Standard One - Institutional Mission and Goals, Planning, and Effectiveness

I. Mission Statement

Weber State University offers associate, baccalaureate and master degree programs in a broad variety of liberal arts, sciences, technical and professional fields. The university provides excellent educational experiences for its students through extensive personal contact among faculty, staff and students in and out of the classroom. To accomplish its mission, the university, in partnership with the broader community, engages in research, artistic expression, public service, economic development, and community-based learning experiences in an environment that encourages freedom of expression while valuing diversity.

II. Planning and Goals

After her appointment in 2002, President F. Ann Millner designed an ongoing institutional planning process that was led by a University Planning Council utilizing the following method:

At the time of its organization, the WSU Planning Council identified overarching (long-term) goals for the university and subsequently indentified two sets of short-term goals to be completed within specified three-year periods. In order to broaden and deepen the scope of the long-term missions, President Millner, faculty, staff, students and key constituents on the WSU Planning Council spent the 2006-07 academic year creating a vision of what Weber State University can become in the year 2030. Their efforts resulted in “Looking Forward,” the vision statement for Weber State University in 2030.

Looking Forward - Weber State University 2030 Vision

Teaching Excellence

  • Hiring, developing and evaluating faculty will continue to reflect WSU’s focus on teaching excellence.
  • Faculty recognition and rewards for excellence in teaching will be expanded.
  • WSU will continue to develop programs for undergraduate research and service learning as well as other activities that foster meaningful student engagement.

Research

  • WSU will develop research centers that create opportunities to integrate scholarship and learning for faculty and students. The centers will attract faculty that are interested in exploring new knowledge through research and engaging students in discovery. These centers will be a driving force in attracting external funding.
  • WSU faculty and students will continue to play a leadership role in traditional, applied and community-based research.
  • WSU will be the leader of cultural and artistic endeavors in northern Utah.
  • WSU will actively foster research related to pedagogy and improving student learning.
  • WSU’s importance as an economic engine for the regional economy will increase.

Campus and Student Culture

  • WSU will continue to develop its campuses in both Ogden and Layton with additional buildings, programs and student services to serve the growing student population.
  • WSU will expand offerings in student-convenient “satellite” locations.
  • WSU will continue to expand high-quality online programs and courses and remain on the cutting edge by using new technologies to enhance learning experiences.
  • WSU will expand access to scholarship programs for all students and focus services and programs to meet their needs.
  • WSU will enhance out-of-class student learning experiences through the development of leadership skills, ethical decision-making, and civic responsibility.
  • The WSU campuses in Ogden and Layton will become significant destination nodes for the Wasatch Front mass transit system.
  • WSU will offer courses at locations and times convenient for students.
  • WSU will hire, develop and evaluate staff who foster a student-centered campus culture.
  • WSU will engage alumni in the life of the university.
  • WSU will expand efforts to foster a more sustainable campus through educational outreach, facility upgrades, recycling initiatives, and the encouragement of alternative modes of transportation.

Inclusion

  • WSU will meet the needs of the diverse learners in the communities it serves.
  • WSU will foster a campus culture in which everyone feels respected and valued.
  • WSU will use its open-access, community college role to become a leader in changing attitudes regarding access to and the value derived from higher education.

Student Success

  • WSU will enhance academic, student development and support services to retain students through graduation.
  • WSU will help students achieve their educational goals in a timely manner.
  • WSU faculty and staff will collaborate on the goal of student success.
  • WSU alumni will occupy leadership roles.

III. Current Strategic Priorities

This vision statement was followed in 2007 with initiatives (short-term goals) for the 2007-2010 period:

  1. Increase national recognition for WSU’s teaching excellence and leadership, including the areas of undergraduate research, service learning, community involvement and student engagement.
  2. Implement/revise master plan for the Ogden campus; secure funding for new construction at WSU Davis and the acquisition of new property.
  3. Foster enrollment growth which moves the university toward its vision of 30,000 students in 2030.
  4. Enhance academic, student development and support services to retain students through graduation; develop innovative strategies to meet the needs of diverse learners.
  5. Increase support for student and faculty research. Foster economic development in Northern Utah through research, academic programs, USTAR and other industry-focused initiatives.
  6. Extend the high-quality offerings of WSU Online and WSU hybrid-delivery programs using leading-edge technology.

IV. Institutional Educational Assessment and Measures of Effectiveness

The institutional assessment model is designed to inform the planning model and to provide data that will enhance and refine the educational and co-curricular processes of the university. The model contemplates review of student educational attainment at the institutional, college, program and course level. It also collects and analyzes data on institutional effectiveness in responding to business needs and efficiency and effectiveness in resource allocation.

Institutional Evaluation of Learning

At an institutional level, summative assessment of educational outcomes occurs through review of general education attainment data as discussed in Recommendation One, analysis of graduation school acceptance and employment patterns, regular input from national and local employer advisory boards, input from local business, political and governmental leaders in regularly scheduled meetings, and from regional and national organizations, such as the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and regional accreditation.

College Level Review of Educational Attainment

College level review occurs through specialized accreditation, analysis of graduate admissions and employment patterns, analysis of general education and major-related educational outcomes data, and analysis of program reviews.

Program Reviews and Student Educational Attainment

Program level reviews of each academic program, which include outside evaluators, occur at least every five years. Many programs are also accredited by specialized accreditation associations. Each program submits an annual assessment to the university that reflects the ways that they ensure that their students are achieving general education and major-related learning outcomes. Most programs have a summative student experience that allows them to assess their graduating students’ levels of attainment of educational goals. Many programs work closely with advisory boards to ensure that their instruction coincides with employers’ needs. Academic programs that frequently place graduates into graduate schools, regularly review the admissions patterns of their graduates. Finally, many programs have nationally standardized tests or licensure exams that allow the faculty to assess their students learning against a national or regional standard.

Course Level Reviews of Student Learning

Course level review involves formative and summative evaluation of each course and instructor on a regular basis. This includes evaluation of student attainment of learning outcomes through standardized and locally developed tests and evaluations of student portfolios.

Institutional Effectiveness and Accomplishment of Short Term Goals

In addition, data is gathered with respect to institutional effectiveness and accomplishment of strategic priorities that may not be directly collected by other means. As an illustration of “closing the loop” on the planning process, Appendix IV contains accomplishments reported by WSU departments, units and divisions toward the achievement of institutional strategic initiatives during the 2007-2008 academic year. Appendix V contains examples of 2009 college assessment reports.

Substantive Changes Reported to the Commission in the Past Five Years

There have been no substantive changes reported to the Commission in the past five years.

V. Strengths and Challenges

Strengths include:

  • Strong focus on undergraduate teaching and student success.
  • Expanded technology infrastructure, including delivering online courses and degrees, and providing students with increased electronic access to WSU services.
  • Excellent library resources and services.
  • Long-term strategy to strengthen our external image and relationships.

Challenges include:

  • Reduced state budgets, accompanied by growth in student population and increased use of technology continue to strain our resources, making decisions about future resource allocations even more significant.
  • Although institution-wide planning and assessment processes are now becoming part of the culture, there is a need to continually reinforce the importance of focusing on student learning and data driven decision making.
  • While the CLA data suggests that our “value added to our students is significantly above the norm (at the 67 percentile) for similar institutions, and our student retention data (over 80% Fall to Spring) reflects an overall success in reducing attrition for most students, the student learning and success of academically at-risk students, particularly in their first year of college, remains a significant concern. Our hope is that the redesigned First Year Experience course will have an increasing impact on these groups by creating a sense of collegiality and engagement that will support improved academic performance.
  • We have been encouraged by the addition of a significant new instructional building in the Ogden Campus and by the renovation of a couple of older buildings during the past five years. However, our Davis campus is fully utilized and we continue to struggle with maximally scheduled facilities on the Ogden campus. Starting with Summer Semester 2009, we changed the academic schedule to add an hour to the “prime time” classes and a full semester option for summer enrollees. Our hope is this will allow us to use our facilities with greater efficiency.