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September 2003

Report to the New England Association of Schools & Colleges, Inc, Commission on Institutions of Higher Education on Keene State College's progress in the areas identified by the Commission in its 10-year, comprehensive accreditation review in Fall 2000.

Institutional Overview
Keene State College focuses primarily on undergraduate education and serves the citizens of New Hampshire and the region as a scholarly community of higher learning, offering associate's, bachelor's, and selected master's degrees, and opportunities for continuing education in credit and non-credit programs and courses. Founded in 1909 as the Keene Normal School, the institution became Keene Teachers College in 1939 and was named Keene State College in 1963, when it became affiliated with the University System of New Hampshire. Keene State College offers a liberal arts education through programs in the arts, humanities, and sciences, as well as professional programs based in the liberal arts, designed to prepare students for specific careers.

Keene State is a vibrant public college that continues to grow in size and in stature. Dr. Stanley J. Yarosewick, President of the College since 1994, continues to lead Keene State with his emphasis on community building, leadership development, partnerships with the community, and strong fiscal and enrollment management. In spring 2003, the Washington Post named Keene State College as one of 100 institutions that "deserve bigger reputations." This fall, the College will appear in the Princeton Review's list of the 165 best colleges and universities in the Northeast.

Current enrollment is estimated at 5,300 compared to 4,573 at the time of the accreditation visit in October 2000. Retention has steadily improved, with 78 percent of the first-year students entering in fall 2001 returning in fall 2002. The College has demonstrated success in recruiting minority students, with students of color representing 5% of the entering fall 2003 class compared to a state demographic of 3% minority population.

State funding for public higher education increased by 5% in both the FY2002 and FY2003 biennium. This year, after a lengthy and contentious state budget process, it appears that the System will be funded at last year's levels, with an anticipated 3% increase in FY2005. Budget uncertainty has had an impact on the campus. Most notable is the fact that the College does not have a collective bargaining agreement with its tenure-track faculty to replace the agreement that ended on June 30, 2003, although progress continues to be made in negotiations.

Last year's record enrollments resulted in end-of-year dollars that were directed to address a significant number of critical needs; as a result, the impact of reduced state funding will not have a full impact on the campus until next year. The campus has taken a number of steps to position the College for coming budget challenges, including identifying efficiencies in the way the course schedule is created and implementing a charge-back budget model for campus technology that anticipates the constant upgrades required to accommodate campus technology needs.

In the FY02-03 biennium, the NH Legislature approved a $100 million, six-year capital appropriation for the University System of New Hampshire to improve science and technology facilities on System campuses. As a result, the College has begun a $23 million project to expand and renovate its aging Science Center; $19 million is coming from the state appropriation and an additional $4 million is being sought in a capital campaign. This is the largest capital campaign in the College's history. It follows successful fund raising for improvements to the College's soccer fields, the NGM Safety Center, and endowments to support its Cohen Center for Holocaust Studies. In addition to the capital appropriation, the College used funds from HEFA bonds to complete a new student recreation center and a new residential facility; construction on a new dining facility will begin in May 2004.

Since the NEASC accreditation review, Keene State College has continued to address the issues identified in its self-study report and by the members of the visiting review team. The accreditation process has helped the campus to advance discussions of planning, advising, assessment, diversity, general education, and adjunct faculty - areas that fall under the standards on planning and evaluation, programs and instruction, faculty, and student services.

1. Implementing Our Plan, the institution's core planning document

In the period since Keene State was evaluated by NEASC, the College has focused on assessing institutional progress in achieving the goals and strategies in Our Plan and initiating a new cycle of campus planning discussions. As described in the NEASC team evaluation, Our Plan is not a plan in the traditional sense of identifying specific steps and timelines; it is the culmination of a process that engages the campus community in considering the campus's future. This institutional, broad-based initiative provides the context and structure for cross-functional planning, which is more focused, measurable, and continuous. This type of planning is evident in the College's academic, facilities, budget, technology, and enrollment planning efforts.

In Spring 2002, the Office of the President prepared three planning status reports - one each for the mission-related, values-related, and resource-related themes of Our Plan. The President prepared the status reports working from departmental annual reports, which addressed departments' progress in achieving the goals in Our Plan. This was the second set of planning progress reports. The first set of reports were completed in 1999-2000 and were shared with the review team.

Copies of the status reports were distributed to all members of the KSC faculty and staff (Appendix A). These documents, in turn, were used to create a planning "report card," in which grades were assigned in an effort to assess how well collective campus actions have contributed to institutional change at Keene State (Appendix B). The grades were published in Spring 2003, in advance of the College's second open space meeting in May 2003. These reports indicate significant progress in many areas, particularly those designed to streamline and focus the curriculum, develop and extend partnerships with the external community, articulate student rights and responsibilities, improve its physical facilities, and create a stable and sustainable technology environment. The reports also revealed the areas where the College has made some progress, including assessment and diversity, and areas requiring continuing efforts, especially general education.

Concurrent with these efforts, the University System of New Hampshire institutions were sharing their institutional strategic plans with USNH Trustees and each president was participating in a USNH planning initiative. One outcome of the System-wide initiative was the differentiation between the two state colleges in the system (Plymouth State College and Keene State College). Keene State College's place as an undergraduate liberal arts college was reinforced while Plymouth moved forward with a name-change to Plymouth State University reflecting its emphasis on its growing and diverse graduate programs.

Discussion of the planning status reports and grades set the context for the College second open-space meeting in May 2003. Like the initial open-space meeting held in May 1996, the second "Speak Out" used large-scale system change techniques to create an inclusive planning process that encourages:

  1. A shared belief that change can happen;
  2. A commitment to shared institutional values that result in clear priorities which inform decisions;
  3. A sense of shared responsibility and accountability for these priorities;
  4. A sense that the community is working together; and
  5. A sense of excitement.

Keene State was not the first institution to use open space techniques, but it may have been the first College to hold a follow-up open space meeting to inaugurate a new cycle of institutional planning. We have used the process to build high levels of campus engagement around change, which the NEASC evaluators observed. More than 350 people attended the opening session, and over 200 people saw the process through to the voting on the third day. 103 topics were discussed, generating a great deal of data for updating Our Plan.

This fall, the campus will begin the process of reviewing the Speak Out topics and crafting new strategies for moving the campus forward in each of the 12 planning themes. In line with NEASC recommendations, we will also work to identify who is responsible for identified strategies, to implement ways to measure our success, and to determine realistic timelines. In addition to updating the existing themes of Our Plan, we will look at the themes themselves to see if they still reflect the issues most important to the campus's future.

2. Assessing and documenting educational effectiveness, with particular attention to student learning outcomes, and using the results of the assessments for improvement.

Since 1999 the College has come a long way in developing an assessment program and in making the shift (albeit tentatively) from teaching to student learning. Much of the credit is due to the Academic Affairs Assessment Advisory Committee established by VPAA Robert Golden in 2001 with the goal of assisting departments in developing assessment plans. Consultants Karen and James Nichols who visited the campus in August 2001 and again in the fall of 2002 assisted the Advisory Committee in its efforts. While the Nichols' approach has its limitations, it also has the advantage of allowing departments to begin their assessment efforts on a level playing field, to begin learning a common vocabulary of assessment and to begin getting results fairly quickly. The Advisory Committee has supported departments in their assessment efforts by reading plans and providing feedback; the Committee also has discretionary authority for administering $10,000 for the purpose of bringing in presenters, holding workshops and supporting departmental requests for assessment resources such as standardized tests.

The College deans, to whom departments are responsible for fulfilling assessment initiatives, report a variety of activities though no single department appears to have yet taken significant steps to close the assessment loop. Faculty librarians, however, have made slight modifications to their curriculum and have revised assessment instruments, and the geography department will now place greater emphasis on political and economic geography in their existing cultural geography course based upon their measure of student performance against national standards. Current assessment efforts generally focus on easily measured outcomes rather than on mastery of theory and content or acquisition of "higher-level thinking skills." Departments that have become involved in assessment initiatives developed and promoted by their disciplinary associations appear to have taken the process further, are generating more meaningful results and are doubtless more likely to embed assessment into their on-going departmental practice. As departments begin analyzing assessment results, the newly reconstituted Faculty Resource Center is prepared to provide workshops (and to work one-on-one with departments) on pedagogical and epistemological issues. The administration realizes that some departments may require more time than others to improve student-learning outcomes and, therefore, will be working with a new assessment advisory committee towards the evolution of a flexible, intellectually engaging and faculty-friendly assessment framework.

Next steps include the incorporation of assessment results into the program review process. Meetings will occur this fall with the Academic Overview Committee to build upon an initial discussion held last spring. It is envisioned that the role of external reviewers will be enlarged to include their examination of assessment results as well as their making some comparisons based upon the learning outcomes/student achievement at their home institution. To encourage multiple approaches to assessment and to move departments beyond the Nichols' methodology, Karen Schilling of Miami University of Ohio presented a workshop this August on "Faculty Friendly Approaches to Assessment" and also met with the General Education committee regarding assessment. A new assessment advisory committee, chaired by the director of the Faculty Resource Center, will continue to explore and keep the campus apprised of effective approaches to assessment including an examination of the role of cognitive science research in strengthening student learning; funds for assessment will gradually switch over to funds to support departmental efforts to close the assessment loop.

3. Developing and implementing a revised general education program and identifying useful ways to assess the intended student learning outcomes of the program

Keene State College continues to pursue the reform of its general education program. The most recent referendum on a new general education program occurred in 1998 when the College, based upon a departmental vote, rejected a proposal that had been over two years in the making. Following the NEASC site visit, the College's curriculum committee assumed the additional role of general-education committee in an effort to meet NEASC's expectations for the implementation of a new general education program by fall 2003. A new vice president for academic affairs arrived in August 2002 and reviewed the committee's progress and proposed timeline. Recognizing that work was proceeding slowly and without much enthusiasm and that the past five years had seen a significant turnover in faculty, she recommended that a new general education committee be elected separate from the curriculum committee. The College Senate charged the membership of this new committee with the task of reviewing the work of recent task forces and updating the 1998 proposal, a proposal that is well-written, developmental in approach, holds students to high standards, furthers Keene State College's mission as a public liberal-arts institution, and, most important, still resonates with many faculty.

The new committee began working late in the spring 2003 semester. Four members of the group attended the AAC&U's Asheville Institute on General Education in June and, as a result of this experience, were able to energize the entire committee on their return. This August the committee held an open session attended by over fifty faculty members. Discussions were productive and wide ranging with a clear focus on the development of a general-education program that best serves students' present and future needs. Additional open sessions will engage faculty in the following questions: What is a liberal arts education? What is the role of general education within a liberal arts education? How do the major and co-curricular activities contribute to liberal arts education at KSC?

The committee submitted a report to the College Senate on September 1, 2003 that details progress to date and states that a proposal will be forthcoming during the fall semester. The report also makes clear the committee's commitment to student learning, to a flexible pedagogy and to greater participation of regular faculty within the general education program.

4. Increasing the diversity among the students, faculty, and staff, and developing other initiatives to ensure that students are prepared to live and work productively in a multicultural society in keeping with the institution's own goals.

In the last three years, the College has embraced the goal of ensuring that our students are prepared to live and work in a multicultural society. This has been accomplished in a number of significant ways.

Search committees for faculty and professional staff positions receive a clear communication about the importance of recruiting a diverse candidate pool at their initial charge meeting. The Human Resource Department, along with the Commission on the Status of Multiculturalism and Diversity, have identified expanded ways to advertise positions, creating a greater emphasis on utilizing a personalized, networking approach to attract candidates. In the last recruitment cycle, candidates of color have been hired into tenure-track positions in Psychology and Education as well as a contract lecturer in Sociology. In administrative positions, candidates of color were hired in Upward Bound, Campus Safety, and two in Admissions. In addition, a minority intern in the Sports Information Office has joined the campus for a one-year internship. Dr. Yarosewick is the process of creating campus task forces to review and recommend further changes to the faculty and staff recruitment and selection processes.

During the summer of 2001, the Admissions Office was reorganized and a new position was created specifically to serve students of color. The Multicultural Student Coordinator is a full-time, 12 months, benefited staff member who has responsibility for taking the leadership for the recruitment and retention of students of color. We are very pleased in our success in student recruitment. In the fall of 2000, 16 incoming students of color joined the KSC community. With our concentrated efforts, that number increased to 29 students in the fall of fall of 2001 and to 31 in fall 2002. We are especially proud, however, that there are 66 new and transfer students of color for the fall of 2003.

The activities of the Commission on Multiculturalism and Diversity have expanded during this same time period. While the Commission continues to offer mini-grants to financially assist departments and programs in their efforts to expand multicultural awareness and knowledge, this group has successfully sponsored a number of programs and activities. The Multicultural Seminar Luncheon series is a bi-weekly program that is routinely oversubscribed. Guest lecturers and speakers regularly visit the campus. Summer Diversity Institutes occur on an annual basis and serves as the key training program for faculty and staff. The Commission has also lead the way in supporting an academic learning community within our residence hall system for the 2003 - 04 academic year.

The principal administrators met with the members of the Commission at the end of spring 2003 to evaluate the effectiveness of the Commission, to share ideas and concerns about diversity initiatives, and to develop consensus about priorities for the coming year. At this time, consensus was reached on the need to change the commission structure. As a result of additional discussion and deliberation, the College is restructuring the Commission on Diversity and Multiculturalism to insure full campus representation and involvement. The changes, which will be fully implemented in fall 2004, emphasis the principle that diversity is the responsibility of all individuals and departments at Keene State College.

We have just completed the third year of the summer reading program for incoming students. This program requires them to read a text selected by the faculty in English addressing a diversity theme. In the last three years, first year students in English courses have discussed and written about Brothers and Keepers by John Edgar Wideman, Reservation Blues by Sherman Alexie, and Gish Jen's Mona in the Promised Land. The program is discussed during summer orientation and texts purchased at that time. Although scheduled, Mr. Wideman cancelled his presentation on the day of the event; Mr. Alexie spoke to the campus in March of 2003, and Ms. Gish is scheduled to come to campus next spring.

The Commission's office in the Young Student Center has become the home for the Multicultural Student Affairs office. Regularly staffed by the Multicultural Student Coordinator and students, the office is open on a consistent basis in a highly visible and trafficked area outside of the Student Government and Student Organization offices on the second floor. The Office of Multicultural Student Affairs and Commission on Diversity successfully established a faculty/peer mentoring program to support incoming students of color during their first year on campus in the Fall of 2002 and it is expected to continue in this current academic year.

Bi-annually, Keene State College sponsors a symposium that is open to not only the campus community, but the greater Monadnock region. A number of themes are suggested by faculty, staff and students to serve as the emphasis for this intensive study. The symposium which will take place in late October is entitled Race in the 21st Century (Attachment C). Confirmed speakers include Dr. Randall Kennedy of Harvard University and Dr. Ron Takaki of the University of California at Berkeley.

5. Improving the academic advising system through implementing the current plan.

The 2002-2003 academic year was the third year of the implementation of the College's Academic Advising Plan. At the time of the NEASC team visit, faculty advised only those students with declared majors and the Advising Center offered advising services to non-declared students. Now, students who enter with an intended area of interest or major are advised by faculty in academic departments even if they have not declared a major, and those truly undecided students are assigned individual advisors in the Elliot Center. In addition, the College has fully implemented the Web Advisor component of its Datatel student information system. All current faculty members have Web Advisor accounts, including adjunct faculty members. Faculty members may access current advisee information, including student transcripts, program evaluation (degree audit) and schedules as well as information about students registered in their courses. All current students have access to their own academic information and the degree audit function of the module is available to students for catalog years 2001-02 and forward.

Although the third year of the advising plan called for an assessment of current progress, the KSCEA, the faculty union, was reluctant to participate and made it quite clear that they do not wish to see the traditional troika of teaching, research and service expanded to include advising nor do they wish to urge faculty with few advisees to pick up students in related disciplines (though that is in the contract). On the other hand faculty appear willing (and some even enthusiastic) to assume advising responsibilities, and there were minimal concerns about advising expressed in the most recent senior survey.

Faculty contract issues remain to be resolved regarding numbers of advisees per faculty member, with a number of departments exceeding the current contractual limit of 21 advisees/faculty. The Elliot Center and departments with large numbers of majors have collaborated on developing effective group advising sessions; others integrate advising of majors within introductory majors' courses, and yet others train upper-class students to serve as supplemental, peer advisors. Additionally long-term adjuncts are compensated for advising at the rate of $25 per student per semester.

A recent meeting of department chairs focused on advising and identified the chairs' inability to obtain accurate advising lists for their departments as a significant problem. The registrar's office is currently working on a solution; "advising" will remain on the agenda for college-wide meetings with department chairs.

This fall, KSC will introduce Web registration. And the College is well aware that the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act will bring requirements for more focused advising.

6. Reviewing the status of adjunct faculty and ensuring they are appropriately integrated into the life of the College.

After 2 years of negotiations, the College completed its first contract with the KSC Adjunct Faculty Association in July 2003. The contract addresses many significant issues for long-term adjunct faculty. The collective bargaining unit includes adjunct faculty in their 5th semester of teaching at Keene State College and provides an orderly process for assigning courses to qualified adjunct faculty and pay rates tied to length of service. Significantly, the contract also provides for professional development support and an orderly evaluation process. The College continues to publish an adjunct faculty handbook and has increased adjunct association representation on campus committees such as the College Budget Council.

The College recognizes, however, the on-going need to reduce its reliance on adjuncts and to convert adjunct positions into tenure-track lines. This year, in response to enrollment growth, the College added 4 new tenure-track faculty positions. Renewed efforts to improve the efficiency of the scheduling process (including raising class size, canceling under-enrolled classes and containing the numbers of electives) and of the curriculum (eliminating redundancies as well as concentrations within majors that enroll few students) promise to place greater responsibility for general-education and lower-division courses on tenured and tenure-track faculty.

In summary, with the exception of general education, Keene State College has made progress in each of the areas identified by NEASC. Although the College has not adopted and implemented a new general education program, it continues to pursue this goal and is actively engaged in discussions toward that end. It has:

  • Assessed its success in achieving the strategies in Our Plan and initiated a new cycle of institutional planning;
  • Involved all academic departments in the process of assessing student learning and using the results for improvement;
  • Modestly increased the diversity of the students and faculty at Keene State College and significantly involved the campus in discussions and programs which promote its diversity goals;
  • Implemented its 3-year plan to improve academic advising; and
  • Successfully completed negotiations on its first contract with its new Adjunct Faculty Association.
It will continue to purse these goals and looks forward to reporting its progress to the Commission in its fifth-year report.


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