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March 16, 2010—New American Colleges & Universities members who are helping North Central College assess its student affairs programs may receive some return help in the form of ideas about best practices.
A team of administrators from four New American Colleges & Universities member institutions visited North Central March 10-11. North Central’s Office of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs is undertaking a rigorous three-year self-evaluation of its programs. Tapping the expertise of NAC&U members for input and peer review is a concept that Laurie Hamen, North Central’s vice president for enrollment management, athletics and student affairs, proposed some time ago.
With many NAC&U members in Chicago for a Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (NASPA) conference in mid-March, the opportunity presented itself for a site visit to North Central’s campus.
Hamen hoped the exercise would provide her student affairs staff members with constructive feedback, and that the evaluators would identify some best practices at North Central to share with other NAC&U members.
“All of these individuals bring with them a national perspective that will help us move into the future,” Hamen said.
The visiting delegation included Tijuana Julian, vice president of student affairs and dean of students at Drury University; Levester Johnson, vice president for student affairs at Butler University; Janet E. Walbert, vice president for student affairs at Arcadia University; and Alan Sickbert, dean of students at Hamline University.
Walbert is chair of NAC&U’s Affinity Group for Senior Student Affairs Officers (SSAOs). Sickbert is the group’s vice chair, and Julian is immediate past president.
“I hope this visit provides a model and becomes a resource for all of us to share expertise,” Walbert said. “At the same time we can offer advice to enrich the strategies North Central can use to go to the next step. We all need to continuously improve.”
The team met with a focus group of North Central students and with heads of the College’s departments of campus safety, student involvement and orientation, Career Development, ministry and service, multicultural affairs, Dyson Wellness Center, and retention, judicial affairs and leadership.
Butler University’s Johnson said he was particularly interested in learning about student interaction.
“We’re hoping to help North Central identify ways to build upon its success and the great things going on here,” Johnson said. “By sharing information we assist the institution and take information back home to assist our institutions as well.”
The process will be helpful to NAC&U members who share the mission of integrating liberal education, professional studies and civic engagement, Hamline University’s Sickbert said.
“It’s exciting to be able to visit another NAC&U member to see how similar we are,” Sickbert said. “We’re here to perhaps help North Central find blind spots to help them do a better job, and you can’t help but look and see what they’re doing well.”
North Central is the first NAC&U school to have programs evaluated for best practices and assessed for suggested improvements by other NAC&U members. However, other institutions may undertake similar reviews.
“This is the first time we’ve done this. Hopefully other institutions will see this as something beneficial and this becomes a springboard,” said Drury University’s Julian.
In addition to evaluating its student affairs programs this year, North Central intends to undergo internal and external reviews of its admissions and financial aid areas during the next two years.
“A self-assessment with outside evaluators always brings positive reinforcement in areas of strength and constructive criticism in areas of challenge. Plus, I think we have a lot to share,” Hamen said.
About New American Colleges & Universities
Until 2009, NAC&U was known as Associated New American Colleges (ANAC). Founded in 1995, NAC&U is a consortium of 20 selective, small to mid-size (2,000 to 7,500 students) independent colleges and universities dedicated to the purposeful integration of liberal education, professional studies, and civic engagement. To improve the quality and effectiveness of teaching and learning among its members, The New American Colleges and Universities sponsors projects and conferences, administrator and faculty affinity groups, surveys and data benchmarking, and international study programs. The New American Colleges and Universities collectively and individually are often cited as models of the intentional integration of teaching and learning, scholarship, and service. Visit www.newamericancolleges.org to learn more.