Creating An Organization Committed To Learning & Improvement


In the early and mid-1990s, CLU made some significant changes in its top administrative and academic leadership positions. Many of the new appointees came from outside the institution, including the President, Vice Presidents for Finance, Institutional Advancement and Student Life, and the Deans for the (then only recently established) professional schools of Business and Education. Other key posts were filled by individuals promoted from the ranks of the CLU faculty, i.e., the Provost and the Dean of Arts and Sciences. Normal “term limits” and election policies also resulted in leadership changes in both the governing board and faculty governance system. 

Prior to these changes, there was little in the way of institutional planning in place at CLU. The necessity for planning became obvious at this critical juncture, as did the need to integrate the new leadership into the on-going CLU community of faculty, administration and staff. The leaders saw an opportunity not only to develop short- and long-term plans and planning processes for the institution, but also to involve all of the institution’s major constituencies in the overall strategic planning process.

In 1995-96, the CLU Board of Regents approved an extensive 5-year strategic planning process designed by the new leadership to effect improvements in the areas of enrollment, financial stability, and academic reputation. The overarching institutional goal of this plan (CLU 2001) was to enhance CLU’s academic quality and reputation. Focus areas included strengthening enrollment, increasing financial resources, hiring high quality faculty, and upgrading facilities. The resulting progress in these areas became obvious near the end of the planning period as the institution achieved significant enrollment growth, improvements in academic quality, an increased emphasis on character-building in the CLU community, upgrades in facilities, increased resources, more (and more desirable) outside recognition, and an improved CLU image.

A second planning cycle (the Strategic Plan for CLU 2001-2004), reaffirmed many of the environmental and institutional conditions cited in the CLU 2001 document as well as the longer-term institutional strategy of continuing to build quality and reputation. The new plan, however, went much farther than the earlier planning document in defining specific areas of action: identifying three critical success factors; setting forth seven areas of strategic goals; defining 30 strategic initiatives; and itemizing a large number of supplemental goals and activities.

The University now had a fairly detailed “roadmap” of initiatives and objectives deemed important to achieving the overall goals of enhanced quality and reputation. The articulation of so many areas of activity was intended to have the advantage of bringing all University personnel into consensus with and participation in the vision underlying the plan. Its disadvantage, though, was that priorities sometimes became muddled, since such a detailed plan made it difficult for some to distinguish between things that were critically important to building quality and reputation and things that might be “nice to do,” but were not truly strategic.

It also became clear that the overall strategic plan needed to be supported by detailed operational plans in the key areas and that there was a need for greater integration of these supporting plans (e.g., academic planning and budget planning). As a result, detailed implementation plans were created: a plan for a capital campaign, an academic plan, and a business plan. Work also commenced on detailed plans for support areas such as undergraduate marketing, graduate and professional programs marketing, and information technology. In addition, attention has been given to the design of the planning, approval, and evaluation processes within the University. In some areas, organizational structure and processes have been revised to achieve better implementation and results.

Through all of this, CLU has moved much closer to having an authentic “planning culture” and more systematic processes for on-going evaluation and assessment. Much progress has been made and substantial tangible results have been achieved. We also, however, realize that there is still considerable work to be done–both in reaching the University’s stated goals for quality and reputation and in the planning, implementation and operational systems by which these achievements are to be realized. 

Our third and current central planning document, The Bridge Plan 2004-2006, is intended to guide us in bringing to closure many of the initiatives and objectives of the past decade, and to position CLU to move ahead into another significant period of strategic planning, operations, and results. This “third wave” of strategic planning will create a coordinated university-wide process for planning, and subsequently, assessment and change. The Bridge Plan mandates a fuller integration between overall institutional planning and budget planning and the use of specific strategic indicators, or metrics, by which to assess progress.

Implementation of the Bridge Plan and the area-specific planning documents that flow from it should bring the University fully into compliance with the WASC model for an institution that conducts, “. . . sustained, evidence based, and participatory discussions about how effectively it is accomplishing its purposes and achieving its educational objectives” (WASC Standard Four). We look forward to a much more focused action agenda, facilitated by a fuller integration of the University’s strategic, academic and business plans and by having the business plan and the budget on which it is based more fully informed by the institution’s strategic and academic goals.

The Bridge Plan, 2004-2006, approved at the October 2004 meeting of the Board of Regents, is now in its initial implementation stage. The planning time began during the summer of 2004 and will culminate with the next plan’s adoption in February 2006.

A major emphasis for this planning process is more assessment and analysis of the results than in previous plans. Currently, the institution is involved in the most extensive and inclusive SWOT analysis yet conducted. (See CLU’s website on Strategic Planning for more detail.) The Strategic Planning Steering Committee (SPSC) is comprised of senior administrators and two research and assessment officers to ensure that a measurable plan is created and that its successes or failures can be objectively determined.

One goal of the Bridge Plan is to put CLU’s strategic indicators into place. Once developed, these indicators will be completed on at least an annual basis and benchmarked to competitive institutions. One of the steps in the Strategic Planning process is to conduct feasibility plans which will analyze each proposed goal–to determine its cost, its return, and its relative value vis-à-vis other proposed goals.  This is the key linkage to the budget building process.

Another component of the Bridge Plan is the creation and adoption of the next plan: CLU – 2006-2014.  Senior staff have determined that this plan will likely be broken into two phases of four years each, with the first four years much more specific than the second four years.


Quality Assurance (CFR 4.4)

Academic Planning   The University’s broad academic goals and aspirations are articulated in mission and vision statements. Academic planning, a widely inclusive process at CLU, is coordinated by the Provost, the University’s chief academic officer. The Academic Plan is developed in support of the Strategic Plan, and does the following: articulates the role of the University’s academic sector in achieving the targeted overall institutional results; states CLU’s current educational objectives; identifies marks of institutional quality; and sets forth specific academic objectives both for the institution as a whole and for individual academic units and programs within the University.

Specific planning and assessment processes exist for new program development, the review of existing programs, and the formulation of the ongoing academic plans for the institution.

New Program Planning   Procedures for new program planning and approval take place under the Major Program Change Review Process. New program proposals, generated at the department, program, or school level, are sent to the Provost. The Provost reviews the proposals with the Academic Council and with the President’s Cabinet. Proposals consistent with university goals are then reviewed by the appropriate faculty committee (EPPC for undergraduate proposals, GPEC for graduate proposals). The committees assess the academic merits of the proposals, and then the University Budget Committee assesses their financial viability.  Final academic approval is obtained through a vote of the full University faculty.  Proposals successful to this point are also examined by the Academic Affairs Committee of the University’s Board of Regents and require approval of the full Board. 

Program Review   Existing academic programs are reviewed on an on-going basis. Faculty prepare a description of their programs and compile appropriate documentation. (A full description of the Program Review process is described in Essay Two.)

Curriculum Revision  The faculty assume ownership and responsibility for the curriculum at CLU. To offer a new course, a faculty member must submit a proposal to the Educational Policies and Planning Committee for an undergraduate course or to the Graduate and Professional Education Committee for a graduate course. If approved, the proposal must then obtain approval from the full faculty. 

Assessment   Over the last six years, CLU has been developing a strong culture of evidence. The Institutional Research Officer and the Assistant Provost for Assessment planned, selected, and developed assessment instruments to measure capacity, curriculum fidelity, and student learning. Data are analyzed, updated and communicated in writing and/or orally to the administration, appropriate faculty committees, academic support programs, academic departments, and to the faculty as a whole.

CLU’s goal is to use the process of assessment to become a learning and learner-centered institution. The assessment plan will develop a web of information from a variety of sources. This information will inform planning and current practices related to the academic mission of the university. To achieve the University’s learning and learner-centered goals, we collect data in response to the following questions:

1. Does CLU provide resources and engage in practices that support student attainment of our educational objectives? 

2. Do CLU students acquire the skills and knowledge embodied in our educational objectives? 

3. How well do our academic majors/programs prepare students in their respective disciplines?  How do they contribute to students achieving additional student outcomes?

4. How well do individuals majors/programs support and enhance academic quality at CLU?

The assessment system is focused on the CLU Student Learning Outcomes developed through faculty consensus over the last three years. The outcomes reflect concern for students’ development in the areas of a liberal learning background, professional preparation, and character and leadership development. The system is flexible in that it allows for a general assessment system as well as more focused systems for Arts and Sciences and the Schools of Business and Education. In addition, the system includes procedures for analyzing the University’s curriculum through program reviews and course evaluations. 

Data collection is focused on a variety of indicators including commercially available instruments, student work, and general institutional data. Data sources were chosen for their competence in assessing institutional effectiveness. Criteria for selection included: clear linkages to program content and skills; capabilities for tracking over time; and appropriateness for feedback to programs, faculty, and administration.

The system is coordinated by the Assistant Provost for Assessment and the University Assessment Committee. In addition, the Assistant Provost works closely with the Provost, Associate Provost for Accreditation, Institutional Research Officer, Deans, and the faculty (directly and through faculty committees).

Commitment to Learning and Improvement

Institutional Research (CFR 4.5) The institutional research function for the University is formally vested in the Provost’s office. Beginning in 2001, the Institutional Research Officer produces an annual compendium of academically related data titled the CLU Fact Book. The book, now in electronic form, is widely disseminated across the institution. It includes data related to admissions, financial aid, enrollment trends and student profiles, majors and degrees, faculty data, comparative institutional data, and more. 

Commitment to Improvement (CFR 4.6)  Leaders at all levels are encouraged to use evaluation and assessment tools to improve institutional effectiveness. The institution has begun using nationally recognized surveys to track student satisfaction and administrative and academic performance, including National Study of Student Engagement (NSSE) and Noel-Levitz Student Satisfaction Inventory (Noel-Levitz). The NSSE and Noel-Levitz surveys have now been conducted for several years. The results of these surveys have been used to identify and to address co-curricular issues and administrative support functions that need attention. Other surveys are periodically conducted, i.e., alumni and employer surveys and the image and reputation survey. These surveys are used to determine the effectiveness of the institution in particular areas of interest. 

In an effort to improve evaluation and assessment, two additional positions were created to assist the institution in capturing, storing, and analyzing data in order to improve operations and allocate resources when corrective action needs to be taken. The first was the appointment of an Institutional Researcher who reports to and is located in the Provost’s Office. Among other duties, the Institutional Research Officer now regularly updates the CLU Fact Book begun in 1998-99. The second position is that of the Assistant Provost for Assessment. This person is responsible for developing, monitoring, and reporting on the results of the University’s assessment system and activities. In addition, the Assistant Provost works closely with the Associate Provost for Accreditation, Institutional Researcher, and the Registrar in examining and addressing assessment and accreditation issues and needs at CLU.

In some cases, the institution has determined that it does not have sufficient expertise and has engaged consultants to collect and analyze data to improve operations, e.g., Hardwick Day, a consulting firm which helps establish enrollment and financial aid policies; Gonser, Gerber, Tinker, which helps the institution improve its fundraising functions; and Stamats which is involved in our current branding initiative.

The results of assessment activities have also been incorporated into academic planning. For example, the NSSE results from 2001 and 2002 revealed lower levels of challenge and engagement than the University desired, so the two topics became themes for faculty retreats, faculty development activities, and this WASC review. In addition, results from alumni surveys, the NCATE and other accreditation reviews, and the current study of the Freshmen experience all produce data that informs our efforts to offer quality programs and activities to our students.

Inquiry into Teaching and Learning (CFR 4.7)  Faculty are actively involved in the process of inquiry into teaching effectiveness in several ways:

  • The University regularly asks all students to complete end-of-course evaluations each semester.  These are returned to faculty so that they might use the feedback for improvement.
  • Faculty teaching effectiveness is also explored in periodic reviews for promotion and tenure.  These reviews, conducted by the Appointment, Rank and Tenure Committee, include the completion of a teaching portfolio, course evaluations, and faculty peer-completed classroom observations and reviews of teaching materials.
  • Faculty collect and use data to explore teaching effectiveness through department level assessment plans and use of challenge and engagement data from the NSSE and BSSE surveys that are regularly administered to undergraduate students.
  • Faculty are involved in the development and implementation of assessment plans in all academic programs, both undergraduate and graduate. Also, faculty serve on the University Assessment Committee which examines assessment needs and issues and creates assessment policy. 
  • Faculty also address teaching effectiveness through several venues.  Faculty participate in workshops conducted at the beginning and end of the fall and spring semesters, as well as in workshops, presentations, and discussions offered throughout the academic year by the Teaching and Learning Center. Topics for workshops are chosen based on faculty needs and information collected through assessments and surveys.

Data collected through assessments and surveys that demonstrate teaching effectiveness will be presented in more detail in the Educational Effectiveness review.

Involving Other Stakeholders (CFR 4.8)  The institution uses various stakeholders to obtain feedback and advice.  The Alumni Association, advisory councils for both the School of Business and the School of Education, and the President’s Advisor Council each perform this role for curricular issues in their respective areas. The Alumni Association is particularly concerned with the undergraduate experience and the President’s Advisory Council provides advice to the President on general management issues as well as on curricular issues. The School of Business Board of Counselors and the School of Education Advisory Committee both provide feedback and advice to these programs on new opportunities, program relevance, and changes in these professional communities in job markets and professional requirements.


The Capacity and Preparatory Review process has provided an opportunity for CLU to reflect on our capacity to provide a quality educational experience for our students. In these essays, we have demonstrated our capacity related to resources, structures, and processes. Since the last WASC review we have made considerable progress in all areas; however, there is still work to be done. We continue to be challenged in the area of fiscal resources, including the need to increase salaries, faculty development funds, library resources, and academic program budgets. We need to expand our science and library facilities, and we need to build an arts center, a student center, and a social science building. We also need to fully implement our assessment plan and new program review processes.

To continue our efforts of assessing educational effectiveness, we have established an assessment schedule designed to: assess each of our 14 student learning outcomes; complete a Program Review in all academic areas; and implement the newly developed assessment plans for all academic programs and areas of student services. Our Educational Effectiveness Review will address our progress in these assessments as well as focus specifically on our themes of challenge, engagement, and diversity.