Committees develop set of action projects

As part of the nine dimensions laid out in the University’s Foundations of Excellence self-study, Missouri Southern was given a set of recommendations.

“This summer we had a great deal of time analyzing those recommendations and trying to develop a sense of priority and a sense of what could emerge as an action plan,” said Dr. Richard McCallum, vice president for academic affairs.

McCallum said the University is trying to move forward with the action plans this year.

“Our hope is that this year we will put some of those action projects into motion,” he said, “and we will keep them going.”

Within a year, McCallum said Southern will add a couple more action plans based on the dimension reports.

“Over a period of two or three years we want to be able to develop a comprehensive set of action projects that are implementing the recommendations from those dimensional sub-studies,” he said.

McCallum said there are six action plans the University is currently analyzing. He said the first action plan is a revision of the freshman orientation course.

“(It is) the idea that we would change the content and the format,” he said, “and move it from its existing one credit hour to a full three-credit-hour course.”

Dr. Cliff Toliver, assistant professor of English and philosophy, said the action plans are part of the re-accreditation process. He said the committee is looking at having the faculty more involved and improving the orientation classes.

“(We are) looking at programs at other institutions,” he said.

Co-chairs for the freshman orientation committee are Holley Goodnight, coordinator of new student programs, and Toliver.

McCallum said the second action plan involves high-enrollment courses with low success rates.

“That is an effort to look at classes that have a high first-year enrollment but a lot of D, F or W (withdraw) grades,” he said.

McCallum said some of the classes may be core curriculum, but some may be difficult classes for first-year students.

“In that project, we are going to look for ways to try to enhance student success in those high enrollment courses,” he said.

Co-chairs for the second committee are Dr. Juan Vázquez, head of the mathematics department, and Eillen Godsey, director of the Learning Center.

In the third project, McCallum said it is a combination of three efforts.

“We are going to develop a philosophy statement for the first year, which is one of the major recommendations that come out of the self-study last year,” he said.

McCallum said they are going to look at the learning goals they would like students to succeed in the first year and then assess them.

“This particular project which is kind of three-dimensional is one of the projects that is also anchored in our Assessment Academy application,” he said.

Co-chairs for the third committee are Dr. Mark Comstock, professor of accounting, and Dr. Delores Honey, assistant vice president for assessment and institutional research.

In the fourth action plan, McCallum said they are looking at the academic advising process for the first-year students. He said they are going to try to connect the students with faculty and refine the advising process that would be available to them.

“A lot of first-year students come to us in an undecided situation,” he said, “and we are going to try to look for ways to connect that first-year student even though they haven’t declared a major.”

Co-chairs for the fourth committee are Dr. Scott Wells, professor of biology, and Kelly Wilson, director of the student support center.

In the fifth action plan involving diversity, McCallum said there was a recommendation to create an advisory committee which would be campus-wide.

“We’re moving forward with that,” he said.

The diversity committee chair is Dr. Al Cade, head of the department of teacher education.

McCallum said in the sixth action plan, they are going to attempt to reach out to the public schools.

“We hope to begin in the spring semester,” he said.

McCallum said the connection with the students will begin in the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth grades. McCallum said they would like to find a way in working with partnerships to have the opportunity to talk to teachers, students and parents.

“You begin to communicate how important it is that they pursue college prep track when they’re in high school so that when they come to college they are better prepared to be successful,” he said. “(We can) try to describe the importance of college preparation courses and how their college preparation classes in high school connect and build the knowledge base that students need for a successful first year at our university.”

McCallum is the chair for the sixth committee.