Campus surveys bolster accreditation report

by Karen Burbach, UNMC public affairs | March 22, 2006

Thanks to an overwhelming response, UNMC faculty, staff and students are strengthening UNMC's comprehensive self-study for accreditation.

Results from the online surveys - done last fall as part of UNMC's comprehensive self-study for reaccreditation by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA) - provide a glimpse into the perceptions faculty, staff and students have of UNMC's strengths and opportunities.

Executive committee
Members of UNMC's executive committee for accreditation are: John Benson, M.D., professor of internal medicine and committee chair; John Adams, Ph.D., assistant vice chancellor for budget and strategic planning; David Crouse, Ph.D., associate vice chancellor for academic affairs; and Mary Helms, M.S., M.A., associate director of the McGoogan Library.

"UNMC's re-accreditation by the NCA is key to reaching our goal of becoming a world-class institution," said UNMC Chancellor Harold M. Maurer, M.D. "I am grateful to all faculty, staff and students who shared their impressions about UNMC's strengths and needs. It will enable us to become an even stronger academic health science center."

"We had a remarkable response rate and marvelous contributions from faculty, staff and students," said John Benson, M.D., professor of internal medicine and chairman of UNMC's executive committee for accreditation. "The results help validate that UNMC is on the right track in many areas."

Each of the faculty, staff and student surveys focused on the five Higher Learning Commission-NCA criteria and their "core components," which are critical to meeting the accreditation standards:

  • Mission and integrity in carrying out its mission;
  • Preparing for the future;
  • Student learning and effective teaching;
  • Research and a life of learning;
  • Community engagement and service.

Each survey asked faculty, staff and students to provide their impressions of UNMC's strengths and unmet needs. Participants were asked to respond to each statement using one of five responses ranging from strongly agree to strongly disagree.

Overall, responses from all three groups were very positive with many similarities among faculty and staff responses. "The student response also was incredibly positive," Dr. Benson said, "which allows us to document an assertion that we're meeting the standards of the criterion of student learning."

In addition, with support from the chancellor, six statements have been selected by the executive and steering committees for further examination and comment by UNMC deans and directors.

Faculty

With a 77.4 percent response rate, 602 UNMC faculty members, indicating a general agreement with the 23 statements. The great majority of faculty agreed that:

  • UNMC's mission is clear (90.4 percent);
  • UNMC realistically prepares for a future shaped by multiple trends (81.1 percent).
  • UNMC promotes faculty, staff and student learning across the institution (80.6 percent).
  • UNMC demonstrates that it values research (91.1 percent).
  • UNMC has a commitment to engage with constituencies and communities (78.4 percent).

Although agreement was lowest for the statement that evaluation and assessment guide institutional strategies for improvement in their unit, the overall response was still largely positive (58.1 percent). The following three statements also showed lower agreement levels with about six out of 10 faculty members agreeing:

  • UNMC administrative structures promote effective leadership (61 percent);
  • UNMC internal decision-making processes promote participation and support collaboration (62.5 percent); and
  • UNMC learns from its constituencies to determine their needs (65.8 percent).

Faculty results table

Staff

Responses by UNMC staff members were quite similar to those of UNMC faculty. Of the 1,755 completed surveys -- which accounts for a 70 percent response rate - the majority agreed that UNMC demonstrates it values research. Almost nine out of 10 responding staff agreed that UNMC's mission is clear (89.9 percent).

There also was strong agreement with such statements as:

  • UNMC upholds and protects its integrity as an institution dedicated to social good (89.4 percent).
  • UNMC mission statement recognizes the diversity of its learners, constituencies and society (87.8 percent).
  • UNMC promotes faculty, staff and student learning across the institution (82 percent).
As with faculty, responding staff agreement was lowest for the statement that evaluation and assessment processes guide strategies for improvement in their units (54.6 percent).

Staff results table

Students

The vast majority of the 1,146 student respondents (a 60.8 percent response rate) agreed with the 23 survey statements. In fact, 14 of the 23 items had agreement levels of 90 percent or higher, and one statement - UNMC demonstrates that it values research - had almost universal agreement (96.7 percent).

Student agreement was lowest (still 71.9 percent) for the statement: Results from course evaluations and assessments guide strategies for improvement in my educational program and teaching.

"Overall, however, student responses validated that UNMC is doing a good job with learning and effective teaching," Dr. Benson said.

Student results table

What's next?

UNMC's re-accreditation task force members will incorporate results from the three surveys into the self-study reports. Task force members also will include specific responses in the self-study to address the six areas with lowest faculty and staff agreement levels. These are:

  • UNMC's internal decision-making processes promote participation and support collaboration that enables my unit to fulfill its mission
  • UNMC's administrative structures promote effective leadership.
  • Evidence from UNMC's evaluation and assessment processes guide institutional strategies for improvement in my unit.
  • UNMC supports the creation of an effective learning environment in my unit.
  • UNMC assesses the usefulness of its curricula to students who will live and work in a global, diverse and technological society.
  • UNMC learns from its constituencies to determine their needs.

In addition to discussing the results in the self-study, the executive and steering committees also are working on a communication and follow-up plan that includes:

  • Publishing this UNMC Today story with links to survey results;
  • Posting the full survey reports on the Intranet;
  • Reporting survey results to the Chancellor's Council, Faculty and Student Senates, administrative roundtable and other appropriate groups;
  • Conducting an internal public relations review to improve campus communications;
  • Distributing unit-specific survey results to deans and directors and seeking their reactions; and
  • Analyzing survey results and developing action steps to enhance the connectedness between employee jobs and successful achievement of the campus vision and mission.

The NCA - which will send a team to UNMC in January 2007 to evaluate the campus and to speak with faculty, students and staff -- accredits UNMC as a whole and complements the medical center's many accreditations by specialized accrediting bodies. UNMC will find out later that year whether it will receive the full, 10-year re-accreditation.

Institutional accreditation is important to UNMC for several reasons, including demonstrating accountability to UNMC's constituencies and the higher education community; transferability of coursework and program completion credentials among other accredited institutions; and maintenance of eligibility for federal student financial aid programs.

The institutional accreditation process is separate from the dozens of specialized accreditation processes that UNMC colleges, the hospital, continuing education, professional programs and residencies undergo, Dr. Benson said.

"By gathering this information and then implementing appropriate changes, the accreditation process can help UNMC become an even better academic health care center," Dr. Benson said.

More information on UNMC's reaccreditation efforts can be found on the UNMC Web site at www.unmc.edu/nca Faculty, staff and students may access full survey results reports on the Intranet in the Data Resource Room on the NCA-HLC reaccreditation Web page.