UM-Flint has previously provided an update on the strategic plan progress of the Schools and Colleges. As the second in a series of periodic updates, this update provides a snapshot of the work being done by key units within Academic Affairs: Graduate Programs; the Honors Program; Thompson Center for Learning and Teaching (TCLT); Thompson Library; Office of Extended Learning (OEL); and University Outreach. The appendix includes of each unit’s strategic plan that ties most closely with the University’s plan. In addition to the summaries noted below, some selected highlights for each High Level Priority (HLP) include:
- HLP 1: A Distinctive Identity that Builds Campus Pride
- Outreach: Increased entrepreneurship and technology related activities, from the K-3 Young Sharks Entrepreneurship initiative to laying the foundation for a Michigan Cyber Range Hub to be housed at UM-Flint
- HLP 2: Excellent Education and Scholarship Across the Institution
- TCLT: More than doubled faculty participation in the Catalyst Course Design program to 17 participants
- HLP 3: A Student-Centered Culture Focused on Retention and Success
- Honors: identified and removed barriers to participation in honors programs as well as increased efforts on recruiting transfer student participation
- Library: implemented the textbook affordability initiative, resulting in 4,746 students saving a total of $1.4M through the identification and use of free, open-source digital textbook.
- HLP 4: Recruitment through High Quality Programs and Campus Life
- Graduate Programs: Increased the number of program-specific communication plans from 52 to 72 programs
- OEL: supported 3x increase in fully online programs, now up to 6, along with increases in online enrollment to nearly 19,000 enrollments annually
- HLP 5: A Vital Partnership with an Engaged Community
- Outreach: 56% increase in sponsored programs to support community engagement
Graduate Programs (highlighting HLPs 2, 3, 4)
Graduate Programs continues its critical work to recruit students to UM-Flint’s graduate programs, and also to support graduate students throughout their academic career through to graduation. Existing efforts to increase and stabilize graduate enrollment generally has an added focus on individual programs during this Strategic Planning cycle.
Graduate Programs is experiencing measurable success in recruitment with an increase in both the number of programs that now have a program-specific communication plan, up from 52 programs to 72 programs in two years. Use of these strategic communication plans likely contributed to a measured increase in year-to-year domestic inquiries, up by 5.4%
There was also a measurable increase of 1.5% in applications from underserved student populations, contributing to UM-Flint’s parallel diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts. Successes in these areas are expected to continue as Graduate Programs focuses through this Strategic Planning cycle on creating and supporting the development of new, high-demand graduate programs.
This cycle of the Graduate Programs Strategic Plan also includes objectives around supporting and enhancing the experiences of enrolled graduate students, a key component of UM-Flint’s overall retention efforts. In the remaining years of this planning cycle, Graduate Programs will increase efforts around the creation and support of an active graduate student community. The office also intends to identify and remove barriers to graduate student engagement, such as by making available a digital graduate student handbook and reducing or eliminating fees related to the thesis submission process.
Honors (highlighting HLPs 2, 3)
During the first two years of this strategic planning cycle, the Honors Program emphasized the areas of recruitment and retention of program participants, including increased focus on how students are supported while in the program. On the recruitment side, the Honors Program enrolled a smaller number of incoming freshmen during the 2019-20 year. Efforts are ongoing to increase admitted students for 2020-21, for both freshman and transfer students. The Program set benchmarks for recruiting transfer students into the Honors Program, such as through the BAS Junior-Senior option.
On the retention side, the Honors Program realized successes in identifying and removing program-specific barriers that impacted student success. Examples included identifying and eliminating scheduling conflicts between key courses, and identifying appropriate course waivers.
The strategic effort of the Honors Program is being informed by direct input from faculty and staff in the programs and majors. For example, a survey of academic department honors representatives assisted in identifying scheduling conflicts and barriers to off-campus co-curricular experiences. Addressing these barriers and collaboratively adding other supports for Honors students have been added to the remaining years of the Program’s Strategic Plan.
The Thompson Center for Learning and Teaching (highlighting HLPs 2, 3, 5)
The Thompson Center for Learning and Teaching continues its work of assisting faculty in exploring new methods for course and assignment design, active learning strategies, and technology-enhanced learning in their teaching. This goal has been and will continue to be met through in-person trainings, workshops, and symposia, with a combination of established effective efforts, such as the Catalyst Course Design Program and a variety of more focused collaborations. These collaborations occur within a breadth of groups, departments/disciplines and colleagues to address specific faculty interests and are intended to highlight and strengthen best practices in teaching and learning. Such practices include but are not limited to writing across the curriculum, use of signature assignments, and advancing universal design strategies to achieve student success and foster more inclusive classroom environments.
In the first two years of this Strategic Plan, the TCLT has complemented its in-person support by increasing resources in the online and digital space. One example is the Faculty Peer Observation and Coaching Course, which is now fully online and self-paced so that faculty can fit the training into their schedules and become certified coaches. A second example is that a Quad POD Faculty Learning Community (FLC) now has an online Google site focused on Critical Inclusive Pedagogies. This site, along with plans for a blog, will provide online support for the FLC work, as well as create an ongoing record of the impact of the FLC.
The nexus between inclusive teaching and supporting faculty development in the online space will further be supported through a variety of online courses and videos made available to faculty. For example, faculty will be able to complete and receive certification in inclusive teaching by completing courses identified by the TCLT and offered through EdX , an MOOC with over 120 institutional partners including the University of Michigan. Also, the TCLT is assisting the Signature Assignment Team in the creation of a website to showcase their work through example assignments and short video interviews of faculty and students sharing their experiences with the activity.
Thompson Library (highlighting HLPs 2, 3)
The Thompson Library links people with ideas in a student-centered environment that fosters learning and academic achievement. In this Strategic Planning cycle, the library is furthering that mission with a focus on increasing its level of support for student success though a dual focus on learning and research.
A key metric for the library is ensuring its collection supports current and future research needs for students and faculty. Librarians regularly review the top 100 journals in 20 fields to assure UM-Flint users have full current-issue access to at least 90% of titles available at the Ann Arbor library. In the Science disciplines, the library ensures 91% access to the top 100 journals, and in the Social Science disciplines, the library had 96% of titles available in Flint. From this early benchmark, the library continues to grow its collection through tri-campus collaboration that reduces costs while maximizing acquisitions.
This planning cycle includes a focus on expanding the existing textbook affordability initiative, started in 2016. To date, this has resulted in 4,746 students saving a total of $1.4M though the identification and use of free, open-source digital textbook, for an average student saving of $294/student/course. By the end of this Strategic Planning cycle, the library looks to replicate the initiative with an additional four academic units.
Having a robust collection is key to supporting research efforts, but it needs to be matched by robust usage. In support of research efforts, the library aims to increase participation in its research instruction workshops. From the 2019 level of 18% of students participating in a workshop, it looks to increase the participation to 25% of students by 2023.
Office of Extended Learning (highlighting HLPs 2, 3, 4)
The Office of Extended Learning (OEL) has been supporting online courses since UM-Flint began offering them in 2000. Today, OEL supports over 20 distinct online programs and hundreds of individual courses online or in mixed mode format, earning national recognition for its quality. While COVID-19 significantly expanded and accelerated OEL’s operations during the mid-point of this Strategic Planning cycle, it already had in place an ambitious and forward-looking plan focused on growth and expansion. OEL’s Strategic Plan includes goals of supporting student learning in the online space, collaborating in the creation of new online programs and courses, and assisting faculty in creating high-quality courses for online delivery.
OEL is an active partner in the recruitment and enrollment goals of UM-Flint. Improved marketing plans have contributed to increases in both total online enrollment and in fully online students during the first two years of the Strategic Plan. The increase in student numbers parallels the increase in fully online programs, increasing three-fold to 6 programs by the end of FY2019. Additionally, the number of students enrolled via our satellite locations increased by 31%.
Quality of online courses and programs is a top priority for UM-Flint and OEL. Quality is assured through supporting faculty in the development of their online courses as well as the review of existing courses. In FY2019, OEL increased its course development workshops and the number of attendees by about 20% each. OEL also completed 40 course quality reviews for existing courses, up from 13 the year prior. OEL staff themselves also continue to improve their credentials around instructional design, implementing a plan for multiple OEL staff members to receive external certification.
The increase in online course delivery due to COVID-19 may result in a revision of parts of this Strategic Plan. For example, prior to the move to remote learning, there were 407 instructors teaching online, with 100 instructors having completed the Intensive Course Development (ICD). With 100% of instructors now having had experience with online course delivery, many more attended one or more online workshops offered to help transition courses to online during Winter 2020.
University Outreach (highlighting HLPs 1, 2, 5)
The Office of University Outreach connects campus and community to support learning, collaboration, and partnerships. UM-Flint has been recognized for excellence in civic engagement, with its original 2010 Carnegie Community Engaged Classification being renewed in 2020. Through leadership by University Outreach, this focus will be further strengthened during this Strategic Planning cycle through targeted and intentional efforts that include programs, services, research, and financial components.
In support of community engagement, University Outreach has seen a 56% increase in sponsored program awards that support community engagement, for a total of $1.16M in FY2019. A portion of funds are used to support faculty-led community engagement efforts. In FY2019, $139,101 was awarded to faculty for projects such as the Flint Truth and Action Partnership program and various entrepreneurship programs.
Engagement with the community continues to be critical to the work of University Outreach. In FY2020, there was an increase from 117 to 172 active, external partners connected to University Outreach with one or more projects per partner. As a way to demonstrate UM-Flint’s impact in this area, the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Center, housed in University Outreach, has mapped 265 projects across the region as a way to visualize the impact of this work.
Specific areas where University Outreach will continue to focus include entrepreneurship and community STEM and STEAM programming. Entrepreneurship efforts include the programs offered out of the Northbank Center and the Ferris Wheel in downtown Flint, as well as the [IN] on the Road program that delivers support for small businesses across Genesee County. These efforts yielded nearly 800 community members served in FY2019.
Entrepreneurship and community programming combine when it comes to STEM and STEAM programming. The Cyber Range Hub will be implemented during the remaining years of this Strategic Plan, bringing to the region needed training and workforce development around cybersecurity and technology to a wide range of area residents. For example, at the earlier end of the education range is the Young Sharks program for grades 3 – 5, focused on entrepreneurship and economics curriculum that aligning with State of Michigan content standards in multiple disciplines with almost 1200 students in Genesee County having completed this curriculum.