Action Project: Improving Student Life

Charge and Members

Action Project Team

Jared Shoemaker, Kitty Linde, Phil Blau, Lindsey Liles, Bill Rockwell, Kristi Jarrell, Richard Montague

Charge to the Team

This project will:

  • Gather and analyze data concerning student life activity and make recommendations for future data collection,
  • report information related to current student activities, the demand for student life programming and the use of facilities by students, and
  • make recommendations for improving student life activity at SSU, especially in the revision of the campus Master Plan.

Recruitment and retention will benefit from additional campus-life programming, student facilities, and campus recreational space that are based on plans that result from the use of data and a clear understanding of needs. Specific follow-up actions projects related to campus life will emerge from this Action Project.

The "Improving Student Life" Action Project Team is charged with implementing this AQIP project over the next six months. A copy of the project description that was submitted to AQIP is attached for additional background information.

The Action Project Team is responsible for:

  • Gathering information about the current status of student life at Shawnee State University, including:
    1. demographics of SSU students (resident, neighborhood, commuters),
    2. current participation in student life activities, and
    3. student satisfaction with student life (Noel-Levitz, Graduating Student Surveys, etc.)

  • Examining student life systems and structures at peer institutions.

  • Communicating regularly with appropriate campus groups concerning AQIP Action Project #3, including:
    1. preparing information for campus-wide review,
    2. updating the Strategic Planning Committee on Action Team #3 progress,
    3. coordination and meeting with the Director of Institutional Planning and other Action Project Team leaders, and
    4. obtaining input from campus offices involved in student life and activity programming.

  • Submission of recommended system of regular collection, analysis and use of data related to student life at Shawnee State to the President, Cabinet, and Strategic Planning Committee for preliminary review.

  • Reporting on project progress and outcomes, including:
    1. minutes of all meetings, hearings, focus groups, etc.,
    2. preparation of a final report at the end of the project submitted to the Strategic Planning Committee,
    3. assistance in preparing annual AQIP updates, and
    4. participation in building the Shawnee State AQIP Systems Portfolio.



January Committee organization, data collection concerning student life at SSU, and review Culver report
February–April Interact with Master Plan Consultant, peer institution investigation of student life systems, structures, and procedures
March Discussion and input from campus community concerning student life data systems at SSU
April Submission of preliminary recommendation of changes in student life data systems, structure and procedures
May Revision of recommendations for submission to campus
June Preparation of Action Team Report including recommendations for next steps and possibly additional AQIP Action Projects

Project Description

Institution: Shawnee State University
Submitted: 2005-12-19


Planned project kickoff date: January 6, 2006
Target completion date: June 30, 2006
Actual completion date:

A. Give this Action Project a short title in 10 words or fewer:

Improving Student Life at Shawnee State University

B. Describe this Action Project's goal in 100 words or fewer:

This project will:

  • establish a system of gathering and analyzing data concerning student life activity,
  • report information related to current student activities, the demand for student life programming and the use of facilities by students and the community, and
  • make recommendations for improving student life activity at SSU, especially in the revision of the campus Master Plan.

Recruitment and retention will benefit from additional campus-life programming, student facilities, and campus recreational space that are based on plans that result from the use of data and a clear understanding of needs. Specific follow-up actions projects related to campus life will emerge from this Action Project.

C. Identify the single AQIP Category which the Action Project will most affect or impact:

Category 3: Understanding Students' and Other Stakeholders' Needs

D. Describe briefly your institution's reasons for taking on this Action Project now -- why the project and its goals are high among your current priorities:

Shawnee has outgrown the current University Center and student recreational spaces because of enrollment growth, especially residential students, and the increasing use of university facilities by the community. With more residential students at SSU, there is a need for increased recreational and student life programming. The need for expanded student life programming and space has been put forth by students and the Student Affairs staff. The idea also emerged during the Conversation Day from several groups. In addition, the university is updating its Master Plan so this is a good time to assess current activity and project future needs. This project will provide coordinated input to the campus Master Planning effort from a Student Affairs, Student Activity, Campus Life, and Athletics perspective. Representatives from the Action Team for this project will be appointed to the Master Plan Coordinating Group.

E. List the organizational areas - -institutional departments, programs, divisions, or units -- most affected by or involved in this Action Project:

The Student Affairs offices, especially residential life, student programming, and athletics, will be the most involved and affected by this project. Facilities will play an important role in developing the data collection and monitoring systems required for this project. Links to faculty and academic programs will exist in this project through coordination with existing structures, especially the Athletics and Intramurals Committee and Student Affairs Committee of the University Faculty Senate.

F. Name and describe briefly the key organizational process(es) that you expect this Action Project to change or improve:

Of all the Shawnee Action Projects, this one focuses on the improvement of organizational processes by developing a system that collects, analyzes and uses data to make decisions and provide direction for improvements.

G. Explain the rationale for the length of time planned for this Action Project (from kickoff to target completion):

The goal of this project is to develop new systems and structures for gathering information, communicating among campus groups, and arriving at recommendations for action. The timeline coincides with the Master Plan update that will begin during the winter quarter. In addition to developing new systems, this project will provide direct input to the Master Planning process.

H. Describe how you plan to monitor how successfully your efforts on this Action Project are progressing:

An Action Project Team of 6-8 members will be formed to provide the detailed planning, implementation, and assessment of the Student Life Action Project. The university's Strategic Planning Committee will provide an oversight and coordination role with the Action Projects. Administrative responsibility for monitoring and assisting the Action Project progress will be with the Associate Provost/Director of Institutional Planning.

I. Describe the overall "outcome" measures or indicators that will tell you whether this Action Project has been a success or failure in achieving its goals:

Because this action project parallels a revision of the campus Master Plan, one measure of effort will be the success with which the Master Plan includes and addresses student life issues and future needs for facilities, both indoor and outdoor. A second evaluation of this project will be an assessment of the changes in university structures and processes that are a result of data-based decision making.

J. Other information (e.g., publicity, sponsor or champion, etc.):

An institutional concern and need identified during the Vital Focus and Conversation Day was improved communication on campus. This project will consciously model good communications by regularly informing the campus community about progress through multiple communication approaches including, web postings, emails, newsletters, and reports to governance groups (faculty, administrators, staff and students). The project will also seek input from campus groups by a variety of means that may include surveys, focus groups, meetings with key individuals, open meetings, and requests for information.

 Annual Update Report to AQIP

Note: The AQIP explanation of each question is italicized at the bottom of the question.

1. Describe the past year's accomplishments and the current status of this Action Project.

Action Project Three on Improving Student Life at Shawnee State University has a team of seven members (two faculty and three staff, and two students) who met regularly in the winter and spring quarters after the Action Project Kick-off event on January 6, 2006. The team spent the winter quarter gathering information about student activities on campus. The team also investigated the student life systems and structures at peer institutions with a focus on what kind of data is collected concerning student life activities and how is the data used.

The finding that stood out the most to the Action Project Team was the lack of available accurate information on student life processes. Most, if not all, of the data collected by the various student life departments simply tracked numbers of participants.

Another troubling finding involved the Noel-Levitz Student Satisfaction Inventory (SSI) which is regularly administered and referenced by campus decision makers. The 2005 SSI was conducted on October 12. Approximately half of the respondents were 1st term freshmen. Since classes began September 7, 2005, it is the opinion of the Action Team that too many of the respondents lacked the necessary campus experience to make a complete and accurate assessment of long term student satisfaction.

On June 7th the team members participated in an Audio Conference entitled "Getting Started with Assessment in Student Affairs." This conference provided the team with information to put all of their interviews and data collection into a proposed assessment system.

The Student Life Action Project concluded during the summer of 2006. A final report and set of recommendations are being prepared for submission to the President and campus community.

Describe concrete achievements: meetings, data gathered and analyzed, plans made or
implemented, changes in processes, and measured results. If you haven't made much
progress, explain why you think things are moving slower than planned.

2. Describe how the institution involved people in work on this Action Project.

With recommendation from the university-wide Budget and Academic Quality Improvement Planning Committee (BAQIP), the President appointed members of the Action Project Team and provided a charge and timeline for the project. Jared Shoemaker, Assistant Director of Athletics and Sports Information Director, agreed to Chair the Action Project Team.

Meeting minutes have been placed on the institution's AQIP web pages. The Action Team members have met with numerous individuals and groups on campus as they collected information and data about student life activities. Information from peer institutions was helpful in examining how other campuses structure student life activities and collect and report data. Regular reports concerning the Improving Student Life Action Project progress were made at the monthly meetings of BAQIP.

AQIP wants Information about motivation and communication: how you kept this Project on the institution's priority list, how you maintained general awareness of the importance and progress of the Project, and how you kept those working on it directly active and motivated.

3. Describe your planned next steps for this Action Project.

This Action Project is near completion. The final report and recommendations are being prepared for submission to the President and campus community. One of the recommendations from the team is better assessment of student activities with information that goes beyond just collecting number of participants. This could lead to a subsequent Action Project. The process for retiring an Action Project and selecting another project has not been done yet at Shawnee State, so this will be an opportunity to develop processes for completing and reporting the results of an Action Project, followed by the establishment of the next project that will be reported to AQIP.

Be specific about the next critical steps you are planning to move the Action Project ahead. If your planning is vague or there is no planning at this point, explain why.

4. Describe any "effective practice(s)" that resulted from your work on this Action Project.

One institutional change that has come out of the AQIP participation is the decision to create an Office of Institutional Research and hire a Director of IR. While not directly a result of this project, it is the hope of the Action Team that the soon to be hired Director of Institutional Research will make assessment in student life areas a priority. We plan to recommend that each Student Life department work closely with the new Research Director to develop and implement student life assessment inventories.

We have also developed a list of Student Life Quick Fixes and potential Student Life Action Projects. These recommendations will be submitted to campus groups including the President's Cabinet. The response to these recommendations will show how serious the university is about making Student Life a priority on campus.

Share practices (or processes, policies, procedures, or initiatives) that could be adopted or adapted at other institutions. AQIP is most interested in practices that would give value (better educational services, cost-savings, improved morale, more satisfied stakeholders, etc.) to another institution if they copied your innovation. If you believe that your work on this Project has little or no value for other institutions, explain why.

5. What challenges, if any, are you still facing in regards to this Action Project?

The challenge of communicating the Action Project progress to campus still faces the Team, even though the work of the Project has been completed. We must still report to campus and find a way to keep student life concerns as a priority. One idea discussed by the Action Project Team and BAQIP is to have another AQIP action project emerge from this Team's recommendations.

This is an opportunity to get constructive, actionable feedback and advice from our review process. Use this question to specify where your blocks, gaps, sticking points, or problems are. If you have already fashioned strategies to deal with any challenge you face, share both the challenge and your strategy for meeting it.

6. The optional question:

If you would like to discuss the possibility of AQIP providing you help to stimulate progress on this action project, explain your need(s), and tell us who to contact and when?

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