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Office of the Provost

SACSCOCFifth-Year Accreditation Review

Executive summary (Pre-Site-Visit)

Virginia Commonwealth University’s Quality Enhancement Plan aspires to provide our students with pathways to learning that matters by means of a cultural commitment to generalizable education, that is, education that has substantial and lasting impact beyond any particular course, major or degree.

A truly generalizable education crosses domains and expands the boundaries of what the learner considers possible. Like ripples in a pool, generalizable education spreads its influence in ever-widening circles.

To build this culture, our QEP focuses on four specific elements. Two are critical areas connected with student learning: general education and digital engagement. Two are vital parts of the learning environment: advising and career planning and professional development. Together, these four elements constitute what we call “pillars,” a metaphor that emphasizes their structural importance in the culture we aspire to build. Yet our four areas of concern are also overlapping Venn diagrams, nodes in a network, threads in a tapestry, a musical quartet — indeed, no one metaphor alone can adequately convey the relationship among these areas. We view that fact as a sign of the complexity of that relationship, complexity we will return to again and again in the plan that follows. We do not want one bolted-on initiative whose influence will quickly fade and be forgotten. Our 2004 QEP aimed high, identified systemic concerns and brought lasting, positive change to VCU. We aspire just as highly now. We understand that this is an ambitious and complex plan, but we believe that the goal of learning that matters emerging from a culture of generalizable education must be addressed holistically. In other words, our QEP attempts to embody the kind of thinking and commitment it aspires to build and support at VCU.

We have chosen these four areas, or pillars, because of the urgency, opportunity and potential impact they represent for our university. These four areas align well with Quest for Distinction, our university’s current strategic plan, which seeks to maintain a learner-centered curriculum within the aspirations of a major research university. The development of our second
QEP provides VCU the unique opportunity to directly align the components of this QEP with the strategic priorities outlined in the institution’s strategic plan.

Pillar I. Tier II of the VCU Core Curriculum

The first pillar of our QEP strengthens the general education program in two ways: by emphasizing second- and third-year student learning within and among the disciplines, and by completing a truly “core” general education curriculum that spans all of VCU’s schools and the College of Humanities and Sciences.

Pillar II. Digital Engagement

An enhancement and expansion of digital engagement, including online learning and the open educational resources movement (Weller, 2013), is the second pillar. Clay Shirky has noted that “we are in the middle of the largest increase in expressive capability in the history of the human race.” VCU is committed to providing distinctive, high-engagement opportunities for students at all levels to participate in this e-learning revolution, including a significant increase in online courses and graduate programs and opportunities for reduced time-to-degree attainment.

Pillar III. Academic Advising

The third pillar presents a comprehensive academic advising system to empower students to navigate current educational systems as well as to invent new learning pathways to individualized majors and graduate programs. Enhanced advising is a necessary part of a learning environment that seeks to multiply opportunities for learning that matters.

Pillar IV. Career Planning and Professional Development

The fourth and final pillar is the implementation of effective career planning and professional development, not to reduce higher education solely into extended workforce preparation, but to stimulate our students’ most creative and purposeful thinking about vocation in a time of unprecedented change and unpredictable opportunity. Students will also be challenged and supported to define their personal goals and aspirations beyond VCU, extending the idea of “generalizable education” from course work and degree completion into a world of fulfilling and meaningful work.

The institution has developed an acceptable Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) that includes an institutional process for identifying key issues emerging from institutional assessment and focuses on learning outcomes and/or the environment supporting student learning and accomplishing the mission of the institution.

The institution has developed a Quality Enhancement Plan that (1) demonstrates institutional capability for the initiation, implementation, and completion of the QEP; (2) includes broad-based involvement of institutional constituencies in the development and pro posed implementation of the QEP; and (3) identifies goals and a plan to assess their achievement.