Letters from the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies
December 2, 2015
This is my second quarterly update for the 2015-2016 academic year.
This fall has had its share of good news. For example, the fact that senior Jordan Thomas was selected as a Marshall scholar speaks volumes about the enduring quality of undergraduate education at K-State. In my view, the Marshall Scholarship is the singular, most prestigious honor that an undergraduate student can earn worldwide. That K-State has such an impressive track record of success in national scholarship competitions says that we offer an outstanding undergraduate education. The sky is the limit for our students — and not just in our flight training programs.
K-State also achieved record high six-year graduation for first-time, full-time, bachelor's degree, associate degree and certificate-seeking students this year. Combined with our latest record first-to-second year retention suggests that a notable and historically unprecedented breadth of student success is increasingly built into the institutional structure and cultural fabric of the university. We are on track to meet our vital K-State 2025 retention and graduation benchmarks goals.
Part of what keeps us on track is our skilled use of state-of-the-art advising tools. ITS' Diana Blake reports that faculty and full-time advisors are using the much-enhanced KSIS Advisor Center at impressively high rates. This includes use of online advisor notes as well as the newly piloted and integrated EAB Student Success Collaborative advisor platform. The K-State advising community is working proactively and on the basis of sophisticated data analytics to make a significant contribution to our increasingly positive and consequential rates of student success.
Part of what keeps us on track also is the high quality of instruction in K-State lecture halls, seminar rooms, labs, studios and other instructional environments. In this regard, this fall has seen K-State First continue and, in other ways, expand on its vital role in supporting and facilitating First-Year Seminars and CAT Communities — that's Connecting Across Topics in both residential and non-residential settings. We also benefited from the Teaching & Learning Center's well attended Oct. 13 Teaching Success with First Generation Students workshop, which helped instructors focus on the special educational strengths and challenges faced by our approximately 7,000 undergraduates who are striving to be the first in their respective families to earn a bachelor's degree. Thanks are due to the Suder Foundation for providing much of the funding which supported this workshop.
Part of what keeps us on track are the many ways in which students are encouraged to come together as a learning community. One example of this was the powerful address given by K-State's common book author, Wes Moore, who saw an overflowing audience at McCain Auditorium. Another example was during this fall's expanded SPARK Week sponsored by the Office of Undergraduate Research & Creative Inquiry, when President Schulz helped introduce undergraduates to the rich variety of research opportunities available at K-State as well as the basic reasons why it is so important for students to aspire to undertake these and similar enrichments, including study abroad and professional internships, which are so stimulating, educational, rewarding, and even sometimes, as they were for President Schulz, life-transforming.
Needless to say, I am privileged in my role in part because I get to regularly interact with faculty, staff, and students from all across the university. Therefore, I know — and you should know as well that the University Honors Program's plan to restructure its requirements has received widespread support from faculty in many colleges and is currently in the last phases of review by the Faculty Senate.
In addition, there is a great deal of hard work that goes on largely behind the scenes day in and day out in the Honor and Integrity System to assure fidelity to K-State's Honor Code and fair adjudication of issues when they arise. Last month, K-State's Phi Kappa Phi honorary society chapter celebrated its 100th anniversary. That was a lot of fun, like Summer School Task Force meetings. It's true, this group is examining our practices in this area in light of our concerns to improve student success and in hope of positioning K-State as national leader. Great stuff.
Speaking of K-State's national reputation, let me conclude with a word concerning my first-ever National Academic Advising Association, or NACADA, annual meeting. Wow! In early October, the meeting welcomed more than 4,000 participants, which was about 1,000 more than at any of the 38 previous annual conferences! It was truly humbling to see so many K-State colleagues warmly acknowledged by representatives from literally hundreds of colleges and universities in the U.S. and abroad. At one conference session on the topic of first-generation students, which is of special interest to K-State, it became evident that nearly everyone in what was a very large and full room had previously viewed and appreciated the College of Education's 2014 film, "A Walk in My Shoes: First Generation Students," which NACADA publicizes among its more than 13,000 members worldwide. The K-State and NACADA partnership is a great source of mutual pride and an engine building K-State's national reputation; indeed, for thousands of advisors, K-State is, as one person put it, "the mothership."
In closing, let me take this opportunity to wish everyone a successful conclusion to their respective fall semesters here on the mothership, and, naturally, a most pleasant holiday break thereafter.
Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies