Griffin: Foundations of Exellence project focuses on nine dimensions

Dr. Betsy Griffin - Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs

Dr. Betsy Griffin – Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs

As part of the accreditation process, Missouri Southern’s Foundations of Excellence in the First College Year project is underway.

“The project is essentially a campus-wide self study of how we stack up against some goals for excellence programs for first-year students,” said Dr. Betsy Griffin, assistant vice president for academic affairs. “We really see it as a way to improve student success overall.”

Griffin said there are nine dimensions the foundation has identified, which focuses on the students’ first year at Southern.

“We have study teams made up of faculty and staff,” she said, ” and some of them with student representatives looking at each of those nine dimensions.”

She said there are seven study teams, with some of them looking at two different dimensions.

The nine dimensions are philosophy, organization, learning, faculty, transitions, all students, diversity, roles and purposes and improvement.

In the first dimension, philosophy is defined as the Foundations Institutions approach the first year in ways that are intentional and based on a philosophy/rationale of the first year that informs relevant institutional policies and practices.

“Our’s is a little bit more implicit,” Griffin said. “We know that we’re got some certain goals, but it’s not really written down.”

With organization, the Foundations Institutions create organizational structures and policies that provide a comprehensive, integrated and coordinated approach to the first year.

Griffin said it is how the activities are organized for first-year students.

The third dimension, learning, deals with the goals and outcomes for the first-year students, Griffin said.

Faculty is defined as making the first college year a high priority for the faculty.

The area of transition deals with facilitating appropriate student transitions through policies and practices that are intentional and aligned with institutional mission.

“[It] looks at all of the kinds of things that have to do with the information that goes out to prospective students,” Griffin said, “what we tell students when they get on campus.”

The dimension of all students serves all first-year students according to their varied needs.

“[It] looks at whether or not we have programs to address special students’ needs,” she said.

Dimension seven looks at diversity, which ensures all first-year students experience diverse ideas, worldviews and cultures as a means of enhancing their learning and preparing them to become members of pluralistic communities.

“Diversity has to do with exposing students to cultural diversity,” Griffin said. “We’ve got that exposure through the international mission.”

Griffin said the dimension roles and purposes inform the students about the roles and purposes of college education. In the last dimension, improvement, the Foundations Institutions conducts assessment and maintain associations with other institutions and relevant professional organizations in order to achieve ongoing first-year improvement.

Griffin said the self-study will be completed at the end of May, and the project has been combined with the accreditation process, which is scheduled for 2008.

“They’ll be interested to see, because we’ve created this kind of special focus on the first year, how we’ve done,” Griffin said.

The project also had faculty and student surveys that were targeted toward the nine dimensions. There is also a Web site for the accreditation portfolio in which anyone can keep track of what the process is and look at it. Griffin said it will also be used when re-accreditation approaches.

“It puts the information out there,” Griffin said. “We want this to be a really open process.”

Lyle Mays, professor of computer information sciences, designed the Web site.

“[It is a] repository for the documents,” Mays said.

He said the layout of the Web site is the basic layout for the school of technology Web site.

Griffin said this is a special project.

“It’s one that hasn’t been done before on Missouri Southern’s campus,” she said. “It’s only been done with one other set of institutions previously. It’s a fairly new process.”

She said it is done by selection of the institution and whether the institution would like to become involved in the process.

To see the recent updates on the accreditation portfolio, visit the Web site