By LINDLEY ESTES
Students can no longer say they do not have any input in the interworkings of the university.
This fall, the topic selection for UMW’s Quality Enhancement Program (QEP) has commenced. The QEP is the newest requirement for accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), and is a simple way for student ideas to influence the direction of the university.
The QEP is a report that details new programs the faculty would like to see implemented for the advancement of student learning. It also includes newer programs that have already been introduced to the university, and measures their success.
Such programs include the freshman seminar requirement and changes to general education requirements, thus directly affecting students more than in other areas of the reaccreditation.
The school was most recently reaccredited in 2003, with minimal recommendations for change by SACS.
The QEP was not required for schools reaffirmed in 2003, and is a new procedure for the university. However, this does not mean that the university is ill-equipped for the QEP.
“This university has always been at the forefront of student learning,” said Tim O’Donnell, SACS self-study director for compliance certification and associate professor of communication and director of debate. “Many of the things that have been a part of student learning here are now trendy in other institution’s QEPs.”
O’Donnell made submission to the QEP website a requirement in his argumentation class. The class then discussed what ideas surfaced from their feedback.
Overall, his students thought that expanding the first-year experience would be a good topic, as well as improving UMW civic service and life-preparation classes, like cooking and budgeting.
Oct. 1 is the submission deadline. After that date, the QEP Planning Group, headed by Professor of philosophy Nina Mikhalevsky, will deliberate and publish a list of themes by Oct. 18.
“We are really at the very beginning of this three-year process,” Mikhalevsky said. “Since the deadline is Oct. 1, it is too early to detect any trends in the submissions. But we were very happy that two ideas [we’ve] already received were clearly student submissions.”
Each theme area will require a short two-page proposal, to be posted in the QEP website by Nov. 22. After that, the UMW community will once again be asked for comments and ideas.
Comments will close on Dec. 6, and the Planning Group will release the three finalist groups on Dec. 10.
By Feb. 1, 2011, each finalist group must have a proposal to submit to the planning and review committee. They will be posted on the website on Feb. 14 for comment and review by the UMW community. Comments will be accepted until Feb. 25, after which the committee will take it upon themselves to consider the input.
Recommendations for each proposal will be made on March 14 to President Rick Hurley and Provost Jay Harper. Sometime between April and May, Hurley will announce which proposal has been accepted as the UMW QEP.
O’Donnell and Mikhalevsky both stressed the importance of student participation throughout the process. During their 2013 walkthrough of the university, SACS will want evidence that the students know what their QEP is and were actively involved in its inception.
“This is one of the best opportunities that students will ever have to [voice] their ideas to improve student learning directly,” O’Donnell said.
Ideas for the QEP can be submitted through the website: http://qep.umwblogs.org/. Students, faculty and administration are all encouraged to submit ideas.