to reaccreditation.

CAMPUS-WIDE PLANNING

In the face of enrollment pressures and system-wide expectations, how does each campus unit define and assess indicators of quality and their contributions to the academic mission of the University?

How do we integrate and prioritize these indicators of quality with campus-wide planning?

STUDENT LEARNING AND ITS ASSESSMENT

What are the student learning goals that we hold in common across baccalaureate degree programs? How are these learning goals articulated and achieved through curricular and co-curricular experiences?

How can student and faculty conceptions about what constitutes “effective writing skills” be aligned, and what existing and potential means of support would assist in developing such skills?

How can we improve the use of quality review processes such as the PPR, annual reports, and discipline-based accreditation, so as to assist departments in assessing student learning and using the results to improve their programs?

PROMOTING STUDENT ENGAGEMENT AND SUCCESS

How can we better promote student engagement and success by means of our teaching, mentoring, and advising and make the best use of our resources in order to achieve this objective?

Next Steps

Now that the research themes and questions have been identified, the critical next step is to determine how we will address these questions and what outcomes we wish to achieve. What existing structures and processes might be used to address these questions? What additional structures, special resources, and other means of support may be needed to address these questions in order to move Cal State Fullerton to a higher level of institutional quality? And what particular improvements to the campus do we wish to see as a result of this research?

The Steering Committee invites your suggestions and encourages your continued participation as the reaccreditation process moves forward, such as volunteering for one of the task forces and special sub-committees that will be created to address the research themes. We will post the Institutional Proposal on the reaccreditation web site in mid-September at www.fullerton.edu/wasc. Please feel free to contact any member of the committee directly by email or phone.