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K-State Today

November 17, 2014

K-State 2025 Snapshots of Success: Undergraduate Educational Experience – Theme 2

Submitted by President Kirk Schulz and Provost April Mason

We continue to be impressed and energized by what we heard in our annual visits to the colleges, major units, Athletics, the Alumni Association and the KSU Foundation about the outstanding work being done across the university to advance our university vision and goals. In addition to discussing K-State 2025 during these visits, we also are sharing our progress through a series of letters by theme. Two weeks ago we sent the first letter on Theme 1: Research, Scholarly and Creative Activities, and Discovery. Today we are reporting progress during the past year on Theme 2: the Undergraduate Educational Experience.

Our Theme 2 goal is to "build a connected, diverse, empowered, engaged, participatory culture of learning and excellence that promotes undergraduate educational success and prepares students for their professional, community, social, and personal lives." 

Our plan envisions an undergraduate educational experience recognized as one of the best among the nation's Top 50 public research universities by 2025. It calls for excellent, customized academic advising and services promoting success for all; recruitment and retention strategies that address our entire student population; and all students engaged in a diversity of experiences that expand their viewpoint. It calls for integrated learning communities and systems in place that promote and support teaching and advising excellence. It also calls for freshman-to-sophomore retention rates and six-year graduation rates comparable to our benchmark institutions — two of our key university benchmark metrics.

The Undergraduate Studies and Student Life Theme II Implementation Plan supplements our university Theme 2 action plan as well as the plans from the colleges, major units and departments. Thanks to the work of many of you — faculty, staff, administrators and students across the university — we are building on our rich tradition and strength as a student-centered university and further advancing a culture of excellence and success for our students.

Our freshman-to-sophomore retention rate reached its highest level in school history with an increase from 81.2 percent in fall 2013 to 83.27 percent in fall 2014. While we have more work to do to achieve our goal of a 90 percent retention rate by 2025, we should celebrate this significant improvement. The university remained the No. 1 choice among Kansas high school seniors and set records once again for overall, multicultural and international student enrollment as well as the highest freshman ACT average.

Recognizing our students will live and work in an increasingly global world, world culture/study abroad programs are now integrated into more than 80 percent of our majors, exceeding goals in our K-State 2025 Internationalization plan. The percentage of students going abroad reached nearly 15 percent, meeting our 2015 goal. The percentage of international students studying here also increased and our international students are coming from a more balanced distribution of countries. Since 2011, we have grown from four to nine countries with more than 40 students.

New investments were made in programs promoting student success, including expanded tutoring, academic advising, diversity, honors and undergraduate research programs. This allows an increasing number of students to take advantage of such programs. Enrollment in K-State First programs has almost doubled since 2011 — growing from 788 to 1,453 last year. The Multicultural Academic Program Success program, or MAPS, had its largest class ever. The retention rate of students in the Pilots Program increased by 11 percent. The Honors House opened as a living/learning facility and there has been an work was begun to expand the number and type of residential Connecting Across Topics, or CAT communities available to students.

The First Scholars Program was launched with funding from the Suder Foundation to better support first generation students. Additional seed grant funds were received from the Suder Foundation to support an experimental living/learning community and extend the StrengthsQuest and professional development programming. New services to support distance students also were initiated, such as contacting students not logged into distance courses during the first week of classes. During the first week of spring 2014 classes, Global Campus staff contacted 216 students. The following week, only 12 had not logged in.

An entirely new advisor center was created in ISIS, our integrated student information system, to facilitate continuous improvement of advising. The Office of Student Life launched the Plan for Success program. The College of Arts & Sciences enhanced advising by hiring a fifth pre-health advisor to meet growing demand, reconfiguring space to support advising growth and providing opportunities to teams of advisors to learn best practices at regional and national meetings. Colleges launched or expanded professional mentoring programs to link students with professionals in their fields of study, such as the Professional Advantage program in the College of Business Administration or the Professional Mentoring program in the College of Human Ecology.

Increasing scholarship support for students has always been important, but perhaps never more so than now. An additional $1 million was invested in scholarship awards to support undergraduate students this past year. Philanthropic support for scholarships continued to grow. The College of Agriculture awarded a record $1.3 million in scholarships — up from $872,000 in 2010-2011. Global Campus established joint scholarships with the colleges for students enrolled in distance courses and awarded the first ever summer term scholarships.

Not only are we working to increase financial support opportunities for students, we have implemented programs to help students reduce financial stress. The Powercat Financial Counseling program, created in 2009 through a Student Governing Association student-centered tuition enhancement initiative, received national attention last year when U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan spotlighted it as a financial literacy program that can make a difference and one that should be emulated.

To promote teaching excellence, the K-State Salina Center for Teaching Excellence was established this year and the College of Business Administration launched an Excellence in Teaching Initiative. Global Campus and K-State Libraries collaborated to offer the first hybrid faculty development course, K-State Online Essentials, to emphasize the most current pedagogy for teaching online.

In addition to the new Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Inquiry, programs for nationally competitive scholarships and pre-law advising were created within the Office of Undergraduate Studies. Two new university committees were established to advance various areas of the undergraduate educational experience. These committees are facilitating networks of people across our university working together to further our Theme 2 goals.

Building a "connected, diverse, empowered, engaged, participatory culture of learning and excellence" for our undergraduate students is core to who we are and our history as a student-centered university. Our second new student convocation took place at the beginning of the semester, continuing a new tradition of welcoming thousands of new students to the university each August and reminding all of us how important the K-State sense of community is to the success of new students.

Reaching out to students is a priority and responsibility for each and every one of us, not just faculty, advisors or student services staff. The significant increase in student retention is a university wide achievement. We appreciate all you do to provide an outstanding educational experience for our undergraduate students. Our next letter will focus on our goals for the graduate scholarly experience.

Go Cats and thanks for all you do!

President Kirk Schulz
Provost and Senior Vice President April Mason