John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education

Salisbury University

Institutional Profile

Foundations of Excellence® Cohort:
2005-2006 National Select
Carnegie Classification:
Master’s Colleges & Universities (Larger Programs)
Enrollment:
7,581
Regional Accreditation:
Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Contact Information:
Sandra Cohea-Weible,

Assistant Vice President of Academic Affairs
shcohea-weible@salisbury.edu
www.salisbury.edu

A Vision for Excellence in the First College Year
Sandra Cohea-Weible,

Assistant Vice President of Academic Affairs

In 2005, Salisbury University participated in the Foundations of Excellence® (FoE) project. The decision to participate came as an outgrowth of a Faculty Senate directive (a) to enhance the academic orientation of first-year students, (b) the January 2005 Faculty Development Workshop in which the freshman experience was explored, and (c) in response to the Salisbury University Strategic Plan (AY 2004 – AY 2008) in which the goal to advance a student-centered environment included a directive to “develop and implement a more comprehensive orientation program for freshman and transfer students that improves academic and personal transitions and deepens their connections with their peers and the University.”

Work of the Task Force

The engine of the FoE process was a campus-based task force – a broad-based group of faculty, staff, students, and administrators. The task force was divided into four working groups: the steering committee and three dimension committees. The work of the task force began with a campus audit of the first year of college at Salisbury University (Current Practices Inventory–CPI) and the administration of faculty/staff and student surveys. The work continued with a nine month review of SU’s first-year experience using the Foundational Dimensions and Performance Indicators. After examining the SU first-year experience, reviewing the researched best practices, and debating the application of these best practices to the SU experience, the task force created recommendations for enhancement of the SU experience. The culminating activity was a day-long workshop in which all members of the task force and other invited faculty, staff and students reviewed the final dimension reports and created action plans for implementation. The result of this ten month initiative was the development of Salisbury University Report entitled, “A Vision of Excellence in the First College Year.”

The implementation stage began the following fall term. The published report was distributed to the President’s Executive Committee, the Faculty Senate, the Student Government Association, the Staff Senate, the Deans Council, the Provost’s Council, the Student Affairs Directors Board, and the Academic Department Chairs. Members of the task force attended various meetings to discuss the report and its recommendations. A copy of the report was posted on the SU FoE website for all members of the university community. The report was well received and several of the recommendations are currently being implemented including the creation of an Academic Achievement Center, the integration of the Freshman Reader in the new English writing course, and a pilot Freshman Experience course developed by a history professor from the task force.

"There were many SU successes associated with the Foundations of Excellence experience – the FoE report was very well received, the President and Vice Presidents are willing to provide financial support and a new position to support some of the recommendations."

Outcomes

There were many SU successes associated with the Foundations of Excellence experience – the FoE report was very well received, the President and Vice Presidents are willing to provide financial support and a new position to support some of the recommendations, and there is now a core of faculty (task force members) who are committed to the freshman experience and are continuing the efforts of the task force by taking their advocacy to other discussions and initiatives on campus. There are still more recommendations to implement, and there is an ongoing interest in pursuing them. Although there were struggles along the way, the ultimate success we felt we achieved might be grounded in three key elements of the process:

1) the support we received through the Foundations of Excellence program including the FOE information and materials which served as a basis of best practice for engaging the entire campus in a discussion of their particular role in supporting first-year students,

2) the financial and professional support we received from the Provost and Vice President of Student Affairs, and

3) the fact that the task force included a broad-base of faculty, students, and staff.

Faculty were recruited from each of the four schools and from the five departments which teach the courses most often taken by first-year students (English, history, psychology, biology, and math). Faculty leaders included department chairs, an academic dean, Assistant Vice President of Academic Affairs, and a Faculty Senator. Key staff members from Career Services, the First-Year Student Experience, and Housing also served on the steering committee. The involvement of key people from across the campus created a truly collaborative effort that ultimately proved invaluable in securing strong support for the final report and its recommendations.

Salisbury University is truly indebted to the wonderful work and dedicated people of the Foundations of Excellence project. Our consultant, Randy Swing, was always there for us with a helpful suggestion, his boundless knowledge, and many encouraging words. Everyone associated with this project was wonderful to work with and truly made it possible for us to achieve our goal of identifying and implementing ways to enhance the first-year experience for our students.