University College Q & A

University College is a new organizational umbrella with the mandate to promote an excellent early career college experience for undergraduate students. The College brings together support systems such as transition programs, coaching, and career advising to work strategically toward this goal, and provides recognition and support to faculty teaching foundational courses that primarily serve first-year students.  

The University College has been in the works for years – it is not the result of a sudden decision - rather, it was deliberately created on the basis of a great deal of investigation about why our students leave NAU and what makes them succeed, etc. It represents a reorganization of many programs and services already offered at NAU. The UC brings these existing programs and services together under one umbrella.

The role of the University College can be viewed similarly to the Graduate College which organizes and pulls together all the resources needed to address the unique, specific needs of graduate students, while the Undergraduate College addresses the unique, specific needs of early-career college students. Within UC there are some differences with respect to faculty affiliation and extra compensation for faculty fellows, but the UC and the Graduate College are similar in that being a part of the overarching organization does not pull faculty out of their departments nor detract from their faculty status in any way.

Other universities have used the university college model successfully, and have documented substantial gains in student success and retention. For example Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) carried out some sophisticated empirical investigations and has documented impressive gains for a relatively small investment.

The University College can also be seen as a series of concentric circles with the first year students in the center, surrounded by faculty including our UC faculty focused on providing a quality academic experience encircled by a fabric of support systems staffed by competent and committed service professionals in transition programs, advising, coaching, career advising, all working closely with both students and faculty to ensure an excellent first year experience for our students. 

Faculty Fellows are faculty coordinators of UC Affiliated Courses. Faculty Affiliates are full time and part time faculty who teach in UC Affiliated courses such First Year Seminar (FYS) courses, some First Year Learning Initiative (FYLI) courses that have been approved to date as affiliated courses such as PSY 101, foundational courses such as ENG 100, 105, MAT 100, 108, 114, 119, 125, STA 270, CIS 120 and NAU 100, 120 and 130 in our University College Academic Transition Programs. 

Our faculty fellows and affiliates are part of an NAU faculty culture that brings a wealth of experience, expertise and insights to the task of creating a successful and enriching first year experience for our students. We look forward to working with NAU faculty and faculty affiliates through University College and to collaborating with them as well as their departments and colleges to achieve our main goal of creating an environment where first year students can flourish and excel. As well UC aims to create an environment where faculty and faculty fellows and faculty affiliates collaborate with each other to build a challenging and supportive environment for students, especially one that honors faculty core values and expertise offered to students through high quality teaching and a culture focused on student learning.

All UC affiliated courses must be First Year Learning Initiative (FYLI) certified. However, not all FYLI certified courses will be affiliated with the UC. FYLI certification, which addresses issues of pedagogies, practice, and strategies within courses and effective coordination across course sections, is based upon conversations that help the department course coordinators and their faculty maximize student success. To be FYLI certified, first year courses must include mandatory attendance as mandated by Faculty Senate, use of the GPS system, avoidance of reliance on 100% lecture, and the inclusion of a co-curriculum determined by the faculty for all those teaching sections of the course. Both the UC and the FYLI program advocate for sound principals and practices. Other than alignment with FYLI design principles, disciplinary faculty will design, oversee, and retain governance over courses.

Questions have been raised about the structure and implementation of University College. In an effort to clarify the role of University College a set of questions and answers are included below:

What was the involvement of faculty and departments in the development of the UC initiative?

The UC was designed to carry out the recommendations of a number of groups of faculty, staff and leaders who have studied undergraduate student learning and success, especially in the first year. Among them:

  • Presidents Task Force on the Freshman Year – 2003 - 2005
  • First year Coordinating Council – 2006 – 2010
  • Teaching Academy – 2008 - present
  • University College Task Force – AY 2010 - 2011
  • University College implementation and Planning Group – Spring 2012
Will UC take away budgeting resources from other Colleges?
  • No, most of the funding for UC was already in place. 
  • New funding was only provided to support UC Faculty Fellows and one administrative support staff position.
  • Reorganization in other areas overseen by the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, freed further resources to invest in the UC.  
  • The university invested in coaching and FYLI programs in FY12; these were folded into UC.

Will UC diminish the role of full time tenure track professors by relying on the hire of lecturers and part time faculty as staffing for first year courses?

 

  • The UC program includes both non-tenure-track and tenure-track faculty from all disciplines with different expertise, based on opportunities to enhance our attempts to change the way students experience their first year.
  • The UC emphasizes quality of instruction in first year courses regardless of rank.  Staffing for all UC affiliated courses remains the decision of the home department. Part Time and other temporary faculty or GTAs may be hired by academic units to teach course sections at the discretion of the home department.
  • Tenure Track and Non-Tenure Track faculty within UC affiliated courses will provide leadership for design and implementation of courses for first year students.
  • UC course affiliation is dependent on First Year Learning Initiative (FYLI) certification, which focuses on issues of pedagogies, practice, and strategies in the course and effective coordination across course sections to increase student success.  FYLI does not address staffing issues, which remains the domain of the department. 
  • The FYLI program reinforces the leadership role of faculty within departments and strengthens their guidance for temporary faculty within their units.

How are UC Faculty Fellows selected?
  • For year one, the coordinators of University College affiliated courses have been designated as University College Faculty Fellows
  • In subsequent years, faculty teaching University College affiliated courses will be eligible for the Fellows designation based on a criteria and competitive selection process that will be established by the UC Leadership Team and inaugural Fellows.
Will UC take the best faculty from Departments and Colleges to teach 100 level courses? Will UC then support departments in their efforts to increase tenure track lines in order to address the need?
  • UC has no direct role in decisions about tenure track lines.
  • Staffing for all UC affiliated courses remains the decision of the home department.  
  • Colleges and departments determine assignments to courses. UC will consult with departments to ensure that assignments to first year serving courses enhance the quality of first year courses.
  • UC understands that issues of instructional quality and equity of pay take on more importance because staffing lines help connect student achievement with support within the disciplines. It is up to individual departments to consider both short and long term support for their first year students.
  • Traditionally many non-tenure-track faculty members teach lower-level courses, which has allowed tenured track-faculty to teach upper-level courses.  Both Tenure Track and Non-Tenure Track faculty excel at first year and Lower Division teaching.  It is up to Departments to consider the professional growth and maturation of their faculty when deciding teaching assignments.

When a course is FYLI (First Year Learning Initiative) certified and possibly becomes affiliated with the UC, will both the faculty member and the Department lose their autonomy and control of that course?
  • No, the course always remains a course housed within the home department, retains the department prefix, number, and course description, and remains part of the department’s curriculum.  As mentioned above under question 2, FYLI focuses on issues of pedagogies, practice, and strategies in the course and effective coordination across course sections to increase student success.  
  • UC course affiliation is dependent on First Year Learning Initiative (FYLI) certification, although not all FYLI certified courses will be affiliated with the UC.  FYLI focuses on issues of pedagogies, practice, and strategies in the course and effective coordination across course sections to increase student success.  
  • The interests that underpin the formation of FYLI and the UC support the activities of different disciplines. Thus, FYLI highlights practices and approaches that support first year student success and are student rather than discipline orientated.

Will UC dictate how faculty can teach first year courses?

 

  • First Year Learning Initiative (FYLI) certification, which addresses issues of pedagogies, practice, and strategies within courses and effective coordination across course sections, is based upon conversations that help the department course coordinators and their faculty maximize student success.
  • UC and the FYLI program advocate for sound principals and practices.
  • All UC affiliated courses must be FYLI certified.  
  • To be FYLI certified, first year courses will include mandatory attendance as mandated by Faculty Senate, use of the GPS system, avoidance of reliance on 100% lecture, and the inclusion of a unstandardized co-curriculum determined by the faculty for those teaching the course.  
  • Other than alignment with FYLI design principles, disciplinary faculty will design, oversee, and retain governance over courses.

Will UC dictate the content of courses offered to first year students?
  • No, courses will always remain a part of the department curriculum, where its content, prefix number, and title are controlled even after the course becomes affiliated with the UC.
  • The FYLI certification process does not include any required content.  Departments, course coordinators and course instructors determine course content and learning objectives.

Will UC undermine the efforts of colleges and units to grow in their own right?
  • No, students with commitments to programs in other colleges will be encouraged to make connections with and move expeditiously toward entry and completion of majors.   
  • Student involvement with UC will not serve as another hoop for them to jump through before they can get to their “real” coursework. 
  • As soon as students have selected a major and are on track with their progression plan they will be transitioned to the College advising unit where that major is housed. 

UC will be collecting data on the first year experience including attendance data. What will it be used for?

 

  • The UC will be collecting assessment data from all its programs to inform refinements to practices and programs, to increase engagement and achievement, and to target intervention with students.
  • Given that research shows that students achieve higher academic performance when they attend classes and given the Senate policy on mandatory attendance, attendance data collected from first year classes will be combined to assess student success based upon patterns of class attendance.

 

How will UC support my professional development and service?

 The UC will offer faculty: 

 

  • opportunities for learning
  • opportunities for conducting research leading to publications within the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, SoTL 
  • leadership roles
  • support for development 
  • opportunities to participate in UC relevant Faculty Learning Communities

 

Are UC programs such as Academic Transition Programs, Coaching, Gateway Advising, Career Advising, Supplemental Instruction, First Year Learning Initiative, NAUReads, First Year Seminar Program effective?
  • Yes, many faculty have interacted and/or taught in these Programs for numerous years.  For example, faculty success in our First Year Seminar program has been recognized on a national level.  NAU’s civic agency and community engagement initiative that has First Year Seminar students organized into Action Research Teams engaging with community partners on on-going issues identified by the community, was one of two universities featured as national models of success in “For Democracy’s Future: Education Reclaims Our Civic Mission,” hosted by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan at The White House in Washington, DC on January 10, 2012
  • All UC Programs are assessed, like all NAU academic and student services programs. For example: 
    • The use of GPS by faculty has been correlated to retention.  In Fall 2010 first time/full-time students receiving GPS messages from their instructors had a 4.4% higher retention rate compared to students in the cohort who did not receive a GPS message.  An assessment of the impact of GPS with statistical controls for other factors will be conducted.
    • In its pilot semester (Fall 2011), FYLI courses showed reduction in DFW rates greater than that for similar level non-FYLI courses (statistically significant);  with a 4% increase in successful course completion for FYLI courses.  A comprehensive assessment is in progress.
    • MyNAU Student Action Center messages focusing on critical information connected to a student’s academic progress and success are delivered to the student’s MyNAU portal and these critical messages are reaching over 90% of actively enrolled students.  
    • Early enrollment sign-ups for the first week have grown exponentially from 353 for enrollment in Spring 2012 to 730 for enrollment in Spring 2013.  
    • Students who successfully complete NAU 120 are retained at higher rates, have higher GPA’s and better academic standing than similar peers (selected on basis of indicators of academic preparation) that do not participate.
    • Assessment on NAU 100 shows that net of many other variables, participation in NAU 100 is associated with higher rates of student retention. 
    •  A multivariate analysis shows that contact with Gateway advisors during the first year has positive, incremental effects on student retention net of other variables. 
    • Students who attend 3 or more supplemental instruction (SI) sessions for a course earn more A’s and B’s and fewer D’s, F’s, and W’s. The course grade average for SI attendees is almost one-half a letter grade higher than non-attendees.
  • Assessments of continuing programs have demonstrated effectiveness. Programs have been refined or changed on the basis of evidence to increase impact.
  • Newer programs, such as coaching and FYLI, will be assessed and evaluated beginning AY 12/13.  
  • Working with the different organizational units has provided the UC a way to think about this pool of committed and competent staff and faculty and to take account in a planful way, their expertise and important connections to the students.  
  • Research demonstrates that student services play an important role in enriching the first year experience and creating an environment of student achievement at NAU.
What are the plans for sustaining the UC initiative over time to ensure it is not a short-term approach?

 

  • Research from other universities experiences of the university college model shows that there are substantial gains in student success and retention.  
  • The UC has a commitment to assessment and ongoing improvement
  • UC has strong support and commitment from the university leadership 
  • UC will cultivate a dynamic, adaptive culture and practices that ensure longevity

 

How can we collaborate with each other?

 

  • UC will facilitate interdisciplinary collegial conversations amongst faculty and campus partners concerning effective pedagogies and initiatives for first-year student success.  To this end we will host a series of brown bag meetings and Faculty Fellow and Faculty Affiliate meetings.
  • UC partners will work toward engaging our students to prepare for work and life in the 21st Century by drawing on best practices and tools for sustaining an effective and meaningful learning environment for our first-year students. This involves working closely with our campus partners in ensuring that our outreach includes stories of student success and the relationships and services that contributed to that success.
  • UC will work closely with student service providers across campus.  An example of strong integration is in the area of academic support with organized collaboration between the Student Learning Centers, Supplemental Instruction, and the Lumberjack Mathematics Center. Student coaching and mentoring offer another opportunity for cooperation as multiple programs work together to provide social support and academic success strategies for first year students in transition.
  • UC will continue to foster campus partnerships in career and academic advising.  The Gateway and college advising centers team up to ensure that students receive a solid foundation of understanding degree requirements and progression to graduation.  UC is developing resources that faculty and professional advisors can use in helping students understand the how their college education can influence their career life design.