New program seeks to improve UD

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Akiko Bremar, Contributing Writer

In preparation for a visit in 2014 from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) to evaluate and re-accredit the University of Dallas, the university has initiated a major program known as the Quality Enhancement Program (QEP).

A regional accreditation agency that evaluates various schools and colleges in the southern region of the U.S. and helps those institutions better serve their students, SACS visits UD every 10 years to evaluate and reaccredit the university. Part of this process requires that UD put together a QEP, a generic program which the university that is under review can tailor to the needs of its students.

In the guidelines given to the university from SACS, it is stated that the QEP is meant to be geared towards “enhancing the quality of higher education and to focusing attention on student learning. The QEP describes a carefully designed course of action that addresses a well-defined and focused topic or issue, related to enhancing student learning and/or the environment supporting student learning, and accomplishing the mission of the institution.”

Last semester, the university established a committee to generate ideas about a well-defined and focused topic or issue upon which to base a course of action.

The QEP committee includes Dr. Robert Kugelmann from the psychology department, who will serve as chairman, Dr. Gregory Roper from the English department, Dr. John Osoinach from the mathematics department and Dr. Nancy Schreiber from the College of Business. They have already met many times to discuss ways in which UD can better enhance student learning, and they have collected data via three major surveys and background research.

“This is very much a research project,” Kugelmann said. “We gathered information from student surveys over the past years regarding what students want done at UD; we sent a survey this past summer to faculty, administration and alumni; we got ideas from the graduating senior class last May; and we sent a survey to the entire community, including students, two weeks ago.”

Some ideas that have been brought up include the installation of smart classrooms, greater inclusion of global perspectives in the curriculum and the addition of more tutoring opportunities. Though these are the areas of interest that the committee has pinpointed, the opportunities for focused consideration are not limited to these topics.

“The accreditation process requires us to solicit ideas from the broadest possible constituencies, including students, faculty, administrators, alumni and community members,” Roper said. “It is important that we hear from everyone.”

Junior Student Government Representative Dominic Dougherty said, “The QEP is good because it is a way to constantly be moving forward. Not that I want to lose what I used to have – or have right now – but improvements are always beneficial. Even though I think UD is one of the best universities, we can always improve, and this program enables us to see some of the areas that we need to focus on.”

The QEP Committee has until December to continue collecting the opinions of the UD community. In December, it will present three or four ideas to Dr. Charles Eaker, the Dean of Constantin College. Eaker will then decide which of these ideas the university will take on as its project. In January, a new QEP committee will form, which will be in charge of following through with the chosen project. After that, the school will follow through with these decisions, and, within a few years, the new changes will be implemented.

“We have to show on the next accreditation, 10 years later, that we followed through on whatever QEP we produced this time,” Roper said. “That means the administration is required to commit resources – money, people, time – to whatever program we end up creating. This is not going to be some one-shot affair; this could and should shape learning at the university for years to come. UD students and faculty will want to have input into something this important.”

10 years ago, UD underwent a similar evaluation process by SACS and had to come up with a QEP then, as well. The question UD wanted to answer at the time was whether it was possible for an undergraduate program to blend both the requirements of UD’s traditional liberal arts curriculum with the practical knowledge of professional education.

To respond to the QEP in 2003, UD established the College of Business to show that it was possible to bridge the liberal arts with a professional program.

“Every school that falls under the SACS has to follow the requirements of QEP. For us at UD, it has to tie to our mission,” Schreiber said. “Because our foundation has a strong liberal arts focus, in 2003, when we did our last QEP, we brought together the focus of the graduate program and the liberal arts tradition. Now, the question is, how can UD become better across the board? Is it through technology, a program, a support system? This is why we want and need everyone to come out and tell us what it is that they think will be most beneficial to UD. “

For anyone who would like to voice an opinion, or see changes to the school, a survey is still available online. It was emailed two weeks ago, so check your old mail for the link to the survey. In addition, the QEP Committee will be holding three different informational sessions throughout the week for all to attend: Monday, Oct. 22, 1 – 2 p.m. in Braniff 201, Tuesday, October 23, 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. in Gorman B and Monday, Oct. 29, 3:30 – 4:30 p.m. in Gorman B.

“It is important for students to give an input because it is for us,” junior Cierra Houchins said. “We go to the school, so we should want to make things better for ourselves. This can only help us, and not hurt us. Why wouldn’t people want to participate and help improve our school?”

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