The Learning-Focused Organization
- Diverse Student Body
- Support of Student Learning
- Ensuring Quality Services
- Educational and Student Services
- Academic Advising Processes
- Resources to Support Learning
- Academic Support for Specific Groups of Students
- Instructional Classrooms and Facilities
- Ensuring the Quality of Academic Resources
- Supports Teaching
- Academy for Teaching and Learning Excellence
- Evaluation of Teaching and Recognition of Effective Teaching
- Faculty Roles and Rewards
- Faculty Evaluation through Annual Review
- Tenure and Promotion
- Improving Teaching through Professional Development
- Support for the Use of Technology to Improve Instruction
- Improving Teaching through the Assessment of Student Learning
- Assessing Undergraduate Student Learning Outcomes: The Core Curriculum and Core Competencies
- Supports the Acquisition of Knowledge
- Intellectual Property Rights
- Academic Freedom
- Acquisition of Knowledge: Faculty Research
- Presenting Research
- Acquisition of Knowledge: Student Research
- Showcasing and Acknowledging the Acquisition of Knowledge
- Institutional Support for the Acquisition of Knowledge
- Fiscal Support of Faculty Research
- Community of Life-Long Learners
- Upon Reflection
Criterion Three: Student Learning and Effective Teaching
The organization provides evidence of student learning and teaching effectiveness that demonstrates it is fulfilling its educational mission.
- 3a The organization’s goals for student learning outcomes are clearly stated for each educational program and make effective assessment possible.
- 3b The organization values and supports effective teaching.
- 3c The organization creates effective learning environments.
- 3d The organization’s learning resources support student learning and effective teaching.
Criterion Four: Acquisition, Discovery, and Application of Knowledge
The organization promotes a life of learning for its faculty, administration, staff, and students by fostering and supporting inquiry, creativity, practice, and social responsibility in ways consistent with its mission.
- 4a The organization demonstrates, through the actions of the board, administrators, students, faculty, and staff, that it values a life of learning.
- 4b The organization demonstrates that acquisition of a breadth of knowledge and skills and the exercise of intellectual inquiry are integral to its educational programs.
- 4c The organization assesses the usefulness of its curricula to students who will live and work in a global, diverse, and technological society.
- 4d The organization provides support to ensure faculty, students, and staff acquire, discover, and apply knowledge responsibly.
In accordance with its mission, UALR is committed to educating tomorrow’s global citizens. This is articulated in the University’s mission statement “to develop the intellect of students…[and] to serve and strengthen society by enhancing awareness in scientific, technical, and cultural arenas” and is implemented through four of the six UALR mission objectives—Community of Learning, Accessibility, Excellence in Instruction, and Scholarly Inquiry—discussed throughout this chapter.
The student body at UALR is the most diverse of any institution of higher learning in Arkansas. In Fall 2008, 64 percent of all students were Caucasian, 26 percent were African American, 2.8 percent were Asian, 2.5 percent were Hispanic, 2.2 percent were international students, and 1 percent were Native American (1.5 percent chose not to identify their race). UALR enrolls the second highest number of African American students in the UA System, closely trailing the only historically Black college. These students comprised approximately 21 percent of all UALR graduates in 2009, which is consistent with the ten-year average percentage rate of 20.3 percent.
The average age of UALR students falls between 27 and 28 years, and 90 percent commute to campus. These demographics affect UALR’s enrollment in specific ways. In Fall 2008, 63 percent of all students were female. Forty-nine percent of undergraduate students and 45 percent of graduate students received financial aid loans. Of students receiving financial aid loans, 26 percent had a dependent living with them and 12 percent were single parents.
Relatively few undergraduate students start out at UALR as first-time freshmen and continue straight through to graduation. As is true of many metropolitan universities, these students “swirl,” attending more than one institution over the course of their academic career, often stopping out for a semester or two due to financial or family issues. Since the early 2000’s, the number of undergraduate students with transfer credit has increased steadily. For the past several years, approximately seven out of ten graduating seniors came to UALR as transfer students. Year after year, the number of undergraduate degrees awarded by the campus exceeds the number of first-time, full-time entering freshmen. UALR is the only campus in Arkansas where this occurs.
The diversity of UALR’s student body is reflected in the varied life experience and educational preparation of its students. Accordingly, the University provides a learning environment that recognizes and supports this variety. This chapter will focus on how UALR creates a holistic community of learning through its support of student learning, its support of effective teaching and its support of the acquisition, discovery and application of knowledge.
The UALR mission objectives Community of Learning and Accessibility state
The University has a responsibility to provide a community of learning through creation of an academic environment that stimulates students, faculty, and staff to become life-long learners. This environment should heighten the intellectual, cultural, and humane sensitivities of students, faculty, and staff.
The University has a responsibility to serve the needs of a heterogeneous student population and to make its resources accessible to the general public and to local, state, national, and international groups. This responsibility includes creating opportunities for access to the University’s academic and other resources.
The resources and support services provided to accomplish these mission objectives are as diverse as the UALR student body. They are located both physically and administratively throughout the University and range from non-academic support such as student development to large-scale units such as the Ottenheimer Library to various types of labs and centers devoted to additional academic support.
Assessment results inform improvements in curriculum, pedagogy, instructional resources, and student services.4a Example of Evidence
The organization and its units use scholarship and research to stimulate organizational and educational improvements.
Ensuring the quality of support and resource services through data-based evaluation is a priority at UALR. This is evinced by Goal 2 in UALR Fast Forward which states, “UALR will provide a student-centered educational environment.” Under this goal, Objective 1 commits the University to
organiz[ing] its operations and shap[ing] its practices, policies, and procedures to be as student-centered as possible, as evidenced by increased student satisfaction and success.
Significant resources have been allocated to assess and improve student services and resources. A recent comprehensive assessment was the Customer Satisfaction Survey conducted by MGT of America, Inc., in 2007. Since results from this survey are included in the discussion of academic and service units throughout this chapter, an overview of this assessment is provided here.
MGT Customer Satisfaction Survey77
In July 2007, UALR contracted with MGT of America, Inc., to conduct a Customer Satisfaction Evaluation. MGT is a national research and management consulting firm specializing in providing services that improve the effectiveness and efficiency of government. The primary objective of the project was to evaluate the level of customer service provided to students through both academic and student service units.
MGT interviewed staff in all of the student service units as well as “clients” of those offices, including academic departments and colleges. In addition, MGT conducted focus groups with both staff and students, and completed “mystery shopping” to the offices. Mystery shopping involves sending in a secret shopper to “sample” the services and staff attitudes in each of the areas of the study.
In addition, all 11,549 students registered in Fall 2007 were given the opportunity to participate in a customer satisfaction survey that identified those areas where satisfaction and dissatisfaction existed. A total of 1,999 student respondents completed the survey, for a response rate of 17.3 percent. The majority of survey respondents were female (69.9%), white (67.6%), full-time (60.6%), matriculated at the main campus (84.4%), lived off campus (91.6%), and were returning students (69.8%).
Students were asked to rate how satisfied they were with the service and with the courtesy and friendliness of staff in each office/service/unit on a scale of 1 to 5, where “5” represented “very satisfied” and “1” represented “very dissatisfied.” A score of “3” is considered neutral. For the purposes of analysis, only ratings made by ten or more respondents were included. Offices/services/units are considered to be in need of improvement if the service had less than a 75 percent “satisfaction” rating (ratings of 4 and 5 on the survey) or if there was more than 10 percent “dissatisfaction” among student respondents (ratings of 1 and 2 on the survey). The units evaluated were:
- Office of Recruitment
- Disability Support Services
- Health Services
- Office of Testing Services
- Office of Campus Life
- Ottenheimer Library
- Writing Center
- Office of Counseling & Career Planning
- DSC Fitness Center
- Extended Programs
- Student Computer Labs
- Office of Records & Registration
- Academic Advising
- Student Technology Support Services
- Public Safety
- Office Student Housing
- Parking Services
- Admissions & Financial Aid
- Dining Services
Students also were asked to rate the New Student Orientation Sessions, both on-campus and online (this was before they were revised as is discussed later in the chapter), their faculty advisor, other faculty, and their academic department.
The report puts the findings in perspective by saying
It is important to note that UALR students are like students at other urban universities in that they are not as satisfied with Dining Services, Parking Services, Student Housing, and Public Safety Offices as they are with other campus services. Parking and public safety, housing, and dining are three areas of general dissatisfaction on most campuses, but especially on campuses in urban locations.
The report results section states
UALR should be proud that, in general, students are satisfied with their interactions with UALR services and staff providing services, especially in academic areas…. Students gave total satisfaction ratings for staff of less than 75 percent and more than ten percent dissatisfied to only five offices/services/units: Public Safety, Student Housing, Parking Services, Admissions and Financial Aid, and Dining Services. There is marked dissatisfaction with seven offices/services/units related to the services provided: Dining Services; Admissions and Financial Aid; Parking Services; Student Housing; Public Safety Office; Student Technology Support Services; and Academic Advising. In this context, “marked dissatisfaction” means that less than 75 percent of students responding indicated “satisfaction” (a rating of 4 or 5 on the survey) AND more than ten percent of students responding indicated “dissatisfaction” (a rating of 1 or 2 on the survey) with the service provided. Academic Advising and Student Technology Support Services are the only offices/services/units where satisfaction with staff was above 80 percent, but dissatisfaction with services exceeded ten percent.
UALR’s response to specific recommendations from the satisfaction survey are discussed throughout this chapter.
Educational and Student Services78
The organization provides an environment that supports all learners and respects the diversity they bring.3c Example of Evidence
Student development programs support learning throughout the student’s experience regardless of the location of the student.
The Division of Educational and Student Services provides educational and student support services to UALR’s constituencies, and maintains multiple relationships with academic departments, students, and community groups. The Division sustains and in many instances improves services in creative ways. Services are offered through three areas: Student Development, Enrollment Services, and University College.
Office of Campus Life 79
The organization regularly assesses the effectiveness of its learning resources to support learning and teaching.3d Example of Evidence
The organization provides effective staffing and support for its learning resources.
In the MGT assessment, 90.7 percent of student respondents were satisfied with the staff and 85.3 percent were satisfied with the services provided through the Office of Campus Life (OCL). OCL provides students with access to advocacy programs for special populations and support services for the variety of registered student organizations on campus. The office offers orientation programs, referrals and related services to ease students’ transition to college life. The OCL website provides information about orientation, the University Program Council, and the Student Government Association. In addition, there are links to important publications for students including
- Student Handbook
- Undergraduate Catalog
- Guide for Life-long Learners
- Safety Summary
- Safety Manual
Within the Office of Campus Life is the Adult Student Advocacy80 program, which works to create effective learning environments specific to non-traditional students. This office is open year-round, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and is also accessible 24 hours/7 days a week on the web. The office is in a high-traffic area of the Donaghey Student Center with good visibility. Services for prospective and current students who are over 25 years old focus on
- assistance with the admission and application process
- information regarding campus resources, services, and opportunities
- opportunities to meet other adult students and share experiences
- referrals to appropriate staff and faculty
- provision of fast information and assistance to busy adult students
For moral support and networking, a peer mentoring program is offered, and twice-a-week brown-bag lunch sessions in a reserved dining room within the Student Center are provided. Currently, over 500 out of the approximately 6,000 adult students register to receive regular emails about campus announcements and activities via a listserv. The number of contacts made will vary from month to month and semester to semester; however, in February 2008, over 120 contacts were made either in person, over the phone, or via email.
Office of Student Housing81
The Office of Student Housing offers four options to serve the diversity of its students. Since a majority of students who participated in the MGT survey were not living in campus housing, it is not possible to interpret the findings on Housing within this context. On-campus housing is a relatively new addition to the UALR campus. Although East Hall opened in 1994, it was twelve years later before the Commons Apartments were added in 2006. The success of the two apartment-style residence halls recently has generated discussions about adding a third within the next two years.
East Hall, which has space dedicated to freshmen entering programs in the Donaghey College of Engineering and Information Technology (EIT), is a traditional residence hall offering a support system geared toward first-time entering freshman. Students share space with a roommate to experience a community living setting. In addition to a full schedule of social and academic support programs offered in the building, a student Resident Assistant resides on each floor to help new students transition to college. The hall also has a computer lab that is open seven days per week.
Connected to East Hall are the Commons Apartments, which include North and South Halls, the newest additions to campus housing. This apartment style community offers a more independent experience for continuing students (non-freshmen). Connecting North and South Halls is a Commons Building that has an on-campus convenience store, computer labs, study rooms, and a television lounge where students can socialize.
In addition to the residence halls on campus, the Office of Student Housing manages a 20-unit apartment complex located on Fair Park Boulevard just south of the residence hall. These are available to students at a reasonable cost; a student manager resides in the complex.
Finally, UALR owns several houses in the Oak Forest neighborhood, the area surrounding the campus. These houses are available for rent to faculty, staff and student families.
Disability Resource Center82
In the MGT assessment, 94.3 percent of student respondents were satisfied with the staff and 91.9 percent were satisfied with the services provided through The Disability Resource Center (DRC). The DRC promotes and facilitates awareness issues related to disability and access through training, partnerships, innovative programs and accommodations; supports students with disabilities through appropriate accommodations for testing and other course requirements; provides counseling and advocacy services; provides alternate formats for textbooks and other written materials, speech-to-text transcription, assistive or adaptive technology; and helps students find accessible online classes, lab assistants, interpreters, and note-takers.
The DRC also provides a faculty notification letter to students outlining the type of accommodations they might need, and annually updates and makes available the disability statement that faculty are required to include on all syllabi.83
Through the PACE project, the DRC collaborates with students, faculty, and staff to create usable, equitable, inclusive, and sustainable learning environments. DRC works with faculty to ensure instruction and course design do not result in barriers to students’ inclusion or an accurate assessment of student achievement. For example, support is provided for inserting captions in online videos and for using the course management tools like Blackboard in ways that optimize usability for all students. Online tutorials are available which specifically address usability and accessibility. Students who are taking all of their courses online are able to request services online through the Disability Resource Center website. The work of the DRC makes education more accessible to all student populations across campus.
In the MGT assessment, 95.2 percent of student respondents were satisfied with the staff and 90 percent were satisfied with the services provided through Health Services. This unit provides cost-effective, accessible health care while offering an array of medical services from treating minor illnesses and injuries to administering immunizations. The medical staff includes an Advance Practice Nurse, a Registered Nurse and a consulting physician. The mission of Health Services is to meet the immediate health care needs of the students, staff and faculty at UALR while empowering the campus community through education to become better able to care for themselves.
All office visits and consultations are free as are most medications. There is a small charge for some screenings and injections. Services offered include:
- nursing assessment, and treatment of common acute illnesses, medications and referrals when needed
- discount medical/dental resources
- nutritional counseling and percent body fat analysis
- student health insurance information, applications, and claim forms
- immunizations: MMR, Tetanus/Diphtheria, Hepatitis A and B, Flu, Meningitis
- classroom presentations on health-related topics
- Peer Education Program
- alcohol and other drug information, referrals, and risk reduction programs
- smoking cessation education and certain medications
The Office of Admissions and Financial Aid provides services to all UALR students while also complying with federal, state, and campus policies. The numerous responsibilities of this office include providing students with accurate information about admissions and financial aid, ensuring students are admitted appropriately with all required credentials and meeting all admission criteria, and working with students to ensure they receive all the financial aid for which they legally are eligible.
In the MGT assessment, the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid received some of the lowest ratings with 65.6 percent of student respondents being satisfied with the staff and 58.2 percent being satisfied with the services provided through the unit. This is not unusual, as mentioned in the MGT report. Both admissions and financial aid processes can be frustrating to students, especially when their expectations, through no fault of the staff, are not met. It should be noted that MGT “mystery shoppers” who visited this office all reported that their interactions with the staff were pleasant and carried out efficiently.
Mystery shoppers related negative experiences related only to the online admissions application, which currently is being revised. For the past year, faculty and staff at UALR have been working on a new online application process. The new process is currently being developed and tested.
Office of Records and Registration.87
In the MGT assessment, 79.4 percent of student respondents were satisfied with the staff and 75.6 percent were satisfied with the services provided through the Office of Records and Registration The responsibilities assigned to this office include ensuring that students receive accurate information about the registration process; helping students with registration problems; working with the Office of the Provost to load faculty approved courses into the University processing system (BANNER); ensuring that students who apply for graduation have completed all required coursework; and working with academic units on registration issues, making grade changes, etc.
Two of the four federal TRIO programs at UALR are administered through the Division of Educational and Student Support Services: Educational Talent Search88 and the Educational Opportunity Center89. Both programs identify and assist individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds who have the potential to succeed in higher education. The Educational Talent Search program provides academic, career, and financial counseling for high school students and encourages them to graduate and continue their education at the post-secondary institution of their choice. Talent Search also serves high school dropouts by encouraging them to re-enter the educational system, complete their degree, and continue their academic career in higher education. The services provided by the Educational Opportunity Center are similar to those of Talent Search, but are aimed at young adults over the age of 19.
- academic, financial, career, or personal counseling including advice on entry or re-entry to secondary or post-secondary programs
- career exploration and aptitude assessment
- tutorial services
- information on post-secondary education
- exposure to college campuses
- information on student financial assistance
- assistance in completing college admissions and financial aid applications
- assistance in preparing for college entrance exams
- mentoring programs
- special activities for sixth, seventh, and eighth graders
- workshops for the families of participants
Services offered through University College include Academic Advising, which is described in detail in the section on UALR advising processes; Cooperative Education; Counseling and Career Planning; and Office of Testing Services and Student Life Research.
The Cooperative Education Program (Co-op) allows qualified students the opportunity to participate in work-integrated learning. Students gain relevant work experience, academic credit, and pay while employers gain valuable employees who are enthusiastic about contributing their skills. A satisfaction survey conducted by the program found that 92 percent of its graduates indicated their experience with the Co-op gave them an advantage in the job market and 100 percent said they would advise other UALR students to participate in the Co-op.
In the MGT assessment, 90.9 percent of student respondents were satisfied with the staff and 83.1 percent were satisfied with the services provided through the Office of Counseling and Career Planning. This office provides assistance in personal counseling, career and educational planning, and job searches. In the area of personal counseling, students can receive help with numerous issues including anxiety/stress management, balancing adult life roles, conflict management, crisis intervention, drug abuse and addiction, marriage problems, social isolation, and suicide.
In career planning and job searches, the office provides help with choosing a major, choosing a graduate program, how to dress for success, and interviewing skills. It also sponsors on-campus interviews and provides access to online recruiting services and recruiter connections.
Office of Testing Services and Student Life Research93
In the MGT assessment, 89 percent of student respondents were satisfied with the staff and 85.5 percent were satisfied with the services provided through the Office of Testing Services and Student Life Research (Testing Services). This office administers exams for the purpose of admissions, class placement, course credit, graduation competency, licensing, credentialing, and professional certification. Through the office, students can get information on all credit-by-examination programs accepted at UALR and register to take the exams.
Testing Services also makes class presentations on ways to avoid test anxiety, and provides information on test-taking strategies. It offers non-cognitive assessment, conducts new student profile data collection and reporting, and coordinates the administration of national assessment studies such as the National Survey of Student Engagement, Faculty Survey of Student Engagement, and other institutional research.
The organization regularly assesses the effectiveness of its learning resources to support learning and teaching.4a Example of Evidence
The organization and its units use scholarship and research to stimulate organizational and educational improvements.
In addition to participating in University-wide evaluations such as the MGT survey, the Division of Educational and Student Services conducts ongoing assessment. This reflects the division’s commitment to improving support and academic services that complement and enhance student learning. Each of the departments within the areas of Student Development, Enrollment Planning, and University College submit five-year assessment plans that provide information on the methodology used to assess goals and objectives on an annual basis. Unit assessment components with a timeline and status updates measure the outcomes, monitor progress, and permit continuous improvement. Data are available, and accumulated descriptions can be obtained on the website for each unit. A selection of assessment data and outcomes that support decisions made about effective services and student learning is available online.94
Advising systems focus on student learning, including the mastery of skills required for academic success.
One of the key divisions of University College is the Office of Academic Advising.95 UALR policy requires all students to be advised every semester and enforces this requirement with an advising hold. Undergraduate students who have not declared a major and are not being advised through the Collegiate Success Program, described later, are advised by trained, professional staff in Academic Advising. These advisors help students assess and clarify their educational, career, and life goals by examining personalized interests and abilities.
They also assist students by monitoring academic progress, helping with course selection based upon academic preparedness, educating students about the nature of college learning, and identifying academic and social support venues that connect the curricular and co-curricular collegiate culture. The office continually assists and clarifies optimum course sequences in order to help students plan their degree completion on a full- or part-time basis.
In the MGT assessment, 82.1 percent of student respondents were satisfied with the staff while only 73.4 percent were satisfied with the services provided through Academic Advising. The report speculates that this is due to the fact that the processes at UALR for articulating transfer credit have not been efficient, and students have been frustrated with the bureaucracy involved. This is the same conclusion reached by UALR faculty and staff in relation to the Retention Summit Initiatives discussed subsequently in this chapter. These findings led to the creation of the Office of Transfer Student Services96. With transfer articulation no longer a responsibility of the Office of Academic Advising, student satisfaction of the staff and services should improve.
After undergraduate students choose a major, they are advised within the structures that exist in their college and academic program. These vary from college to college. It is important to note that the MGT study found
- 94.7 percent of new freshmen were satisfied with the courtesy and friendliness of their faculty advisor
- 92 percent of new freshmen were satisfied with the service provided by their faculty advisor
- 93.6 percent of new transfer students were satisfied with the courtesy and friendliness of their faculty advisor
- 79 percent of new transfer students were satisfied with the services provided by their faculty advisor (again, this finding probably was affected by problems with articulating transfer credit)
- 90.8 percent of returning students were satisfied with the courtesy and friendliness of their faculty advisor
- 84.8 percent of returning students were satisfied with the service provided by their faculty advisor
Two examples of how different colleges arrange their advising structures are found in the Donaghey College of Engineering and Information Technology (EIT)97 and the College of Business (COB)98. Because students in EIT follow a structured curriculum beginning in their freshman year, College faculty and advising staff cultivate a personal relationship with students while they are still in high school through active recruitment activities. For example, several times a year, high school students and their parents are invited to campus where they meet with student ambassadors, current majors in the College, as well as faculty advisors. Once a student comes to UALR as a major in EIT, he or she is encouraged to live in East Hall, where the College has dedicated space, so he or she may participate more fully in a community of learning. All EIT majors receive intrusive advising focused on helping the student be successful.
In contrast, COB generally does not advise students until they have completed their general education core courses. Once students are admitted to a COB program, professional advising includes help with courses and professional development workshops. The College also offers students numerous opportunities to make connections with employers through networking, recruiting, and placement events.
Graduate students are advised within their programs of study. Since students must maintain a GPA of 3.0 to continue their studies, academic problems are identified and addressed early. An example is the advising process in the School of Social Work located in the College of Professional Studies (CPS)99. Students applying to the program must complete a personal statement which asks applicants to address specific issues. If the personal statement indicates that the applicant needs to improve his or her writing skills, the advisor is notified and then discusses the writing skills resources available to students, such as the University Writing Center. Advisors pay close attention to the academic progress of students, recommending additional support services as needed. The School also provides students with a “How to Thrive in Grad School” document that is available on the website.
In the MGT study
- 95.1 of new graduate students were satisfied with the courtesy and friendliness of their faculty advisor
- 91.5 percent of new graduate students were satisfied with the service provided by their faculty advisor
- 90.7 of all graduate students were satisfied with the courtesy and friendliness of their faculty advisor
- 84.8 percent of all graduate students were satisfied with the service provided by their faculty advisor
The organization employs, when appropriate, new technologies that enhance effective learning environments for students.3d Example of Evidence
The organization ensures access to the resources (e.g., research laboratories, libraries, performance spaces, clinical practice sites) necessary to support learning and teaching.
UALR has a wide variety of resources across the general campus to support academic learning. These resources include the various libraries and labs/centers that enhance the learning environment.
The mission of the Ottenheimer Library100 is to “enrich and support the University’s educational and research mission by sharing its expertise, fostering intellectual development, and providing academic excellence.” To this end, the Library offers a variety of informational resources and services to the students, faculty and staff of the University and to the public.
Library users have access to more than 513,000 books and other materials available online as well as in media such as print, microform, video and audiotape, CD and DVD. The Library is a depository for federal and state government publications in all formats. It is the state’s only repository for documents published in the European Union.
The Archives and Special Collections Department houses the Library’s non-circulating and rare book collections and the historical records of UALR and its predecessors, Little Rock University and Little Rock Junior College. The Library’s collection of Arkansas-related materials, including the papers of five Arkansas governors, is housed in downtown Little Rock at the Arkansas Studies Institute, a joint venture of UALR and the Central Arkansas Library System.
The Library subscribes to over 49,000 print and online journals and over 31,000 electronic books and electronic reference sources. The Articles & Databases link on the Library’s website makes these resources available via an Internet connection to UALR students, faculty, and staff virtually anywhere in the world.
Materials not held by Ottenheimer are obtained through Interlibrary Loans. The Library is a member of several regional and national consortia that allow reciprocal borrowing privileges and the sharing of materials through mail, facsimile and Internet transmission, and uses a document delivery service for Arkansas’s libraries.
The organization regularly assesses the effectiveness of its learning resources to support learning and teaching.
The Library building is open 87 hours a week when classes are in session and offers extended hours during final exams. There is space for individual and group study and a student computer lab, which is maintained by Computing Services. The Library also is open to the public; residents of Central Arkansas may use databases and online resources in the Library and check out any of the circulating materials.
The Library maintains an active relationship with the campus. Every academic department has a library liaison—a reference staff member—who is available to answer questions, help with resource acquisition, and provide training on the use of collections, electronic resources, and the online catalog. Many degree programs incorporate this training into their student orientation sessions. The Library also regularly engages the University community in beta-testing online databases and directories, and solicits feedback on the effectiveness of materials.
In the MGT Customer Satisfaction Survey, 84.8 percent of respondents were satisfied with the courtesy and friendliness of the Ottenheimer Library staff and 84.7 percent were satisfied with its services. The Library also assesses its services and resources to further their effectiveness. Staff participate in an annual strategic planning retreat and have developed a strategic plan that evaluates service, acquisition, staff/faculty training, and technology.101
In July 2009, the Library was one of only twelve university libraries nationwide to present at the LibQUAL+(R) Share Fair, held in conjunction with the American Library Association’s Annual Conference in Chicago, Illinois. This science-fair style gathering features 12 brief presentations/poster sessions by current and past LibQUAL+(R) survey participants highlighting examples of quantitative and qualitative analysis available from survey results and marketing ideas. The presentation, titled “You Asked For It/You Got It! A Chronology of Assessment Activities at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock,” was authored by Ms. Donna Rose, Head of Cataloging.
William H. Bowen School of Law Library102
The UALR William H. Bowen School of Law/Pulaski County Law Library is the major law library in Central Arkansas. It contains over 310,000 volumes and volume equivalents, as well as over 3,000 audio/video discs and tapes. The Law Library is a depository for federal and state government publications. In addition, the Law Library subscribes to a variety of online databases and indexes which provide access to well over 35,000 journals, electronic books and other publications. These are accessible through the library’s website and through the library’s online catalog.103 These electronic resources are available to everyone in the Law School building. In addition, Law School faculty and staff have off-campus access to these electronic resources.
The Law Library’s special collection includes archival material such as the Arkansas Territorial Briefs (1809–1836), Arkansas Appellate Records and Briefs (1837–1920), the W. Harold Flowers Law Society materials, the Arkansas Women Lawyer’s Association materials, and small personal collections of people related to the Law School.
Materials not held by the Law Library are obtained through Interlibrary Loans. The Law Library is a member of several regional and national consortia that allow reciprocal borrowing privileges and the sharing of materials through mail, facsimile and Internet transmission, and uses a document delivery service for Arkansas’s libraries.
The Law Library occupies 52,000 square feet of space located on four floors of the Law School building. It has sufficient shelving for an estimated ten years of growth at current levels. It contains seating for 365 people, nine group study rooms, 42 two-person closed carrels, and two computer labs. It is open 100 hours per week when classes are in session, with extended hours during final exams. The reference desk is staffed 68 hours per week.
The Director of the Law Library is the Associate Dean for Information and Technology Services as well as a member of the Law School faculty. She teaches legal research to all first-year law students in a two-semester course. The Law Library has five additional full-time librarians, all of whom are tenured as Law Library faculty members. Three of the librarians in addition to the director have law degrees, as well as a Master’s of Library Science degree held by all librarians. There are also six other full-time professionals in the library, three of whom serve as the Law School computer support staff, as well as five full-time paraprofessionals.
The Law Library is committed to providing resources and services valued by users. To that end, the Law Library gathers feedback from faculty members and students. Faculty members were interviewed individually by the Director. As part of a larger Law School survey, students were surveyed electronically about the library. In addition, the Law Library maintains a suggestion box located in the Main Reading Room as well as an online suggestion box available from the Law Library’s website. Each summer, the librarians attend a one-day retreat to engage in strategic planning, including specific goals for the coming year. As part of their annual review process, the librarians identify new annual goals for their specific areas and describe how goals were met for the preceding year.
The Law Library holds dual status as both the Law School and the Pulaski County Law Library. As such, it is funded by the Law School and by a portion of the Administration of Justice funds dedicated to county law libraries. The Law Library’s collection is enriched by this status since county funds are used to purchase legal materials, primarily practitioner-oriented material. These funds are never used to pay salaries or overhead.
Mathematics Lab Mathematics Assistance Center I (MAC I)104
MAC I, provided through the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, is for students enrolled in College Algebra and above, Chemistry, and Physics. MAC I is located in Dickinson Hall Room 600, and provides free tutoring to students. MAC I also helps students in Business Calculus, Applied Calculus I and Applied Calculus II, College Geometry, Probability, Advanced Calculus 1 and 2, and Discrete Math on DVD. TI-84 graphing calculators may be rented for the session or semester from MAC I for $40. Students may check out a free “How to use the TI 82/83 Graphing Calculator” videotape and booklet.
Mathematics Lab (MAC II)105
Mac II is for students enrolled in the developmental courses Elementary Algebra and Intermediate Algebra. Staffed with student tutors, the MAC II offers day, night, and weekend hours for assistance. All sections of Elementary and Intermediate Algebra at UALR are using the web-based system called ALEKS to ensure students are prepared for college-credit mathematics courses requiring basic algebraic skills. ALEKS is an assessment and learning system using adaptive questioning to individually tailor a student’s learning to achieve an appropriate level of mastery of algebraic skills necessary for College Algebra or College Math. Students can use the computers in MAC II to do coursework and receive one-on-one tutoring.
The organization regularly assesses the effectiveness of its learning resources to support learning and teaching.
Assessment occurs through a variety of methods. Lab usage is tracked numerically and a suggestion box is available to users. A customer satisfaction survey was instituted in Fall 2009. Assessment data indicates UALR students are very happy with the services the labs provide. Use of the lab increased by 57 percent from Fall 2008 to Fall 2009. Additionally, from Fall 2008 to Spring 2009, use of the labs increased by 6 percent, despite an enrollment drop from fall to spring.
University Writing Center (UWC) and Online Writing Lab (OWL)106
The University Writing Center (UWC), located at the center of campus, is dedicated to helping writers with different abilities in all academic programs improve their writing skills. The UWC emphasizes the process of writing and provides a comfortable place to write, to receive training, to work with writers, and to use tools and resources in a community environment. It nurtures writers individually through encouragement, development, and growth in the pursuit of excellence in rhetoric and composition. The UWC has approximately 20 computers available for students to use as they write and edit their papers. They are also given instruction on how to use a computer.
The UWC is one of the three writing centers in the nation to be staffed entirely by student interns who in turn receive course credit for their work. Interns attend weekly one-hour training sessions each Monday, reviewing best practices for conducting writing center conferences and dealing with individual differences in writers. They also make presentations at the weekly meetings, participate in reading and writing activities which enhance their learning experiences, and read in the field.
The effectiveness of the UWC is assessed several ways. Client response forms are collected periodically throughout the semester to assess students’ responses to services, and information is collected at the end of each semester to determine interviews and evaluations with each Intern. During the meeting, the intern submits materials reviewing his or her experiences, identifying skills that developed during the semester, as well as personal areas for further development. The exit interview form and evaluation form data is collected each semester and reviewed for future training use. All end-of-semester records are compiled and stored for future reference. Ideas gathered from clients and interns during evaluation processes help shape the content of the training meetings for the next semester.
Evaluation, review, and accountability are vital to meeting the needs of an emerging student population, and over the years, the UWC has responded to changing student needs by expanding the training to include business concepts necessary for working with multiple-needs customers and creating a businesslike work environment. Although the primary focus of the UWC is UALR students and faculty, occasionally clients come from local high schools, the School of Law, and the Little Rock community.
The Online Writing Lab (OWL) was developed for online students and other UALR community members who want writing help, but who might not be able to come to the UWC during regular business hours. OWL provides students with quality feedback and helps solve problems they have with their writing. The online writing center, usually staffed by graduate assistants, has worked with clients as far away as China and Australia.
Communication Skill Center (CSC)107
The Communication Skill Center (CSC) helps the campus with public speaking skills. At CSC, students receive help with a variety of communication-related skills, such as managing anxiety, presentation organization, effective delivery, and appropriate presentational aids. The CSC is a friendly environment located in SPCH 201. Graduate assistants are responsible for managing the CSC and supervise undergraduate interns recommended by Speech Communication faculty who have undergone thorough training and participated in weekly staff meetings. The interns earn academic credit for the completion of a reflective portfolio and weekly service in the CSC.
CSC services are evaluated several ways. Faculty and staff keep track of how many people visit the CSC as well as the number of people who use the center for public speaking help and for other communication-based information/support. The CSC utilizes “secret shoppers” who provide written evaluations of their experiences—the good and the not so good. Faculty also do presentations/workshops on campus regularly for departments. Those presentations are evaluated to help improve subsequent workshops. These data are used in the weekly meetings that the director of the center has with interns and graduate assistants. Positive and negative feedback helps interns improve and grow and helps ensure the quality of the services provided by CSC.
In addition to resources designed to meet the needs of the general student population at UALR, the University offers several unique programs and resources that serve diverse groups of students and classroom facilities designed to provide specific learning environments.
The Academic Success Center108 is designed to help students who are underprepared or who are from traditionally underrepresented groups succeed in college. In addition to the Collegiate Success Program, which is described under the Retention Summit Initiatives section, the Academic Success Center includes the following resource services and programs:
- Student Support Services. The first of two federally funded TRIO programs administered by ASC, Student Support Services offers tutoring, academic skills development, and guidance and counseling, with an emphasis on development strategies for succeeding in college. Math assistance is offered through tutoring and non-credit math prep courses. All services are free and available to any student who lacks adequate preparation and qualifies under federal guidelines. Grant funds and scholarships are available.
- Ronald E. McNair Program. The second federally funded TRIO program is designed to prepare students who are underrepresented in graduate education for doctoral study. The program provides skill building seminars, research and mentorship, and graduate school admission assistance. At UALR, 22 Elite Scholars, who are low-income or first generation college students, are chosen each year to participate in this enriching Summer Internship Program.
- Instruction and Test Preparation. The Academic Success Center offers courses in reading and study skills that are open to all students. Test preparation materials are available to help students prepare for such tests as the ACT, SAT, PRAXIS, and the GRE.
Until 2007, the various programs that make up the Academic Success Center were separate entities spread across the campus. In an effort to increase the efficacy of services and provide additional support, these programs were brought together in one location under a director who reports to the Budget Director and Chief of Staff in the Office of the Chancellor.
At the graduate level, in addition to support offered through academic programs and by advisors, graduate students are supported by the Graduate School office and the Graduate Student Association109 (GSA). GSA promotes the advancement of quality and integrity in the graduate education experience. It also represents graduate students through formal communication channels within the university structure and through informal networks to promote professional development. It is affiliated nationally with the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students.
The organization’s systems and structures enable partnerships and innovations that enhance student learning and strengthen teaching effectiveness.
The Donaghey Scholars Program110 is a University-wide honors program with a unique, comprehensive, and highly structured curriculum. It features an interdisciplinary core of team-taught, seminar-format courses that replaces UALR’s general education core. These core courses emphasize primary texts, critical thinking, active debate, and writing.
The Donaghey Scholars Program is one of only a handful of honors programs in the United States that requires and subsidizes its students to study abroad to assist them in developing competence in a foreign language. Donaghey Scholars also take seminars on special topics and complete a final project.
All Donaghey Scholars receive a UALR academic scholarship that covers tuition and fees, provides a stipend, and gives support for study abroad. The Scholars’ financial aid is underwritten by the Donaghey Foundation, whose support of the Scholars Program each year equals the income from an endowment of approximately $6 million.
The faculty of the Donaghey Scholars Program are drawn from across campus and are distinguished for their scholarly and creative productivity, as well as the energy and enthusiasm they bring to the Scholars classroom. Among them are scholar-teachers who have won University-wide awards for research, teaching, and public service.
The students are diverse, representing a mix of backgrounds, interests, and pursuits, and include traditional students, non-traditional, and international students. Upon graduation, many have entered directly into successful careers, while others have thrived at graduate and professional schools such as Harvard, Yale, Rice, Oxford, Vanderbilt, Stanford, Ohio State University, Louisiana State University, UALR, Cornell and the Universities of Pennsylvania, Texas, Michigan, New Mexico, Wisconsin, Virginia, Missouri.
Among graduates is a clerk for a federal appellate judge, several winners of Rotary scholarships, two Goldwater Scholars, a Fulbright Scholar, a Mellon Fellow, a National Science Foundation Fellow, a Truman Scholar, a Mitchell Scholar, and a Rhodes Scholar. Nearly half of the Arkansas finalists for the Truman Scholarship in recent years have been Donaghey Scholars, and of the Scholars who have applied for medical school, over 90 percent have been admitted.
The program was reviewed by faculty from honors programs belonging to the National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) in Spring 2009. The resulting External Review Status Report included the following comments:
The curriculum [of the Donaghey Scholars Program] is exceptional and outstanding.
We agree that the program is highly regarded throughout the University and beyond; the program has earned this high regard.
We were impressed with the high quality and dedication of faculty teaching in the program.
Former UALR basketball standout Derek Fisher, a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, pledged $700,000 to UALR in 2005 towards the construction of the Jack Stephens Center auxiliary gym, since named in his honor, and the establishment of the Fisher Fellows Life Skills program—a mentoring series for Trojan student-athletes.
As part of the Fisher Fellows Life Skills program,111 the UALR Department of Athletics welcomes three to four guest speakers per year to discuss various topics with the Trojan student-athletes. The program aims to help guide Trojan players through the various issues facing them as student-athletes, including mental health, nutrition, managing credit, goal setting, career choices, substance abuse, and public service. The Student-Athlete Advisory Committee assists in choosing the subject matter for each meeting. Additionally, the Fisher Fellows program sponsors a senior appreciation ceremony at the end of the year in which all graduating seniors are presented commemorative watches in thanks for their contributions to UALR athletics.
Another example of a program designed to meet the diverse needs of students is the University Science Scholars Program,112 funded through a five-year National Science Foundation grant of $579,175. Directed by Dr. Janet Lanza in the Biology Department and Dr. Jim Winter in the Graduate Institute of Technology, this program provides scholarship monies and enrichment activities to talented students majoring in biology, chemistry, and geology who do not have the financial resources to attend college.
After an initial year of planning, 18 students were accepted into the program in Fall 2008. Required components include
- a first-year experience course titled “Science Skills” specifically designed to give students the skills that will benefit them in their science courses, and their college career
- co-enrollment of students in the same sections of English composition, biology or chemistry, algebra or calculus, and speech to enhance the students’ connections with both their peers and faculty
- individual and intensive advising of each student
- information seminars on current issues in science
- field trips to the UAMS Biochemistry Department and UALR’s Nanotechnology Center
- multiple social activities designed to foster group camaraderie (e.g., a cake to celebrate Charles Darwin’s birthday, an outdoor lunch to celebrate Earth Day, etc.)
The physical learning environment at UALR is enhanced by smart classrooms and specialized labs. Smart classroom across campus are equipped with data/video projectors and instructor stations that allow teachers to incorporate a wide variety of materials into lectures and discussions. They also provide students with a means for learning how to use presentational technology in their own projects. UALR provides wireless access to the Internet in all of its classroom buildings, as well as across campus, so that both instructors and students may access information within the classroom setting. Many instructors also integrate the use of Blackboard, the University’s online course management software, with the physical classroom experience.
The organization ensures access to the resources (e.g., research laboratories, libraries, performance spaces, clinical practice sites) necessary to support learning and teaching.
Specialized instructional facilities are used in nearly every department on campus from applied arts to virtual reality. These spaces run the gamut from a simple computer lab with discipline-specific software to ultra-sophisticated facilities such as the virtual reality laboratory. The following are a few examples of the facilities available to support effective teaching and student learning.
Virtual Reality Center (VRC)
One of only a few in the United States, the VRC includes a three-walled “cave” where students and faculty can interact within a three-dimensional virtual environment. This facility gives students the opportunity to experience the latest computing innovations in 3-D and 4-D. An adjacent laboratory allows students and faculty to develop virtual reality programs and test them in the VRC’s immersive environment.
During the 3-D Summer Art Design program, high school students spend two weeks developing 3-D art exhibits, animations, and virtual galleries. The animations can be played in the VRC in an immersive manner, which requires six movies to be played synchronously on the three walls of the “cave.”
EIT Senior Projects Research Laboratory
This modern laboratory, with floor space of a little over 1,000 square feet, has been assigned for faculty research and senior projects in ECET 4370—Senior Design Project, a required capstone course in the Bachelor of Applied Technology in Industrial Computing. The laboratory was used in 2008 for research in the area of radar communication. The laboratory is commonly used by faculty for externally funded research projects.
Language Resource Center (LRC)
The LRC is a multimedia lab designed for second language study. Each of its 24 stations provides access to web or archived language resources as well as language learning software. The LRC serves both as an open lab and as a classroom facility that can be reserved by instructors. Tutors are available to aid students.
Structural Testing Laboratory (STL)
The STL conducts long beam testing in support of Department of Construction Management’s required senior design course using the MTS Beam Testing machine. The 100-ton testing facility has been utilized for timber, steel and concrete beam testing by students in construction classes for the past 25 years. This testing machine performs static and cyclic load tests for large full-scale beams under service loadings. Students are able to test beams for load conditions with several million-load repetitions and have performed many tests to failure. This affords the Construction Management program at UALR the capability for structural building testing equal to that available to students only in the larger research universities in the United States.
The studio is equipped with sixteen potter’s wheels, a slab roller, plaster wedging tables, a bench grinder, a hand grinder and a wide variety of hand tools. The clay and glaze mixing area provides a modern glaze lab with ventilation, triple-beam scales, and spray booth. Students also learn to use a variety of kilns, including gas, electric, raku, and a soda/salt kiln.
Non-linear Editing and Media Production Lab
Used by the School of Mass Communication, this 16-station instructional lab features professional state-of-the-art video editing software, graphic design software, and multimedia scripting software.
Thermal Sciences Laboratory
This laboratory has gas and solid fuel Calorimeters used in conduction, convection, and radiation heat transfer experiments in addition to an air-conditioning simulator. The laboratory has mechanical-heat equivalent devices to demonstrate energy balance, and is used in conjunction with the fluid power and thermal science courses.
The facility has one of the best foundries in the state with the ability to use ceramic shell, investment, and bonded sand methods. The indoor space has 1,500 square feet and 14′ ceilings, and is set up with 40 large lockable storage spaces, eight large work tables, ten portable work stations. All woodworking equipment is set-up on a gated dust collection system. The wax-working and mold-working area has an 18’ square swing vent hood and 6’ long hood vent.
The outdoor space has 1,400 square feet, has ten’ brick walls and is covered with a metal roof. The facility is set up with 2’ high expanded metal at the top of the walls with natural draft hooded ventilation for all kilns plus an attic fan for constant air movement.
The Robotics Laboratory is used to conduct research in the areas of autonomous robots, instrumentation, machine learning, and embedded systems. The laboratory has two Pioneer AT robots, one Pioneer 2, one Pioneer 3 robot and numerous robots that were designed in-house and includes machining equipment (drill press, belt sander, band saw, circular saw, and router) and electronics equipment (digital oscilloscopes, frequency generators, FPGA programming and simulation software, embedded system programming, and debugging software and hardware).
Theatre and Dance Studios
The Theatre Arts and Dance Department is quickly becoming a leader in innovative theatre. With two theatre spaces and two dance studios, the program offers many opportunities for students to explore all aspects of live entertainment and introduces them to many new technical developments in the trade such as intelligent lighting systems and on-site scene and costume construction.
The Geophysics Laboratory supports research projects for faculty members, graduate students, undergraduate students, and public school science teachers who participate in summer research. It provides the necessary tools to conduct solid earth research, exploration geophysics, near surface geophysics, seismology, and environmental projects. The laboratory has comprehensive Ground Penetrating Radar systems with multiple antennas, total field magnetometer, an advanced geoelectricity measurement system, a survey grade GPS system, and a number of data acquisition and application software and computational tools. Currently, the laboratory supports the research of five PhD students and two faculty members. The estimated cost of the laboratory is $300,000 and the annual maintenance cost is about $10,000.
In Fall 2008, 23 different junior- and senior-level internship or field experience courses were offered across 16 degree programs, and 12 graduate internship courses were offered or required in eight master’s programs. Many of these require a clinical practice site, some of which are on campus while others are provided through partnerships with community clinical settings. A few examples of both are as follows:
Speech and Hearing Clinic
The clinic provides a full range of speech and hearing services to individuals with communication disorders. All services at the clinic are provided by graduate students and senior-level undergraduate students under the direct supervision of faculty in the Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology, a program shared by UALR and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS).
Students learn clinical skills in a facility equipped with an impressive array of diagnostic and treatment equipment. They learn how to use computerized fitting and adjusting instruments for hearing aids, diagnostic equipment for speech and hearing defects, and computerized analyses of speech and hearing.
Simulated Hospital Unit (SHU)
This unit includes high-fidelity and mid-fidelity human simulators that enable nursing students to rotate through simulated patient care areas/scenarios as a component of their clinical rotations. Students provide patient care and are challenged to solve complex health scenarios as part of course requirements.
Off-campus Nursing Practicums
In addition to the traditional Associate of Science RN program, the nursing program offers a one-year LPN/paramedic-to-RN program option. The UALR-SVH partnership includes recruitment of the St. Vincent Health System LPNs and practical students into the RN completion option. Recruitment also extends to practical nursing and clinical agency employees throughout central Arkansas. The nursing program includes student participation in a variety of clinical learning experiences in acute care, long-term care, and community settings.
Social Work Internships Sites
Each year, the School of Social Work has approximately 200 graduate and 25 undergraduate students in internships throughout Central Arkansas. Settings for internships include a variety of public, nonprofit, and for-profit human and community service organizations in areas such as health and mental health care, child welfare, education, aging services, hospice care, substance abuse services, services to people with disabilities, and public policy advocacy.
UALR offers a broad range of support services and learning environments to meet the needs of its diverse student body. All of these enhance student learning and effective teaching, create a vibrant educational environment, and prepare students to succeed in their professional lives and become life-long learners.
Assessment results inform improvements in curriculum, pedagogy, instructional resources, and student services.4a Example of Evidence
The organization and its units use scholarship and research to stimulate organizational and educational improvements.
UALR Fast Forward commits the University to ensuring the quality of its academic services and resources. Goal 1 states, “UALR will provide programs of study that will educate students to live, work, and lead in the complex, technological, diverse world of the 21st Century.” Under this goal is Objective 1: “The University will ensure the quality of its educational programs,” which has the following identified strategy:
The University will develop a set of performance measures, appropriate to a metropolitan university, that provide the basis for quality assurance and quality improvement.
In addition, Goal 2 states, “UALR will provide a student-centered educational environment.” Under this goal is Objective 3: “The University will implement research-based strategies for increasing persistence (retention) and graduation rates of UALR undergraduate students by 20 percent in five years.”
Significant resources have been allocated to assess and improve academic resources. One example of this is the 2007 Retention Summit.
At the beginning of Fall 2007, Chancellor Anderson asked Provost Belcher, and Vice Chancellor Donaldson to review the findings of institutional assessment activities conducted in the early 2000’s. They were tasked to identify retention strategies of particular promise for the University in its efforts to improve retention performance and, as such, support student learning.
The documents reviewed included the 2003-2004 strategic planning initiative that resulted in UALR Fast Forward, a 2004 report completed by the Recruitment and Retention Task Force, a two-year campus self-study conducted in 2005-2007 using the Foundation of Excellence Program ©, and a 2006 assessment of the First-Year Experience Colloquium course.
As a result of their review, Drs. Belcher and Donaldson identified six retention strategies that had been recommended in every study as well as the strategic planning process. These were
- mandatory freshman orientation
- comprehensive services for students requiring developmental courses
- improved advising processes
- early declaration of major
- required first-year experience course for all freshmen and freshmen-transfer students
- mandatory posting of mid-term grades for all freshman and sophomore courses
These strategies, presented to the faculty and staff at the Retention Summit in December 2007, facilitate early connections between students and faculty, provide support services and early warning measures to increase academic success, and create a more seamless transition for transfer students.
A task force comprised of faculty, staff, administrators, and in some cases students was formed to design and implement each of the initiatives. After some discussion, the initiatives targeting improved advising and early declaration of major were merged due to the overlap between them. What follows is a discussion of the progress made on the initiatives.
Mandatory Freshman Orientation
This initiative was the first to be fully implemented. The task force, chaired by Vice Chancellor Donaldson, included faculty and staff who worked to accomplish two goals: first, to increase access to orientation sessions to meet the needs of a diverse population of students and second, to increase the participation of academic units in a meaningful way. Both goals were accomplished.
There are now three freshman orientation sessions offered each summer. Orientation allows students and their parents or significant other to spend the day at UALR and is designed to assist in the student’s transition to university life. Students learn about available campus resources and services, receive a packet of campus publications and materials, and tour the campus to locate classrooms and offices before classes begin. An effort is made to educate the students about what is expected of them as a student through meetings with staff, faculty, and student peer mentors. Students unable to attend the on-campus orientation have the option of completing it online.
Faculty in colleges are actively participating and have developed creative ways to connect with students. One example is the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (AHSS). During the spring semester, the College forms an orientation session planning committee comprised of both faculty and professional staff in the dean’s office. Faculty recruit alumni and current majors to be student ambassadors who attend each orientation session and talk with students and their parents and/or significant others about the College.
During the orientation session, there is a brief welcome from the Associate Dean, who discusses how students declare a major and encourages students to meet with faculty in their areas of interest as soon as possible. Then there are ice-breakers (for example, AHSS Jeopardy! has been popular) which help students feel less anxious. When students and parents are feeling more relaxed, the Assistant Dean introduces faculty and student ambassadors from each department who gather students into groups by area of interest. Finally, an informal tour of department labs, student lounges, multi-media classrooms, galleries, and performance spaces help students become familiar with the resources available to them.
Comprehensive Services for Students Requiring Developmental Courses
In Spring 2008, Faculty Senate passed legislation requiring students to complete their developmental coursework within their first 42 hours of matriculation and reaffirmed existing policy limiting the number of times students could attempt developmental courses at UALR to twice. This legislation laid the groundwork for establishing the Collegiate Success Program113 (CSP) through the Academic Success Center114 which was described previously.
CSP targets freshmen who need to complete developmental coursework in Reading and English. Through CSP, academically at-risk students receive one-on-one intrusive academic advising services. They also become engaged in a small learning community, which enhances academic skills and promotes community building activities. All CSP students are required to sign a contract and participate in the program for one year (two consecutive fall and spring semesters).
CSP staff began their ongoing assessment of program effectiveness immediately. At the end of the Fall 2008 semester, they examined student retention rate and GPA. The retention rate of the students in the program was 78 percent compared to an overall freshman retention rate of 85 percent. This is an impressive gain. Prior to Fall 2008, the University’s 11-year average of retaining freshmen from fall to spring was 62.7 percent. The 263 students in CSP represented 42 percent of the 620 freshmen entering UALR that fall. It is apparent that the high retention rate of the program positively affected the overall retention rate.
At the end of the semester, 55 percent of the students in CPS had a GPA between 3.0 and 4.0, and 17 percent were between 2.0 and 3.0. Only 20 percent were on academic probation. The progress of these students, as well as future students participating in CPS, will be tracked to see if gains made while in the program persist. However, considering these are the most academically at-risk students at UALR, the retention rate coupled with strong GPAs indicate that the program is improving retention rates and enhancing learning opportunities.
Improved Advising and Early Declaration of Major
These initiatives were combined since they are closely related. The task force formed met during the spring and summer of 2008, and, based on the fact that 70 percent of UALR students have transfer credit, recommended that the first step be to establish a transfer office to effectively and consistently articulate transfer credit. This would leave professional staff and faculty free to focus on advising students on core and major requirements and providing academic and professional mentoring. In April 2009, the Office of Transfer Student Services was established with a director and an administrative assistant. In August, two transfer specialist positions were added. Designed to expedite the articulation of core transfer credit, troubleshoot for faculty and staff on core transfer issues, and help inform policy change that will reduce barriers for students with core transfer credit, the Office of Transfer Student Services will ease the transition to UALR for a significant portion of the student population.
Although early declaration of a major was one of the initial recommendations of the review, it was ultimately decided that such a requirement was unenforceable. Rather, advisors in University College, will focus on helping undeclared students explore their personal and professional interests and connect with faculty advisors.
Required First-year Experience Course for all Freshman and Freshman-transfer Students
Much work was accomplished by the task force assigned to this initiative during the 2008-2009 academic year, and a proposal was created that outlined required criteria for the course titled First Year Colloquium. These criteria include the student learning objectives and a service-learning component. Unfortunately, the resources needed to offer enough sections to accommodate all eligible students were not available for the upcoming 2009-2010 academic year. Therefore, this course will not be required this fall. However, the task force is exploring ways to reduce the cost of providing the course; other options will be explored by the Undergraduate Council during Fall 2009.
Posting Mid-term Grades in all 1000- and 2000-level Courses
The task force behind this initiative had the following goal in mind: ensuring that students, faculty, and advisors were alerted to problems early enough to intervene appropriately. In May 2008, after much spirited discussion, the Faculty Senate passed legislation requiring all faculty teaching 1000-level and 2000-level courses to communicate mid-term grades to their students. The manner in which this occurs was left to the discretion of each faculty member.
Although the legislation does accomplish the goal of providing early-warning of problems to students and faculty, since posting grades in the University data system (BANNER) was not made a requirement, advisors may or may not have access to these data.
The identification and implementation of the retention initiatives is an example of how UALR uses institutional assessment data to improve curriculum, instructional resources, and student services. Work on these initiatives involved faculty and staff from across campus and resulted in significant collaboration among units. The increased retention of students from Fall 2008 to Spring 2009 is encouraging. After classes begin Fall 2009, data will be collected to see if retention gains have persisted.
UALR’s commitment to teaching is detailed in the mission objective Excellence in Instruction: “The [u]niversity has a responsibility to provide excellence in instruction to ensure high-quality education for our students. This responsibility includes developing faculty teaching skills, awareness of the ways students learn, assessing student learning outcomes, and enhancement of resources to support effective instruction.”
At UALR, excellence in teaching is the highest priority for faculty and administrators. Data collected in 2008 using the Faculty Survey of Student Engagement115 show that 100 percent of respondents ranked teaching as their most important job duty. Similarly, 100 percent of respondents who participated in the faculty survey conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute116 in 2008-2009 indicated that teaching was personally “very important” or “essential” to their professional lives.
Qualified faculty determine curricular content and strategies for instruction.
The faculty’s commitment to excellence in teaching extends to the curriculum. As outlined in the Faculty Handbook, curricular content is the purview of the faculty. In Article III of the Constitution of the University Assembly, “Functions of Faculty Senate,” page 5-6, states as follows:
The areas of the Faculty Senate’s legislative authority shall include but are not limited to the following: …curriculum and courses
Further, the constitution states
Responsibilities of colleges and schools are as follows:
2. To study college or school curricula. Each college or school shall establish its own curriculum process. Routing of curriculum and program proposals shall follow the procedures outlined in the description of the Undergraduate Council.
On behalf of the Faculty Senate, and subject to that body’s authority, the UALR Graduate Council shall review and recommend action on new graduate courses, programs, and degrees and consider other matters related to graduate work at UALR… Proposals for graduate programs and courses which originate with department faculties shall be routed to college or school curriculum committees, to college or school faculties, and to the Graduate Council.
On behalf of the Faculty Senate, and subject to that body’s authority, the UALR Undergraduate Council shall review, interpret, and recommend action on all general undergraduate academic policies; it shall review and recommend approval or disapproval of curriculum proposals and degree programs.
In academic units organized into departments and colleges and schools, all proposals for changes in curricula and degree programs shall be routed to department, college, or school curriculum committees; to college or school faculties; and to the Undergraduate Council.
Academic policy ensures that qualified faculty are responsible for curricular content and strategies for instruction.
The organization provides services to support improved pedagogies.3b Example of Evidence
The organization supports professional development designed to facilitate teaching suited to varied learning environments.
The most visible commitment to excellence in teaching at UALR is the Academy for Teaching and Learning Excellence (ATLE).117 Established in 2007-2008 by faculty leadership with a budget commitment of $55,000 from the Provost, ATLE is a faculty collaboration focused on advancing a rich conversation across disciplinary lines about pedagogical philosophy, teaching strategies, and the promotion of student learning. Its mission is to foster excellence in teaching and learning; to demonstrate the value UALR places on high-quality teaching; and to build a stronger community among teachers and learners.
The Academy is co-directed by three faculty members who are appointed by the Provost based on their distinguished awards and honors in the area of teaching and their deep commitment to quality education. Appointments are a three-year commitment and come with a course release for the administrative work.
To accomplish its mission, ATLE fosters improved pedagogies through educating, supporting, and providing resources to faculty. UALR faculty have embraced ATLE and its mission. In 2008-2009, 385 faculty members (76 percent) participated in one or more of the Academy’s activities.
The organization supports faculty in keeping abreast of the research on teaching and learning, and of technological advances that can positively affect student learning and the delivery of instruction.3d Example of Evidence
Budgeting priorities reflect that improvement in teaching and learning is a core value of the organization.
ATLE activities include the following:
- Teaching Demonstration Luncheons. These demonstrations, which have been popular, provide UALR faculty with unique opportunities to discuss and investigate diverse teaching strategies with colleagues from across campus. Past faculty presenters represent a broad range of academic disciplines including:
- Dr. Michael Ledbetter, Department of Earth Science
- Dean John DiPippa, William H. Bowen School of Law
- Dr. Karen Kuralt, Department of Rhetoric and Writing
- Dr. Gregory Robinson, Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology
- Profs. Catherine Lowry, Stephanie Harvey, Suzann Barr, James Hendren, David Luneau, and Thomas Wallace, Information Technology Minor
- Teaching demonstrations with handouts, classroom application strategies, as well as demonstrator quotes and biographies are kept in an electronic video archive accessible on the ATLE website.
- Guest Speakers. Since its inception, ATLE has sponsored two guest speakers—Dr. Ken Bain, author of What the Best College Teachers Do, in 2009, and Dr. Richard Light, author of Making the Most of College, in 2008. Both met with campus leadership, presented to faculty, and held informal question and answer sessions.
- Distinguished Teaching Fellow Award. To receive this award faculty must accrue 100 points within a year through participating in activities such as:
- producing a scholarly article on teaching issues (20 points for each)
- presenting at an ATLE event (10 points for each)
- attending an ATLE session (5 points for each)
- attending ATLE Teaching Camp (20 points)
- article in ATLE Newsletter (10 points for each)
- participate in Shadow & Share (20 points)
- leading a Hot Topic Discussion (10 points for each)
- Shadow and Share. This mentoring program matches seasoned faculty with new faculty. To date, 26 pairs have been matched.
- Tabletop Discussions. Held every Wednesday, these discussions provide an informal setting for faculty to discuss a range of issues from using technology in the classroom to how implementing the concepts of universal design can benefit all students.
The Provost has underscored the importance of this program by allocating funds for facilities, furnishings, and resources immediately and budgeting for this program well into the future. Plans for 2009-2010 include creating a Provost’s Lecture Series; organizing a Reading About Teaching group; having open classrooms with award-winning professors; creating a statewide organization of teaching academies; implementing teaching circles; hosting a teaching camp; developing a more comprehensive assessment process for ATLE; and sponsoring Philosophy Fridays.
UALR publicly recognizes excellent teaching at its annual Faculty Excellence Awards Banquet.118 The UALR Foundation Fund Board in 1988 instituted a series of annual awards to recognize and reward faculty excellence in three specified areas of performance: teaching, research or creative endeavors, and professional and public service.
Recognition is accorded at the college level and at the university level. Each award consists of a framed certificate and a cash gift of $1,000 at the college level and, at the university level, $10,000 for teaching and $5,000 in research or creative endeavors and in public service. A list of all recipients and their achievements is publicly available online.119
The award for excellence in teaching is to recognize, encourage, and reward superior classroom teachers—individuals whose command of their respective disciplines, teaching methodologies, communications skills, concern for student performance, and commitment to the learning process exemplify the teacher/mentor model. The award is not intended to be a popularity contest. It is designed to distinguish those teachers who maintain high expectations of their students and who ensure academic rigor in their courses.
Each nomination packet for the teaching award includes excerpts or summaries from the department’s or program’s routine student evaluations of the nominee, accompanied by an explanation of the rating scale and other information needed for a reviewer to understand the student evaluations. Department chairs also address the individual’s teaching strengths based on annual merit reviews and promotion/tenure application information prepared in the department. In addition, the application must include a description of how she or he has used assessment to improve course content, pedagogy or degree program outcomes. Applications which do not address this important teaching dimension are not forwarded to the national selection panel.
The national selection committee looks for command of the discipline, use of appropriate teaching methodologies, demonstration of exceptional communication skills, concern for student performance, commitment to the learning process, and maintenance of academic rigor. Evidence of innovation and adaptation of new technologies also are important.
The teaching excellence awards recognizes effective teaching in all forms and disciplines. Recent recipients of the award include a philosopher, an engineer and an expert in criminal justice.
- Associate Professor Andrew Eshleman was recognized in 2008 for his ability to inspire his students to achieve the highest standards in philosophical thought. Like many students at UALR, Professor Eshleman was also a first-generation college student and he remembers how his first philosophy course changed his life. He helps his students learn how to ask questions and think critically about important life issues.
- Associate Professor Hussain Al-Rizzo was recognized in 2007 for his innovation in combining his teaching methods with his research in systems engineering. Based on his own learning experiences, Professor Al-Rizzo knew that he learned engineering best when classroom information was combined with real-world applications and results. One recent project had students working on a Little Rock Airport efficiency study using engineering principles and problem-solving skills to make recommendations to the airport’s board of directors; many of which are currently being implemented or considered.
- Professor Charles Chastain was recognized in 2006 for thirty-four years of dedicated commitment to teaching excellence. Professor Chastain has mentored thousands of students over the course of his career, many of whom remain in close contact after decades of professional achievement. His students consistently characterize him as the best teacher they’ve ever had and understand that he wants them to make a difference in the field of criminal justice.
UALR’s commitment to teaching also is emphasized in the newly approved Faculty Roles and Rewards document120, which was created by a committee formed by the Faculty Senate and Provost Belcher in December 2005. A number of forces—the expansion of graduate programs and the formulations of a strategic plan—were redefining expectations of faculty and a document was needed to clarify, in broad terms, faculty roles and rewards in the areas of teaching, research, and service.
The committee was charged with creating a document that represented various facets of the UALR community and included a faculty representative from each college, a dean, and a department chair. The committee began its work within the context of current policies and the University’s strategic plan, UALR Fast Forward. The committee also reviewed roles and rewards documents from sister institutions and consulted key publications, including Boyer’s Scholarship Reconsidered (Carnegie Foundation, 1997), Zahorski and Cognard’s Reconsidering Faculty Roles and Rewards (Council of Independent Colleges, 1999). As the document took shape, the committee presented drafts to administrators, focus groups of faculty from all colleges, and the Faculty Senate.
While the document does describe faculty roles within the widely recognized categories of teaching, scholarship, and service, it adapts these categories to the traditional strengths of UALR as a metropolitan university; clarifies values that impact the hiring, development, and evaluation of faculty; and acknowledges ways that faculty roles must change as the University’s strategic plan is implemented. At the same time, the document strives to respect differences across disciplines and the contributions of individual faculty within each academic unit. The document asserts the need for faculty to develop a clear and sustained research agenda, but it also values teaching, provides the option for some academic units to emphasize teaching over research, and validates a broad definition of scholarship. The document makes general assertions about teaching:
The nature of effective teaching may vary across disciplines, but certain qualities are universal: respect for students, faith in student abilities, a focus on student learning, and a commitment to student success. Equally important, faculty should view themselves as role models who convey the values of their disciplines and initiate students into their professions. In the pursuit of excellence in teaching, faculty members must remain current in their disciplines and in pedagogical strategies. They should consider teaching a continual process of improvement and growth.
The document clearly states that expectations of faculty, as embodied in their roles and rewards, must be balanced. In the introduction, the document states, “As faculty members have responsibilities to students, the University, and the community, so the institution has obligations to provide an institutional infrastructure to nurture professional growth and development.”
In the conclusion, “Achieving a Balance,” the importance of teaching is reiterated as is the need to establish realistic expectations and a balance between expectations and rewards:
Expectations for faculty performance must be balanced with appropriate support for achieving the expectations. This may include training or apprenticeship to achieve teaching or service excellence, teaching loads that provide adequate time for scholarly activity, library resources, funding to support scholarship or presentation of scholarly work at conferences, grant-writing [sic] training and support, and other forms of professional development.
It is this balance, the document argues, that will lead to a “sound academic infrastructure,” one that will encourage scholarship without diminishing teaching. The report concludes with a series of recommendations to support the increased expectations of faculty roles which include reducing teaching loads, and increasing financial and institutional support for scholarship. This document was approved by Faculty Senate in 2007.
Faculty members at UALR are evaluated for teaching effectiveness through the annual review process which is required by the Arkansas State Legislature, the UA System and UALR. The purpose of the review is “to provide guidance and assistance to all faculty in their professional development and academic responsibilities.” The annual review is also used as “the primary basis for the chairperson’s recommendations related to salary, promotion, granting of tenure, and dismissal.”
The specific criteria used in the evaluation, the constitution of the peer review committee, the nature of the review materials, and the procedures for review of materials are determined by the department or school and are incorporated into the unit’s governance document. That document is approved by the Dean, Provost, and Chancellor.
Included in the annual review process are course evaluations, which are used in conjunction with other materials such as teaching portfolios to evaluate the effectiveness of individual instructors. All courses are required to administer course evaluations that are completed anonymously by students at the end of the term in which the course is taught. According to UALR policy, the instructor must leave the classroom while students complete the course evaluation. One student is designated to deliver the completed evaluations to the unit’s administrative assistant.
The results of the annual review inform decisions about merit raises. When the resources are available, all faculty get a cost-of-living increase. Department chairs then are given an amount above this to distribute among faculty based on their performance review.
The procedure used for awarding tenure and promotion reflects multiple levels of policy: the UA System policy, the UALR campus policy, and the governance document of each academic unit. UA System policy provides broad guidelines for the development of the tenure and promotion policies on each campus. It establishes who is eligible for tenure (full-time faculty with the rank of assistant professor, associate professor, professor, distinguished professor, or university professor), that the probationary period shall not exceed seven years, that the review process must include peer evaluation, and that the process must include the right to appeal a negative decision. The system policy also includes a statement about respecting academic freedom. This policy was established in 1980.
The Faculty Senate reviewed and revised the UALR tenure and promotion document during the 2008 academic year. This document, which will come before Faculty Senate for full approval this fall, provides a detailed procedure for reviewing tenure and promotion dossiers; it both provides clear expectations for awarding tenure as well as instructions for a fair review process. For example, the candidate must be informed of the outcome at each level of review and allowed the option of appeal if the review at that level is negative. Equally important, the document provides guidelines for the professional development of faculty.
As specified in the UALR tenure and promotion document, each academic unit develops tenure and promotion expectations appropriate to the discipline(s) that it represents. The guidelines for post-tenure review are covered in the UA System policy. These guidelines encourage tenured faculty to remain active and current with their discipline.
The organization supports professional development opportunities and makes them available to all of its administrators, faculty, and staff.
In addition to the services and activities offered through ATLE, UALR promotes pedagogical development by encouraging faculty to take courses designed to enhance their ability to be effective in a variety of learning environments and with a diverse group of students. At no charge, full-time faculty can enroll in over 45 courses121. These courses were chosen because they either increase understanding of individuals with disabilities or provide teaching techniques/theories that address diversity issues in instruction. Approved courses include
ADED 4301/5301 Psychology of Adult Learning
An examination of the research related to adult learning and development as it can be applied to the practice of adult education. Adult learning theories of the cognitivists, behaviorists, and humanists; state and phasic theories of development. Three credit hours.
ADED 4303/5303 Teaching Adults
An examination of the teaching/learning process from planning to presentation. Microteaching involving the integration of adult learning principles is conducted. Three credit hours.
COUN 7362 Psychological Aspects of Disability
Psychological and sociological aspects of disability, including community attitudes toward individuals with disabilities, strategies to change negative attitudes, adjustment factors in living with disabilities, and methods for supporting successful adjustment to disabilities. Three credit hours.
COUN 2360 Introduction to Speech and Hearing Disorders.
A description and discussion of speech, language, and hearing disorders; therapy surveys and assessment techniques. Three credit hours.
LAW 6399 Disability Law
Studies federal and state legislation and case law affecting people with physical, mental, and developmental disabilities. Issues covered include education, employment, access, public services, and health care. Three credit hours.
EDFN 3320 Introduction to Educational Psychology
Applications of psychological principles to the learning and teaching processes; emphasis on learning, cognitive development, social development, discipline, intelligence, evaluation, and measurement. Three credit hours.
LANG 4324/5324 Teaching People of Other Cultures
Cultural issues for teaching students with limited English proficiency. A required course for ESL endorsement in the state of Arkansas. Three credit hours.
INTR 1320, 1321, 2320, 2321 American Sign Language I, II, III, IV
INTR 2340 Orientation to Deafness
An in-depth study of the field of deafness, the deaf community, deaf culture, and the hearing mechanism. Extensive readings on the deaf population, education of persons who are deaf, psychosocial development, communication, vocational rehabilitation, organizations of and for individuals who are deaf, and the legislative impact on the status of persons who are deaf or hard of hearing. Three credit hours.
INTR 4322 Comparative Linguistics: ASL and English
Study of the fundamental concepts of linguistics and its application to the study of American Sign Language. Focuses on the current state of research of linguistic inquiry such as phonology, morphology, syntax, and use of language. Compares and contrasts basic similarities and differences between ASL and English with a goal to develop critical thinking about the structure of ASL. Three credit hours.
PSYC 3356 Developmental Psychology
Development of the individual from conception through adolescence. Topics include prenatal, intellectual, emotional, social, and personality development. Three credit hours.
PSYC 3360 Abnormal Psychology
The causes, symptoms, and treatment of abnormalities in human behavior. Three credit hours.
PSYC 3380 Cognitive Psychology
An introduction to theories and research regarding human information processing. Topics include attention, memory, problem solving, information representation, and individual differences in cognitive ability. Three credit hours.
RHBL 7112 Psychological Aspects of Blindness and Visual Impairment.
Historical attitudes toward blindness; impact of culture and gender on attitudes toward disability, methodologies of attitude change, process of adjustment to blindness and vision loss. One credit hour.
RHBL 7315 Medical Aspects of Blindness and Associated Disabilities
Anatomy, structure, function of the eye; frequently occurring diseases, malfunctions in children, adults; includes treatment procedures for disease process, rehabilitation/education implications of handicapped effects. Three credit hours.
RHBL 7325 Implications of Low Vision
Principles of visual perception development; implications of visual field losses; introduction to optics; optical, nonoptics low-vision aids; procedures for vision screening; vision stimulation activities; low-vision simulation experiences. Three credit hours.
SPED 7121 Braille Formats/Nemeth Code
Special Braille formats of music, foreign language transcriptions, Nemeth Code for mathematical transcriptions; transcribing these unique Braille codes. One credit hour.
SPED 7335 Instructional Methods for Persons with Severe Disabilities
Fundamentals of systematic data-based instructional skills needed to teach persons with severe disabilities in classroom, community environments. Three credit hours.
SPED 7360 Characteristics and Educational Needs of the Severely Emotionally Disturbed
Serious emotional disturbance and its educational implication; includes significant historical factors; theoretical orientations to definition, etiology of serious emotional disturbance; classification systems; learning characteristics, their educational implications; interdisciplinary appraisal, therapies; federal, state legislation, litigation relating to serious emotional disturbance and education. Three credit hours.
A complete list of approved courses is available online.122
The organization supports faculty in keeping abreast of the research on teaching and learning, and of technological advances that can positively affect student learning and the delivery of instruction.3d Example of Evidence
The organization supports students, staff, and faculty in using technology effectively.
Over the past ten years, UALR has devoted considerable resources to incorporating technology into teaching in order to improve instruction and learning. The support and use of technology is integrated throughout the University.
Office of Extended Programs123
The Office of Extended Programs is the part of UALR that “extends” educational opportunities to students at new locations or through new modes of instructional delivery. This office provides support for web-enhanced courses, online courses, and off-campus programs through the Scholarly Technology and Resources (STaR)124 office.
STaR is a full-service center that provides course development training and support to faculty. This includes tutorials for putting a course online, for creating effective online materials, and for developing effective online pedagogy. STaR also provides training on multimedia production for faculty members who want to develop audio or audiovisual components in their courses and special instruction on how to make online materials fully accessible to students with disabilities.
Faculty training programs in technology/software areas and online course development provided by STaR range from introductory-level to advanced. Examples are
- New to Online Course Shells. Participants in this training learn to understand the course request and development processes used at UALR, maximize the performance of Blackboard on their computer, edit the developmental course shell for the first semester, and locate and use resources uniquely designed for UALR faculty.
- Blackboard Basics. Participants learn to explore and navigate in the Build, Teach, and Student View tabs of a course, add tools to the Course Menu, create new content items and add them to the home page, and customize the appearance of a course.
- Learning Modules Made Easy. Participants learn to create effective learning modules, and build media library collections, such as a glossary.
- Introducing Wimba Classroom. Participants learn to engage students in real-time with live video and audio presentations, create live collaborative learning exercises, share their computer applications with students through application sharing, and archive lectures and live sessions for repeated student access.
- Designing Your Course. In this training course, participants are introduced to the design skills necessary to create effective, engaging online courses.
- Teaching Your Course. In this training course, participants are introduced to the technical and pedagogical skills necessary to be a successful, effective online instructor.
- Assessments and Assignments. In this training course, participants are shown how to create and manage assessments and assignments within the Blackboard Learning System.
A list of scheduled trainings can be found online.125
Additional Technology Training
In addition to support from STaR, faculty innovation and use of technology are supported by technology initiatives sponsored within individual colleges. One example is the activities in the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences126 (AHSS), the largest college at UALR. Every classroom in the recently renovated Stabler Hall, the College’s largest building, is equipped with teaching technology, making it one of the most technologically advanced buildings on campus.
Approximately seven years ago, the Dean of the College began offering incentives to encourage and support faculty use of the technology. The creation of the Teaching with Technology Team formalized this initiative. The Team is responsible for assessing and addressing the pedagogical technology needs of faculty. Currently, the College offers three types of support to faculty wishing to integrate technology into their classrooms: workshops, grants, and stipends.
Originally called “Off to See the Wizard,” the AHSS (pronounced “Oz”) Teaching with Technology workshops are specifically designed to encourage AHSS faculty to mentor other AHSS faculty in the use of technology and software. The 2008 Teaching with Technology workshops included the following:
- Teaching with Technology. Student panel discussion on likes and dislikes, and faculty demonstrations by Dona Bailey, Department of Rhetoric and Writing; Stephanie Dhonau, Division of International and Second Language Studies; and Paul Yoder, Department of English.
- PowerPoints. Grabbing Students’ Attention with Presentation Technologies
- PowerPoints. Designing Powerful Classroom Presentations
- WebCT and Blackboard Campus Edition 6 Swap Meet. Best Practices
Materials from the 2008 workshops can be found online.127
To support faculty who wish to attend advanced software training or training not available on campus, AHSS provides travel grants. Faculty have attended workshops on Developing Websites with CSS and advanced training for Global Information Systems. Grants for up to $2,000 have been awarded. Faculty use this information to enhance their own teaching as well as to train other faculty.
Small Blackboard Campus Edition 6 (CE6) project stipends also are available to faculty for developing Blackboard CE6 enhancements for existing courses. Projects include creating multifaceted interactive web guides to help instruct students on how to produce their own sites for a political science course and videotaping commentary, technical exercises, and a performance from each unit for piano students.
Goal 1 of UALR Fast Forward states: “UALR will provide programs of study that will educate students to live, work, and lead in the complex, technological, diverse world of the 21st Century.” Under this goal is Objective 1: “The University will ensure the quality of its educational programs” with the strategy
The University will develop and implement a plan to maintain momentum and improve the strategies for assessing student learning outcomes in preparation for the comprehensive review by the North Central Association in 2010.
During the last accreditation visit by the Higher Learning Commission in 2000, the site visit team noted that although UALR had recently instituted a campus-wide, coordinated effort to assess student learning, the University lacked evidence of a culture of assessment. At that time, assessment was not used systematically across campus, and there were no clear links between assessment results and programmatic or budget decisions.
Since that time, quality assessment has become the institutional standard at UALR with every program, college, and student service unit actively assessing stated goals and objectives. Through various qualitative and qualitative means, UALR has created effective assessment strategies to gather information about the quality of teaching and student learning as well as the student learning environment and other identified outcomes. As stated on page five of the Undergraduate Catalog
Assessment at UALR is designed to help the academic programs—whether core, undergraduate, or graduate—focus on what should be taught in the program and whether it is being taught successfully. This involves a variety of methods of inquiry to examine student needs, attributes, and success in learning. Each academic unit at UALR has an assessment program to conduct research that will be used to make decisions to improve its curriculum, instruction, and both academic and career advising. Students, alumni, and various stakeholders participate in a variety of assessment activities designed to assess learning in the major and in the core curriculum.
Since the last NCA visit, UALR has built an infrastructure that supports assessment on campus. At the same time, assessment at UALR has evolved from a “top-down” approach to an environment where colleges and degree programs take ownership for developing, implementing, using, and improving evaluation processes. As a result, a true culture of assessment pervades the institution.
The infrastructure supports and promotes assessment which includes the Provost Assessment Advisory Group (PAAG). PAAG is led by the Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs/Academic Policy, and includes a representative from every college, Educational and Student Services, and the Ottenheimer Library. This group is responsible for reviewing assessment plans for all new degree programs and providing a direct communication link between the college assessment teams and university administration. For the past several years, this group has been active on the task force reviewing assessment of the core competencies.
PAAG also presents the Assessment Expo each fall where academic and student service units present their assessment plans and results to the campus community. Annual awards for demonstrated excellence in assessment are given in three categories: core course, degree program, and student services unit. In this way, the University highlights best practices in assessment and encourages faculty and staff to learn from one another. The Expo also features a nationally recognized keynote speaker in the area of assessment. These have included Dr. Lucille Sansing, who serves on the American Council on Education Educational Leadership Commission as well as Dr. Trudy Banta, Vice Chancellor for Planning and Institutional Improvement at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, and Dr. Bob Mundhenk, Interim Director of International Center for Student Success and Institutional Accountability.
PAAG manages the Assessment Central128 website. The purpose of Assessment Central is to showcase what UALR is doing to promote assessment excellence and accountability to stakeholders both on and off campus, provide access to assessment resources for faculty and staff, and provide information on assessment events. Assessment Central also is linked to college assessment websites where annual assessment progress reports are posted. These reports include information on student learning objectives, assessment measures, most recent assessment findings, and curricular changes or other decisions that were the result of assessment findings.
UALR has become a leader in assessment in the state. In the past couple of years, faculty from other Arkansas universities and colleges have attended and participated in Assessment Expo. This has added a new dimension to the experience especially with the involvement of faculty from Pulaski Technical College, the closest two-year institution to UALR. Additionally, UALR is a founding member of the Arkansas Association of Assessment and Collegiate Learning129 (AAACL), and Dr. Jim Fulmer, Professor of Mathematics and Statistics and a member of PAAG, has been on the AAACL Board of Directors since its inception in 2007. In Spring 2009, UALR hosted an AAACL assessment conference that was attended by over 100 faculty and staff from institutions across the state. Plans are to collaborate with AAACL to hold a yearly assessment conference at UALR.
UALR’s assessment efforts have been presented nationally as well. Each year, every college is given assessment funds to be used to strengthen assessment efforts. Some colleges use these funds to send faculty to assessment conferences such as the annual Assessment Institute held at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). Since 2004, faculty from UALR have made presentations at the Institute almost every year, which highlights the extent to which assessment has become a central issue on campus.
The organization regularly reviews the relationship between its mission and values and the effectiveness of its general education.4b Example of Evidence
The organization integrates general education into all of its undergraduate degree programs through curricular and experiential offerings intentionally created to develop the attitudes and skills requisite for a life of learning in a diverse society
All students pursuing a baccalaureate degree at UALR must complete the core curriculum articulated on pages six through eight of the Undergraduate Catalog except those enrolled in programs offered through EIT and those in the Bachelor of Nursing Program. Due to the length of these programs, students in them take an abbreviated version of the core.
The purpose of the core curriculum is to “establish a foundation for the undergraduate academic experience and to ensure that students develop fundamental skills and a life-long commitment and ability to learn. All courses stress active learning” (Undergraduate Catalog, page six). This general education curriculum is built around ten core competencies. In 1986 the Blue Ribbon Committee, an ad hoc committee of Faculty Senate, was established to review the educational goals of the University. The committee adopted the principle that a life-long ability to learn is the University’s paramount learning goal and that education should be considered a “structure of competencies” rather than a specific inventory of information (Blue Ribbon Committee Statement of Philosophy)130.
The committee identified nine essential competencies to be mastered by all undergraduate students graduating from UALR. The Faculty Senate added a tenth competency, Information Technology, in 2004. The ten core competencies are as follows:
- Aesthetic Experience
- Critical Thinking
- Ethical and Moral Consciousness
- Historical Consciousness
- Information Technology
- International Awareness
- Philosophy and Methods of Science
- Social and Cultural Awareness
- Verbal Literacy
The organization regularly reviews the relationship between its mission and values and the effectiveness of its general education
All courses included in current core or general education requirements at UALR are linked to one or more of the ten core competencies and have been since the competencies were developed. As originally envisioned, the competencies provided a foundation for the undergraduate academic experience. Through the experience of the core curriculum, students were expected to develop “the critical thinking and analytic skills necessary to successfully complete degree programs, and become educated citizens with the ability for life-long learning.”
The competencies are linked to and assessed via the core curriculum. For example, core courses linked to Aesthetic Experience developed specific learning objectives to measure the extent to which students gained this competency. Throughout the 1990’s and mid-2000’s, this assessment was supplemented by data collected through the Collegiate Assessment of Academic Proficiency (CAAP).
By 2005, however, it became clear that these methods of assessing the core curriculum were not producing data that were useful to continuous improvement of the courses in the core or for measuring student achievement of the competencies through the core. First, data produced by the CAAP were found to be unreliable due to lack of student motivation to perform well. Discussions about various ways to increase student motivation revealed that many faculty who taught core courses did not believe the CAAP was a valid measure of the core competencies related to their discipline. Therefore, when the Arkansas State Legislature removed the requirement that public institutions of higher learning in the state use the CAAP for assessment in 2007, UALR decided to explore other options.
Much more difficult to address and resolve, however, has been the issue of assessing the core curriculum using data collected through individual core course assessments. In March 2005, Trudy W. Banta consulted with and provided PAAG a report131 that summarized the strengths and gaps in the University’s institutional assessment program. In her report, she recommended UALR “[r]eview the…ten competencies for the purpose of revising and updating the list if necessary.”
In September 2007, a task force was formed to review assessing the competencies with the understanding that a recommendation to revise them could be considered. Assessment Expo 2007 keynote speaker Dr. Bob Mundhenk, led the faculty through a discussion of the core competencies and facilitated several exercises that explored the meaning and purpose of each competency.
In addition, the task force reviewed general education models at similar universities and explored various ways in which the core competencies could be revised. However, although many on the task force felt the competencies themselves were not measurable and presented the major impediment to effective assessment, others felt additional issues that had emerged from their discussions were even more of a challenge. The task force had two questions.
The first question was related to the large number of students who transfer to UALR after completing one or more years at other institutions. This reality did not exist in 1988 when the core competencies were adopted. The task force asked, how can the University assess the core learning outcomes when many students who graduate from UALR do not take their core courses here?
The second question was related to how to define and measure any student learning outcome in a way that faculty across disciplines would find valid. For example, would faculty in science define and measure critical thinking in the same way faculty in art would? One suggestion for addressing this issue was to use a standardized test, such as the Collegiate Learning Assessment. However, faculty were skeptical about the reliability and validity of a standardized assessment tool. The year ended with plans to start the next academic year investigating ways of addressing the transfer issue and reviewing standardized assessment tools available for general education assessment.
In Fall 2008, the task force again began working on these issues. However, at the same time discussions about assessing the core and the relevance of the core itself were taking place in Faculty Senate. Some senators felt it was time for the University to revisit the core requirements as well as the core competencies. After initial discussions, a decision was made by Faculty Senate to postpone further deliberations regarding the core curriculum until after the site visit by the Higher Learning Commission. This was based on several factors. First, it had become clear at that point that the Arkansas State Legislature was going to consider several Bills during the 2009 session involving general education requirements at public colleges and universities (one of these became Act 182, which is discussed in Chapter 4—The Connected Organization). Faculty Senate believed that if such legislation passed, it would significantly affect any revision to the core they would consider.
The more compelling reason to wait, however, was simply the magnitude of what a reconsideration of the core curriculum would entail. The last revision of the core had stretched over three years and had required the focused effort of most of the faculty. Because the campus was already preoccupied with conducting the reaccreditation self-study, most thought it prudent not to distract attention from that task.
Despite the decision to postpone the conversation, the campus is readying itself to revisit the core curriculum. In Spring 2009, the president of the Faculty Senate presented a plan that called for 2009-2010 to investigate the process of doing such work. Faculty and administrators will create a structure to ensure a process that is transparent, inclusive, and informed.
The organization’s goals for student learning outcomes are clearly stated for each educational program and make effective assessment possible.3a Example of Evidence
Assessment of student learning includes multiple direct and indirect measures of student learning.
All academic programs have articulated processes for assessing student learning. This begins with identifying measurable student learning outcomes formulated by program faculty based on the knowledge and skills graduates will need for professional competence and/or for pursuing further education. Faculty construct five-year program assessment plans that outline how achievement of these outcomes will be measured. The results of the assessment are used to improve both curriculum and teaching.
Measuring outcomes varies by program, but most include both direct and indirect methods. For example, the BS/BA program in Biology uses direct measures such as course-embedded exams, papers, and presentations, as well as scores of the Area Concentration Achievement Test (ACAT). In addition, the program collected indirect data in Spring 2007 when it engaged the Survey Research Center132 in the Institute of Government to conduct a telephone survey of alumni.
Many programs at UALR comprehensively assess student learning outcomes through a capstone course or a practicum sequence. Capstone courses and field practicums take many different formats:
- portfolios, showings, or juried performances (Art, Music; Environmental Health Sciences)
- colloquiums or seminars (Philosophy, Rhetoric and Writing, History, Sociology and Anthropology; Speech; Chemistry; MPA)
- service learning/real world projects (Information Systems; Systems Engineering; Construction Management)
- supervised practicum placements tied to program learning outcomes (Social Work; Nursing; Education)
One example of a department that uses program assessment effectively for continuous improvement is the Department of Speech Communication.133 The department clearly differentiates between the student learning outcomes for BA and MA students and delineates how and when learning outcomes will be assessed in the five-year plans established for both programs. Assessment measures include a variety of methods and include the active participation of faculty and external stakeholders. Finally, assessment data are used to make curricular and program changes that will then be assessed in the next cycle.
Academic units are required to submit annual program assessment progress reports for each of their degree programs. These reports are based on the learning goals and strategies set out in the unit’s five-year assessment plan. The student learning objectives and outcomes of each program in the unit—doctoral, master’s, undergraduate major, and/or certificate level—are clearly articulated in the plans. Every baccalaureate degree program also links its student learning outcomes to the core competencies.
The organization clearly differentiates its learning goals for undergraduate, graduate, and post-baccalaureate programs by identifying the expected learning outcomes for each.3a Example of Evidence
Results obtained through assessment of student learning are available to appropriate constituencies, including students themselves.
4c Example of Evidence
Curricular evaluation involves alumni, employers, and other external constituents who understand the relationships among the courses of study, the currency of the curriculum, and the utility of the knowledge and skills gained.
3a Example of Evidence
The organization integrates into its assessment of student learning the data reported for purposes of external accountability (e.g., graduation rates, passage rates on licensing exams, placement rates, transfer rates).
These reports focus on the student learning goals addressed that year: what student learning objectives were measured for those goals, which assessment measures were used, how stakeholders were involved, what were the assessment findings, and how the findings will be used for program improvement. Additionally, in an effort to “assess assessment,” programs are asked for feedback regarding assessment processes at UALR.
Oversight of degree program assessment is provided by College Assessment Teams composed of faculty from college departments. These teams review annual assessment reports submitted by the degree programs and provide feedback to help improve evaluation processes, help clarify how assessment data are used, and/or suggest further use of data. Each college determines how the Assessment Team will function and the form in which feedback to programs regarding their assessment processes will be given. After program assessments reports are reviewed, a summary of assessment in the college is posted on the college website. In this way, assessment processes, findings and use are available for review by administrators, students, and other stakeholders.
Curricular changes also are made in conjunction with external constituents. Most departments have external advisory boards comprised of alumni and regional community and business leaders. These advisory boards participate by assessing current program offerings and recommending changes. For example, the Department of Computer Science134 rearranged its course sequencing based on advisory board input. The senior-level Software Engineering course (CPSC 4373) was moved from being a junior-level to a senior-level course, with appropriate prerequisites and was modified into a “pseudo-capstone” experience for students. The course involves significant real-world software design projects, which require teamwork, oral presentations, and timely delivery of working final products.
Nationally Accredited Programs
Accreditation remains a vital part of the UALR academic landscape. The Bowen School of Law135 is accredited by the American Bar Association, programs in the College of Business are accredited by Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (formerly known as American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business), the graduate programs in the College of Education136 are accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, and University athletics are accredited by National Collegiate Athletics Association. Additionally, UALR has 15 nationally accredited degree programs. (e.g., music and social work).
Programs with accreditation are reviewed every seven to ten years by professional accrediting organizations and must provide evidence of the currency and relevancy of their curricula and pedagogy. Such reviews also include information on graduation rates, passage of licensing exams, employment rates in the professional area, and alumni satisfaction with the program.
Curricular evaluation involves alumni, employers, and other external constituents who understand the relationships among the courses of study, the currency of the curriculum, and the utility of the knowledge and skills gained.
Accreditation site visits by external professional peers often involve interviews with University administration to assess support for the program as well as meetings with students and community constituents to ensure the program actively involves each in evaluation of program effectiveness. Site visitors provide programs with feedback on their strengths as well as areas that need improvement. Continued accreditation is evidence that the program is providing graduates with the knowledge and skills they need to be successful professionally.
In April 2008, the Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board directed the Arkansas Department of Higher Education (ADHE) staff to revise the existing program review process to ensure quality academic programs that support Arkansas’s economic development goals and to reduce barriers to graduation. This was done in cooperation with the public colleges and universities.
For accredited programs, nothing changed. Their accreditation reviews will serve to fulfill quality assurance requirements. However, the adopted policy requires that every non-accredited academic degree program participate in a self-study process and produce a report that includes the following:
- a clear statement of the programs goals and objectives
- a detailed discussion of the programs curriculum linked to goals and objectives
- evidence that program faculty are qualified
- a description of program resources
- a discussion of instruction delivered via distance technology
- a discussion of how the program supports the academic success of students
- evidence of ongoing program assessment that has resulted in program improvement
- evidence of program effectiveness
The self-study report must be reviewed by two unbiased out-of-state reviewers, approved by ADHE, who are affiliated with programs similar in mission and scope to the program under review. One of these reviewers conducts an on-campus site visit of the program. ADHE program review guidelines and timelines are available online.137
UALR was supportive of these changes and played a major role in formulating the new processes. Many of the procedures adopted were in keeping with the University’s strategy of “strengthen[ing] the University’s internal system of academic program review” articulated in UALR Fast Forward under Goal 1, Objective 1.
UALR’s mission objective Acquisition of Knowledge states, “The University has a responsibility to use scholarly inquiry to advance the discovery, preservation, and dissemination of knowledge. This responsibility includes the creation of a university environment that supports diverse research activities by faculty, staff, and students.”
The faculty and students, in keeping with the organization’s mission, produce scholarship and create knowledge through basic and applied research.
In keeping with the University’s mission, virtually all of the research done by faculty and students at UALR addresses issues related to the economic prosperity, social and physical well-being, educational development, and/or cultural vitality of Central Arkansas. At the same time, more and more during the last decade, the research conducted by UALR faculty has gained national and international attention. The same can be said of the research conducted by UALR students, whose work has received accolades from an international audience.
The board has approved and disseminated statements supporting freedom of inquiry for the organization’s students, faculty, and staff, and honors those statements in its practices.
To support the free exchange of ideas and development of research, UALR policy addressing freedom of inquiry is included in the UALR Faculty Handbook138 and the UALR Faculty Handbook.139 These statements are publicly available online. The Student Handbook states:
The University of Arkansas has an obligation to its students and the larger society of which it is a part to provide the fullest opportunity for a free exchange and critical evaluation of diverse viewpoints. This means freedom to teach, freedom to learn, freedom to discuss, and freedom to expose ideas to the critical analysis appropriate to the university setting.
The Faculty Handbook speaks of the University’s
responsibility to use scholarly inquiry to advance the discovery, preservation, and dissemination of knowledge. This responsibility includes the creation of a University environment that supports diverse research…responsibility to serve society through the application of knowledge and research skills…responsibility to provide a community of learning through creation of an academic environment that stimulates students, faculty, and staff to become life-long learners…a responsibility to remain responsive to a changing environment and society.
The organization creates, disseminates, and enforces clear policies on practices involving intellectual property rights.
The UALR Intellectual Property Policy140 is adapted from Policy 210.2, adopted by the UA Board of Trustees in 2001. This policy governs issues of copyright and use of technology-enhanced course materials (TECMs). (Please refer to that policy for complete details.) The policy creates five categories, dependent on the amount of technological support that is provided by the University into the development of the course, that are used to classify TECMs and determine copyright, revenue allocation, and use. A more detailed discussion of the categories is available online.141 The Intellectual Property Policy was approved by the Faculty Senate April 19, 2002, and by Chancellor Hathaway May 2, 2002.
To support faculty and students, Copyright Central142 was developed in 2005. Copyright Central provides a centralized location for information about copyright law and fair use for faculty and students, information about copyright protection for students, information about the UALR Intellectual Property Policy, and additional resources regarding copyright, plagiarism, and intellectual property. Information on this website is updated annually.
Academic freedom for faculty is addressed in UA Board Policy 405.1143 which states
Tenure, Non-reappointment, and Dismissal
xiii. No faculty member shall be dismissed or denied reappointment in violation of the following principles of academic freedom, but the observation of the limitations stated herein is the responsibility of each faculty or staff member. Mere expressions of opinions, however vehemently expressed and however controversial such opinions may be, shall not constitute cause for dismissal. The threat of dismissal will not be used to restrain faculty members in their exercise of academic freedom or constitutional rights.
- The faculty member is entitled to full freedom in research and in the publication of results, subject to the performance of his or her other academic duties, but personal research for pecuniary return requires prior approval by the appropriate University authorities and must be in accordance with Board Policy 450.1.
- The faculty member is entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing the subject of the course, but should not teach material inappropriate or unrelated to the course.
- The University faculty member is a citizen, a member of a learned profession, and a member of an educational community. Speaking or writing as a citizen, the faculty member is free from institutional censorship or discipline. However, as a person of learning and as a member of an educational community, the faculty member has a responsibility for awareness that the public may judge the profession and the institution by his or her utterances. Hence, faculty should at all times make an effort to be accurate, exercise good judgment and appropriate restraint, show respect for the opinions of others, and indicate that they are not spokespersons for the institution.
The same policy addresses re-appointment, dismissal, hearings, and suspension procedures and policies.
At the University level, the Roles and Rewards document, described earlier, also reflects an adjustment by the faculty to the strategic vision of UALR Fast Forward, particularly as related to the increased emphasis on scholarly and creative output.
One of the major recommendations to emerge from the Roles and Rewards document is that each academic unit document procedures and criteria for annual appointment, tenure, and promotion that are consistent with the values expressed in the Roles and Rewards document. As part of this process, departments and colleges need to provide clear expectations in teaching, scholarship, and service to all faculty and to take special care that the expectations are thoroughly understood by new faculty. The Roles and Rewards document also calls for explicit processes for pre- and pro-tenure review.
Currently, the annual faculty evaluation process includes evaluation of scholarly or creative activity, including publication, grant writing, performance, concerts, exhibitions, and presentations to peer professional groups. The Faculty Handbook explicitly calls for peer review in judging the scholarly and creative activities.144
At present, the precise expectations for scholarly and creative activities are established at the college and department level and vary to some degree. In EIT, the process for evaluating faculty within the department is determined by the Faculty Assembly. The Department of Information Science governance documents states, “The Chair annually will discuss with each faculty appointee his/her precise evaluations by peers. At that time, the Chair will also explain his/her evaluation of the individual and reasons for any variation of the Chair’s evaluation from peer evaluation.”
The Department of Teacher Education elects three tenured faculty members to serve on the departmental evaluation committee to evaluate annual review documents and make recommendations to the Department Chair. The committee and the chair compare ratings to reach an agreement on the annual review and applications for tenure and/or promotion. The Department of Rhetoric and Writing uses a committee of all tenured faculty to determine tenure and promotion.
In response to the recommendations in the University Role and Scope document, the faculty and administration began crafting a Tenure and Promotion document during 2007-2008. Once crafted and approved, departments and colleges will be required to adapt their governance documents accordingly. Also emerging from the roles and rewards review process was the need for departments and colleges to revisit and, if necessary, revise their governance documents to ensure the documents are consistent with state laws, UA Board policies, and university policies. The revision of such governance documents is ongoing.
As discussed in the Introduction, UALR faculty engage in a wide range of basic and applied research. Much has changed since 1989 when the State Board of Higher Education noted that “research is of growing importance” at UALR. Today research activities span numerous areas in all disciplines. In the 15 years following 1989, the level of funding from grants and contracts rose from $5 million to $22 million. In the national Carnegie classification system, in 2000 UALR was moved into a “research intensive” category. In the last seven years, seven UALR faculty members have received Fulbright appointments to teach and conduct research in seven countries around the world. Other faculty members have been awarded a variety of nationally recognized fellowships such as a Guggenheim Fellowship.
UALR faculty members are engaged in research on subjects appropriate to their academic disciplines; research interests are as diverse as faculty. Faculty at UALR study the structure and dynamics of galaxies and their dark matter halos; musical instruments and their use in early music; applied computational electromagnetic antennas and propagation; demonic possession in the Middle Ages; literacy issues; causes of stress in the workplace; legal writing; and sustainable business practices. A list of sample publications is available online.145
The following are representative of the diverse research conducted by faculty at UALR. Specific examples provided in this section include the research on the internment of Japanese Americans in an Arkansas camp during World War II; UALR’s leadership on the Arkansas NASA Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research team; and a UALR faculty member’s applied use of his research on crisis communication.
Dr. Johanna Miller Lewis, UALR Professor of History and Associate Dean of the Graduate School, won the 2009 National Education Association’s Ellison S. Onizuka Memorial Award for her work creating “Life Interrupted.” This public history research project, which documents the World War II internment of Japanese Americans in rural Arkansas, was created in 2004 through a partnership between UALR and the Japanese American National Museum with major funding provided by the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation.
The project resulted in a national conference, “Camp Connections: A Conversation About Civil Rights and Social Justice in Arkansas,” that drew over 1,200 people to Little Rock. It also included eight exhibitions in venues around the city, the development of a documentary “Time of Fear” that examined the Japanese American World War II experience in Arkansas, and the writing of a children’s book. One of the UALR exhibits, “Against Their Will: The Japanese American Experience in World War II Arkansas,” received a Best Exhibit Award from the Arkansas Museum Association at its annual meeting in 2005.
A strong component of the project was the training of master teachers and the development of curriculum so that the story of Japanese American incarceration during the war will be taught in Arkansas schools for years to come.
“Mobile Surveying for Atmospheric and Near-Surface Gases of Biological Origin”
In 2009, a team of Arkansas researchers led by UALR were awarded a $1.5 million NASA grant to develop a system to look for signs of life on Mars. The Arkansas NASA Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) team, which includes scientists from UALR, Arkansas Tech, and Harding University, was among 27 NASA recommended for funding during a national competition. EPSCoR won for its proposal “Mobile Surveying for Atmospheric and Near-Surface Gases of Biological Origin.”
The grant, which requires campus matching funds, was part of the $19 million in grants NASA awarded to colleges and universities nationwide to conduct research and technology development in areas of importance to NASA’s mission. In addition, the awards can be used for faculty development and student research support. The proposal builds on the investigators’ contacts at Ames Research Center in California and on research developed by grants of increasing size from the Arkansas Space Grant Consortium and NASA. The proposal includes outreach activities which are now being developed.
Researchers working on the grant include Dr. Keith Hudson, director of UALR’s Graduate Institute of Technology and the administrative principal investigator on the grant; Dr. Gary Anderson, UALR professor of applied science and the research primary investigator on the project. Other researchers include Dr. Charles Wu of Arkansas Tech University, Dr. Edmond Wilson of Harding University; and Dr. Constance Meadors, a recent UALR PhD graduate also at Harding University.
The work to be performed includes extending the capabilities of a current prototype instrument, integrating the instrument on a mobile robot, and performing increasingly more complex field studies to prove the capabilities of the system. The goal of the work is to advance the project to the point where it can be included on a Mars mission in the next decade.
“Effective Crisis Management through Established Stakeholder Relationships”
Dr. Robert R. Ulmer, Chair of the Department of Speech Communication, won the University Faculty Excellence Award in Research in 2007. For almost ten years, the associate professor of speech communication has been a recognized expert in the field of crisis communication, working to “calm the waves” created by an emergency. He was one of the first to focus research on finding positive results from a disruptive wave of crisis. This approach is now used throughout the business and health communities as a way to communicate crisis-driven information effectively.
A preeminent authority in the field of crisis communication, Dr. Ulmer is author of three books and 37 articles integral to the study of communication in response to disaster, whether it is man-made or natural. His expertise has been recognized both locally and internationally. His article “Effective Crisis Management through Established Stakeholder Relationships” is one of the most frequently downloaded articles on Sage Publications’ electronic journals.
UALR faculty show their commitment to a life of learning by publishing, performing, and presenting their work within their profession. For example, during the 2006-2007 academic year, UALR faculty published 219 articles in professional journals, made 440 presentations to professional audiences, and held 97 performances. UALR faculty also present their work to general audiences. During the 2006-2007 academic year, UALR faculty delivered 339 lectures to non-academic audiences and published 46 articles in non-professional publications.
The faculty publish in a wide-range of journals, such as College English, Rhetoric Review, Foreign Language Annals, Modern Language Journal, Catalan Review, Contemporary French and Francophone Studies, Spectrochimica Acta Part A: Molecular and Biomolecular Spectroscopy, Journal of Biomedical Optic, Nanotechnology, Journal of Criminal Justice Education, Management Communication Quarterly, Journal of Business Ethics, Systems Engineering Journal, Journal of Microwave Power and Electromagnetic Energy, Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management, Journal of Business Inquiry, Assessing Writing: An International Journal, SIGNAL Journal, and Research in the Schools.
Through its many centers for research and scholarship, UALR demonstrates its long-term planning and financial commitment to supporting inquiry and research. The centers cover a broad range of activities. Many provide opportunities for students to apply and enhance their classroom knowledge. A short description of some UALR centers is given below.
The Nanotechnology Center147 provides the analytical capabilities essential to today’s science and engineering related to nanotechnology. The center houses instruments used for the structural and chemical composition analysis of nanotechnology-related materials. The center supports several full-time employees including the Director, the Chief Scientist, the Instrumentation Director, Program Manager, one Research Assistant Professor, one post-doc and three doctoral students. The Nanotechnology Center also provides financial support to one graduate student in the Bio-Nano-Medical Laboratory, which conducts research in tissue engineering, cancer visualization and targeting, and bone/skin growth.
The MidSouth Bioinformatics Center (MBC)148 is a regional bioinformatics center serving the surrounding seven state area. The MBC is the first bioinformatics center within the region primarily chartered to support bioinformatics educational efforts. Through outreach activities with Little Rock secondary schools, professional development workshops for researchers, and career advancement opportunities for working professionals, the MBC also helps advance technical and scientific education within the region.
The Arkansas Center for Earthquake Education and Technology Transfer149 provides comprehensive earthquake education and technology transfer program in the state of Arkansas and adjacent states. The center has set three distinct but overlapping tasks for its mission: public education, hazard mitigation, and scientific research. Each of these tasks works toward the state’s goal of making communities more disaster resistant.
The Juvenile Justice Center,150 located within the Department of Criminal Justice, seeks to achieve statewide excellence in juvenile justice through research, policy analysis, and education/training. The center serves as the primary mechanism in the state for research, evaluation, and data collection of the complex issues surrounding juvenile justice. Furthermore, the center trains professionals in Arkansas regarding issues, laws, and policies germane to juvenile justice.
The Center for the Study of Environmental Criminology facilitates UALR’s outreach to the community by providing research and assistance related to crime, community structure and change, and social dynamics within the state. The mission of the center is to substantively advance the knowledge of the nature and causes of crime through research focusing on crime as it relates to community structure and change; criminal activity patterns; the social dynamics of crime; and the relationship between offenders, victims, and the environment where crimes occur.
The Senior Justice Center151 addresses elder crime at the grass roots level and policy issues affecting the elderly through community seminars, scholarly conferences, serving on boards/commissions, operation of the Senior Justice Center hotline and research. The Senior Justice Center is the only one of its kind in the United States that mentors undergraduate students to directly address crime against the elderly. Senior Justice serves as the collector and administrator of the Arkansas Senior Citizen Crime Survey, which provides needed data on both crime and perceptions of crime impacting senior citizens in Arkansas. This is the only statewide annual survey at present targeting seniors and those who work with seniors such that crime policy might be affected. Via collaboration with the UALR Center for the Study of Environmental Criminology, Senior Justice provides the bulk of training for Arkansas Adult Protective Services.
The Center for Applied Studies in Education152 works to improve the quality of education and human services in Arkansas and globally. The center conducts research on the effectiveness of programs and practices in education and human services; provides technical assistance in statistics, research design, measurement methodologies, data management and program evaluation to students, faculty, and external groups and agencies; and collaborates with other institutions and agencies in meeting their goals for research and program management. Current projects include the Early Head Start National Evaluation Study.
To integrate research and teaching, UALR has taken deliberate steps to include both undergraduate and graduate students in research projects, adding an enriching component to the educational experience. Student research is supported organizationally through faculty governance structures and financially through support from the Provost’s office.
An example is the Undergraduate Research Council. This council grew from undergraduate research initiatives first undertaken in 2002 by Dean Deborah Baldwin of the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Science (AHSS). The AHSS Undergraduate Research Committee was eventually opened up to other colleges and, in 2003, brought in two consultants from the Council on Undergraduate Research. In 2004, representatives from all colleges joined the Undergraduate Research Task Force and, in 2007, the Undergraduate Research Council became a standing council of the Faculty Senate with resources from the Provost to support an annual Undergraduate Research Expo153.
Such support has increased both the quantity and quality of undergraduate and graduate research at UALR. Like faculty researchers, student researchers have received attention and accolades from an international audience.
Individual Research: Gaming and Sleep Disturbances
UALR psychology graduate Amanda Woolems (’08) presented her research tying excessive gaming to sleep disturbances at the 23rd Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies. Her claim that excessive gamers have significantly poorer sleep hygiene and sleep less on weekdays than other gamers made waves across the globe, from the Atlanta Constitution to the Times of India to science blogs to online news updates.
Ms. Woolems’ research was reported around the world, with stories from gamers who reported that their gaming interfered with sleep and they slept for 1.6 hours less than other gamers, while those who claimed to be addicted to gaming slept one hour less on weekdays. Previous research has shown that excessive gamers spend less time in bed, have longer sleep latency, and shorter REM latency.
The study examined data from 137 students recruited from the University who were enrolled in introductory psychology courses. Participants’ mean age was 22 years and a majority of the sample was women (86). Gamers were classified as casual or excessive (those who spend more than seven hours a week using the Internet and playing computer games), based on a demographic questionnaire, and sleepiness was assessed subjectively through questionnaires. Of the total sample, 10.8 percent reported that gaming interfered with their sleep and 12.6 identified themselves as being addicted to gaming.
Woolems’ research was one of more than 1,300 research abstracts presented at the SLEEP meeting, a three-and-a-half-day joint venture of the AASM and the Sleep Research Society.
Collaborative Research: “Special Child” Project 154
Other student research includes collaborative teams. In July, a team of UALR graduate students became the only United States team competing for the H.E Suzanne Mubarak Special Award at the worldwide Microsoft Imagine Cup Software Design Initiative Finals in Cairo, Egypt—a stunning accomplishment considering it was the University’s first year competing. This also is the first time in the seven-year history of the competition that a team from a mid-South university has made the nationals, much less the world finals.
The Imagine Cup initiative includes ten categories from software design to short film. In addition, the first lady of Egypt asked Microsoft to create a special category for software programs designed specifically to help children. UALR’s team was selected to be one of the five competitors—the only U.S. team selected for the special award.
The team, composed of graduate students from the Management Information Systems program located in the College of Business, was coached by faculty members Dr. Janet Bailey and Dr. James Parrish. Team members developed a software application that establishes a central point of information on adoptable children in state, private, and international agencies around the globe. The application contains information on families—also located globally—who have registered to be adoptive parents.
Team members were Joshua Thacker of Little Rock; Sandy Callahan of Conway, formerly of Benton; Shreyasi Dutta, a native of India now living in Little Rock; and Tomica Seals of Marvell.
“I told them in January we have some of the best students in the country at UALR, and it was time the world knew it,” Bailey said. “Although they didn’t believe me at the time, I think we just proved it.”
The Imagine Cup is Microsoft’s largest competition, and the software company invests millions in it each year. Students had to design software around the theme “Imagine a world where technology helps solve the toughest problems facing us today.” Now in its seventh year, the Microsoft U.S. Imagine Cup attracts more than 200,000 students from more than 100 countries globally to enter the competition.
Collaborative Research: Dynamic Airport Systems, LLC155
When the Little Rock National Airport needed a creative solution to enhance its efficiency and profitability, Airport Executive Director Deborah Schwartz approached Dr. Mary L. Good, Dean of UALR’s Donaghey College of Engineering and Information Technology (EIT). From that conversation, Dr. Good set in motion a multi-disciplinary team of undergraduate and graduate students from two UALR colleges—EIT and the College of Business—whose mission was to design an advanced information system to alleviate airport inefficiencies.
The faculty and students, in keeping with the organization’s mission, produce scholarship and create knowledge through basic and applied research.
Not only did the team come up with a 21st century plan to improve service delivery at commercial airports, students also picked up a $5,000 award for their business plan in the process. The UALR team won third place in the coveted Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup for its entry: Dynamic Airport Systems, LLC.
The plan, crafted by EIT undergraduate students Daniel Rucker of Hot Springs, Rodney Arnold, and Tara Lancaster, both of Little Rock, will help airports enhance efficiency and profitability in everything from management to ticketing, providing a hub for collecting, analyzing, and reporting airline arrivals, departures, passenger counts, and other data to airport commissions and billing systems.
The systems engineering students suggest that having a centralized repository of automated information will allow managers to make better informed decisions more quickly, resulting in decreased passenger congestion, less downtime for airlines, and more revenue for airports.
The integrated technology system was coupled with a business strategy created by MBA students David E. Hunt of Cabot, Andrew Herden of Sherwood, and Lindsay Cowling of Benton. This collaboration of ideas and skills was evaluated by a panel of judges made up of Arkansas business executives who reviewed the written plan and oral presentations.
The team was selected as one of six graduate teams to proceed to the final round of the Reynolds competition. Judging was based on overall feasibility, combined with significant capital gains potential, attractive investment possibilities, and actual implementation. The team’s faculty advisor, Dr. Joe Bell, UALR associate professor of management and entrepreneurship, also received $1,000. According to Dr. Bell, efforts are under way to seek grant funding for the concept.
Classroom Research: Sustainable Business Practices
Other student research at UALR includes work to help promote sustainable business practices. For their final projects in Spring 2009, students in Management 4385—Sustainable Business, formed groups to conduct research on sustainable business practices, forming a blueprint for organizations that want to improve the world starting in their own backyards.
Students focused on a number of improvement areas, finding ways for organizations to improve energy efficiency, join groups for like-minded businesses, and save money while utilizing sustainable products. Projects included:
- Energy Efficiency Funding Opportunities. Many businesses are eager to implement energy saving measures but need financial assistance in funding the initiatives. Students identified 29 funding sources that included loans, grants, tax credits, tax deductions, and free energy assessments.
- Sustainable Business Networks. Students studied 22 nonprofit organizations around the country and found that they are commonly named sustainable business networks and sustainable business alliances. The organizations are membership-based and provide a variety of services, such as speakers bureaus, social events, professional mentoring and support for local sustainable and green businesses, green business certification programs, “Local First” shopping campaigns, and presentations, clinics, and workshops on sustainable business practices. The students’ research serves as the foundation for the creation of the Sustainable Business Network of Central Arkansas,156 a nonprofit membership-based organization expected to be launched this summer to support the growing sustainable business community of Central Arkansas.
- UALR College of Business Paper Project. Students identified ways the University could become more “green” and environmentally friendly in printing practices and paper purchases while also saving money. The research study examined several options to reduce the environmental impact of the College of Business’ printing practices.
After considering several options and combinations of options, the students ultimately recommended that the College switch to 30 percent recycled paper, change default printer margins on all College computers, install printer management software on all College computers, change default settings on all printers and copiers to duplex (double-sided copies), and install EcoFont on all computers and set it as the default font.
The combined impact of these recommendations implemented in unison would reduce the College’s paper and ink purchases and result in a 39 percent cost savings over current methods; require the purchase of 151 cases of paper (instead of the current 251 cases) and 26 laser ink cartridges and toner (instead of the current 30 cartridges). The environmental benefits of implementing these recommendations would be 87.3 trees saved, 11.3 tons of wood saved, 16,659 pounds of CO2 emissions prevented, 57,753.6 gallons of water saved, 33,449.9 kilowatts of electricity saved, and 6,985.7 pounds of solid waste prevented.
The students of the creative arts also produce significant amounts of research. The University publications The UALR Forum, Quills and Pixels, and Equinox provide students an opportunity to publish their creative and creative non-fiction writing.
- The UALR Forum157 is the official student newspaper at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. The Forum is funded in part by the student activity fee. Students enrolled in Journalism 3320 and other reporting classes are contributing writers for the Forum. The Forum is published 13 times in each of the fall and spring semesters and twice during each of the two summer terms at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
- Quills and Pixels is the UALR journal of nonfiction writing and is produced by the Department of Rhetoric and Writing’s Editing for Publication class each year. Essays are solicited from across the campus, and submissions are open to both students and faculty. Approximately 1,000 copies are printed each year.
- Equinox158 is the literary arts magazine published by the English Department at UALR. Submissions of original poetry, short fiction, artwork, and photography (color or black and white) from any UALR undergraduate or graduate student are accepted.
The Departments of Art, Music, and Theater and Dance regularly hold exhibits, performances, and concerts that feature student work, including artwork, choreography, performances, and compositions. These are open to the public.
The organization publicly acknowledges the achievements of students and faculty in acquiring, discovering, and applying knowledge.
The University acknowledges exceptional faculty research with an annual Award for Excellence in Research or Creative Endeavors159, one of the three Faculty Excellence Awards discussed previously. The award publicly acknowledges and rewards faculty whose research or creative endeavors have been particularly successful and have achieved local, regional, and national recognition. Each college selects a faculty member for a college-level excellence award. The college-level winners receive $1,000 to further their research. A panel of national judges selects an individual from among the college-level winners for the University award. The University winner receives $5,000.
- Associate Professor Hussain Al-Rizzo was recognized in 2009 for his work in the areas of applied computational electromagnetic antennas and propagation, wireless communication systems, adaptive and statistical signal processing, and global positioning systems. He serves as an active mentor to both graduate and undergraduate researchers, guiding them to success in their own projects. Dr. Al-Rizzo ensures their work is as productive as his has been for more than two decades. He has earned several patents, written more than 30 peer-reviewed publications, and made countless presentations for international meetings and conferences. Dr. Al-Rizzo previously won the Faculty Excellence Award for Teaching in 2007.
- Professor Xiu Ye was recognized in 2008 for her work in applied mathematics—specifically numerical analysis. She has garnered a $61,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. In the competitive field of professional academics, Dr. Ye has produced 40 scholarly papers that have been accepted for publication. Six of those have been published in the top journal for mathematics scholars, the SIAM Journal of Numerical Analysis, and she is a nationally recognized numerical analyst.
Some colleges hold events honoring student and faculty scholarship. At its annual event, the College of Business awards the Harper W. Boyd Professor of Excellence to a business professor with a record of excellent research and outstanding instruction.
To recognize excellence in student research work, the Undergraduate Research Expo showcases undergraduate students’ involvement in scholarly research and creative productions campus-wide. The Expo’s express purpose is to
- celebrate and showcase students’ involvement in scholarly research and creative productions campus-wide
- provide a venue that supports UALR’s combined educational and research missions
- allow students to exchange ideas in a professional setting
The first Undergraduate Research Expo was organized in 2006 by the Dean of the Graduate School (current title the Vice Provost for Research and Dean of the Graduate School) and the Undergraduate Research Task Force (now the Undergraduate Research Committee) and was funded by the Provost. In Spring 2008, 55 undergraduate students presented posters of their undergraduate research studies in the Third Undergraduate Research Expo. Winners of the project competition, chosen by UALR’s Undergraduate Research Committee, are nominated to present their research in Washington, D.C., at the annual “Posters on the Hill” event organized by the Council on Undergraduate Research. Recent project winners include
- Beautiful Captivation, Character Defamation, and Orientalist Representation: A Contrapuntal Reading of Memoirs of a Geisha
- Wireless Communications with Biomedical Implantable Medical Devices
- Glycoconjugates Present Potential Antitoxin Therapeutics for Bacilus Anthracis Toxins and Their Complexes
- The Changing Images of Anne Frank
Graduate students may present their research in the UALR Graduate Student Research Forum160 (GSRF), which is sponsored by the Graduate Student Organization. The GSRF is designed to give graduate students the experience of presenting at a conference, but close to home and in a supportive environment. In Spring 2008, 41 research presentations were made in the forum. Recent winning projects included
- The Effects of Peer Coaching on the Evaluation Knowledge, Skills, and Concerns of Gifted Program Administrators
- Differentiating between Women in Hard and Soft Science and Engineering Disciplines
- Bullet Probes—The Truth Revealed
- Communication Ambiguity and Cosmology Episodes: An Analysis of Crisis Communication Following the Sago Mine Disaster
- An Analysis of Communicative Methods Employed by Geomys breviceps
- Energetics of Giant Pandas
- An Optimal Controller Design of Bipedal Model
In addition, the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Science holds an annual “Finale” event for performing arts with six other community partners in the arts, as well as an annual awards ceremony honoring student achievement.
The University recognizes high-achieving students through programs including the Chancellor’s List, the Deans’ List, and Golden Key. Several departments offer honors programs, which are posted on the students’ academic transcript at graduation. Students may also earn Graduation Honors.
The University also promotes faculty and student research to the general public through publications such as UALR Magazine161, the Info162 electronic newsletter, the UALR website, the UALR Facebook page163, the UALR Ning, the UALR YouTube channel164, and Channel 62—the University Television Channel165.
Institutional support for faculty and student research is primarily located within the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs166 (ORSP). The organizational structure of ORSP has shifted a number of times over the past ten years as the type of research conducted at UALR has shifted. Because of the emerging role of research on campus, the University has re-assessed the function of ORSP. This assessment revealed the office had an inadequate infrastructure to nurture and support faculty doing research and to oversee all of the administrative functions of grants. To address this, the administrative structure of the office was changed. The position of Dean of the Graduate School was expanded to include additional responsibilities for the oversight and support of research activities. This position, now titled Vice Provost for Research and Dean of the Graduate School, directly supervises the Director of ORSP.
ORSP ensures accountability, compliance, and stewardship for sponsored research as directed by all applicable federal, state, and university policies, procedures, and regulations. It also supports the fiscal management of funded projects to reduce the administrative load on researchers, project directors, and departmental support staff. It functions as the single point of contact for all activities between UALR and external sponsors.
The Director of ORSP is responsible for the development and administration of grant dollars on campus. This description covers a wide range of duties, such as encouraging and helping the faculty to apply for grants, administering awarded grants, and ensuring that the University is in compliance with all federal and state regulations that affect grants and contracts.
ORSP also provides administrative support to the Institutional Research Board (IRB). ORSP maintains all the official records of business conducted by or in support of the IRB. ORSP staffs the IRB meetings and takes and retains minutes. The office maintains current IRB Review Request forms (both hard copy and electronic), distributes them, receives completed review requests, and processes them for board review.
The organization follows explicit policies and procedures to ensure ethical conduct in its research and instructional activities.
Currently, UALR is guided by the ethical principles set forth by the Belmont Report of Ethical Principles and Guidelines for the Protection of Human Participants of Research with regard to research involving human participants. This policy covers all research conducted by the faculty, staff, and students of the University regardless of the source of support (internal or external).
All research involving human participants conducted by UALR researchers must be reviewed and approved by the IRB before data collection begins. The IRB operates according to the guidelines in Title 45, Part 46 of the Code of Federal Regulations (45CFR46) and other applicable state and institutional guidelines.
UALR has filed an assurance (FWA 00002205) with the DHHS Office for Human Research Protections stating its intent to adhere to these principles and follow the federal guidelines set forth for conducting research with human participants.
The organization provides effective oversight and support services to ensure the integrity of research and practice conducted by its faculty and students.
This policy applies if
- the research is sponsored by UALR;
- the research is conducted by or under the direction of any employee or agent of UALR in connection with his or her institutional duties; or
- the research is conducted by or under the direction of any employee or agent of UALR using any property or facilities of UALR.
Both faculty and student researchers must seek IRB review and approval of each research protocol prior to conducting the research. It is also the researcher’s responsibility to seek review and approval of any proposed modifications to an ongoing study and to initiate continuing review at least annually for the duration of the research project.
The organization follows explicit policies and procedures to ensure ethical conduct in its research and instructional activities.
UALR requires that all investigators who wish to conduct research with human subjects complete a human research training course hosted by the University of Miami.167 The training is valid for three years. Investigators must also read the Belmont Report prior to initiation of the research. The IRB has the authority to approve, disapprove, or request modifications to research protocols involving human participants conducted by UALR researchers or conducted at UALR facilities.
Over the past three years, the IRB has conducted a full review of its protocol to ensure that UALR is in full compliance with all federal, state, and local laws and regulations. In Spring 2009, the IRB submitted the revised protocol to the Provost and Faculty Senate. This project is a current example of administrative and faculty bodies working collaboratively to develop policies that support UALR’s integrity and metropolitan mission. An additional goal of this project is to make the policy document more accessible to researchers. The project has involved faculty from across the campus and disciplines, administrators, and staff.
Researchers at UALR accept their responsibility to conduct research in an ethical and responsible manner and acknowledge their obligation to protect the rights and welfare of any human participant involved in a research activity. The primary investigator and other key researchers are responsible for designing a sound study in accordance with the standards of the discipline and Belmont Report.
The organization provides effective oversight and support services to ensure the integrity of research and practice conducted by its faculty and students.
All research or teaching that involves animal subjects must be reviewed and approved by the University’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee168 (IACUC). The committee ensures that faculty and students are properly trained to perform or conduct any procedures pertaining to the use of animals. UALR faculty and students must have an approved protocol on file even if they are conducting research outside of the campus. The IACUC meets every six months.
Work done with radiation is overseen by the Radiation Safety Committee (RSC) and the Radiation Safety Office169 (RSO), located in the Graduate Instituted of Technology, was established to assure compliance with State regulations and the conditions set forth by the license and promote best practices. The UALR Radiation Safety Program assists management at all levels in fulfilling the UALR commitment to furnish a place of employment and learning which is as free as possible from recognized radiation hazards that cause or are likely to cause harm or death to personnel and the surrounding community. In the name of UALR, the Radiation Safety Committee has obtained an academic institution license from the Arkansas Department of Health for the use of radioactive materials. The Radiation Safety Office/Committee approves internal permits for responsible and qualified individuals to use radioactive materials within UALR after the permission has been approved by the Health Department. The permits are approved for the purchase, transfer, use, and disposal of specific amounts of a particular nuclide within the educational and research facilities of UALR. Appropriate application forms must be completed and approved before permission can be granted.
As the role of research has increased at UALR, so have the grant awards. Annual reports of the UALR Office of Research and Sponsored Programs show that between 1989 and 2004, the level of external funding secured by UALR faculty and staff increased four-fold from $5 million to $22 million. What makes the record of UALR faculty even more impressive is that the campus does not offer programs in medicine or agriculture, and it also has not had a wide range of doctoral programs in engineering and the sciences—all representing disciplines that enjoy considerable opportunities for external research funding.
The total external awards channeled through ORSP have increased steadily over the past ten years, as shown below.
Fiscal Year Total Awards 1998-99 $19,655,858 1999-2000 $20,152,289 2000-01 $18,591,045 2001-02 $21,656,501 2002-03 $24,096,136 2003-04 $20,623,531 2004-05 $22,449,726 2005-06 $27,049,710 2006-07 $21,589,500 2007-08 $24,875,507
Additionally, as ORSP records during 2007-2008 year show, all colleges have been successful in earning grants:
College or Unit Number of Grants Awarded Dollar Amounts Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences 8 $474,500 Business 20 $1,921,088 Education 14 $3,021,026 Professional Studies 37 $6,508,106 Science and Mathematics 16 $1,816,343 Engineering and Information Technology 23 $2,472,588 Graduate Institute of Technology 10 $3,228,014 Law 10 $740,311 University Advancement 2 $2,188,810 Educational and Student Services 11 $1,900,829 Chancellor 1 $261,080 Provost 2 $337,862 Vice Chancellor for Finance 1 $4,950
ORSP supports faculty research professional development by providing small grants through “Supplemental Sponsored Program Grants” as support for specific sponsored programs of individual tenured and tenure-track faculty members and/or professional staff.170 Colleges also offer professional development support: for example over the past two years, the College of Professional Studies has offered summer research grants of $25,000 to support faculty research.
A few internal grants are available at either the college or the university level. The Kathleen Thomsen Hall Charitable Trust supports full-time faculty members and professional staff members in their efforts to contribute to or enhance their own capacity in the arts, sciences, or education. Applicants in any academic field are eligible for this grant, but projects related to the sciences are given special consideration.171
Grant opportunities also are open to UALR students. The Student Undergraduate Research Fellowship172 (SURF) grants from the Arkansas Department of Higher Education support student projects. Recent awards of SURF grants have included
- P. Witkowski. “The Days after Graduation.” $2,550 (with Prof. D. Buffalo)
- M. Speck. “The Future of Catastrophic Insurance.” $2,650 (with Prof. L Powell)
- M. Kelly. “Internet Replay Sequencing Tool (FIRST).” $3,876 (with Prof. S. Geoghegan)
- J. Wilson. “Investigation of System Performance of a RT Embedded System with Temp. Adaptive Power Constraints.” $3,650 (with Prof. J. Zhang)
- Brandon Ballard on the project “Finite Element Analysis of HumanMusculoskeletal System for Simulation of Postural Reactions” (with Prof. G. Huang and Dr. K. Iqbal)
- Coletha-Nichole Johnson on the project “Applications of Digital Signal Controller in Submicron Position Control of a Linear Motor” (with Prof. J Zhang)
- Jason Robison on the project “Computer Simulation of Electrodynamic Screen for Mars Dust Mitigation” (with Prof. M. Mazumder)
The Graduate Student Association supports the efforts of UALR’s graduate students to present their research in various forums. GSA offers grants to students seeking financial assistance in traveling to present their research. These grants are strictly for student research that has been accepted at a conference.
Other grant and research opportunities are posted online or distributed to students as they appear. One particularly good model is EIT, which distributes research, grant, and internship possibilities in their electronic newsletter.
Faculty members actively participate in professional organizations relevant to the disciplines they teach.
As professionals, UALR faculty members serve in significant roles in their academic areas on the local, state, and national level. For example:
- Dr. Robert Bradley in the Center for Applied Studies in Education was appointed to the Advisory Board of the National Household Education Survey, 2007. Dr. Bradley also made invited presentations for the faculty at the University of Seville (Spain) and for university and governmental officials in Glasgow, Scotland, Cardiff, Wales and Bristol, England.
- In 2009, Professor Ann Robinson, Director of the Center for Gifted Education, was elected President of the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC). Headquartered in Washington DC, NAGC is the largest professional association in the world devoted to research, practice, and advocacy for gifted and talented children.
- Dr. Ann Schlumberger, chair of the Department of Nursing, has served two terms as an elected member of the National League for Nursing Accreditation Commission (NLNAC) and currently serves as a Multi-program and ASN Evaluation Review Panel Member and as NLNAC site visitor chairperson. She is also currently serving an elected term as the secretary for the National Organization of Associate Degree Nursing
- Dr. Barbara L’Eplattenier, Associate Professor in the Department of Rhetoric and Writing, serves on the Executive Board of the Council of Writing Program Administrators between 2007-2010. The WPA is comprised of people who administer first-year writing programs and is a national policy-making group.
- Dr. Angela Sewall, Dean of the College of Education, served as President of the Teacher Education Council of State Colleges and Universities (TECSCU) in 2007-2009. TECSCU is a constituent group of 165 universities that prepare more than 50 percent of the teachers in the United states.
- Dr. Jeff Walker, Graduate Coordinator in the Department of Criminal Justice, served as the President of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, an international professional association.
- Dr. Steve Leslie, former Chair of the Department of Earth Science, served as Chair of the State Board of Registration for Professional Geologists.
- Dr. Ashvin Vibhakar, former Director of the Institute for Economic Advancement, served on the Board of Governors of the Certified Financial Analysts Institute.
- Dr. Tom Guyette, Chair of Audiology and Speech Pathology, served as the national chair of the American Cleft Palette Association.
Faculty in all colleges serve as editors, associate editors, or readers for journals in their disciplines. For example:
- Dr. Carolyn Pearson in the College of Education has been selected as member of the editorial board of the Journal of Educational Research, the top journal in educational research.
- Dr. Meagan Jordan in the Institute of Government is on the editorial board of the Journal of Public Management and Social Policy.
- Dr. Jim Peck in the Department of Biology was Associate Editor for American Fern Journal.
- Dr. Janet Lanza Department of Biology was Book Editor for the journal Ecology.
- Dr. Jerry Darsey in the Department of Chemistry served on the editorial board of the international journal, Journal of Computational & Theoretical Nanoscience.
- Dr. Steve Leslie, former Chair of the Department of Earth Sciences, served as Associate Editor for the Journal of Paleontology.
- Dr. Nickolai Kosmatov in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics was appointed to serve on the editorial board of the journal Advances in Differential Equations and Control Systems.
With UAMS, UALR co-publishes Literature and Medicine, which is edited by Dr. Charles Anderson in the Department of Rhetoric and Writing. Literature and Medicine explores the resonance between literary understanding and medical knowledge. Issues of illness, health, medical practice, trauma, and the body are examined through literary and cultural texts. The journal showcases the creative and critical work of renowned physician writers, leading literary scholars, and medical humanists. Readership includes scholars of literature, history, and critical theory, as well as health professionals.
The Journal of Appellate Practice and Process is the only scholarly law journal to focus exclusively on issues, practices, and procedures of appellate court systems, both federal and state, both American and international. Edited by faculty members of the Law School, The Journal is designed to provide a forum for creative thought and dialogue about the operation of appellate courts and their influence on the development of the law.
Each issue of The Journal is distributed to every active state and federal appellate judge in the United States, to the judges of the Supreme Court of Canada, to interested active appellate judges in other countries, and to subscribing appellate practitioners, trial judges, academics, and law libraries. Through special distribution arrangements, the ABA’s Council of Appellate Lawyers and the American Academy of Appellate Lawyers also provide The Journal to their members.
University of Arkansas at Little Rock Law Review has three primary objectives: (1) to publish articles, surveys, essays, and book reviews that are timely and useful to Arkansas practitioners, the judiciary, and other members of the state’s legal community; (2) to publish material which reaches national and international legal audiences; and (3) to provide a forum for outstanding student work of both local and national interest, as well as an opportunity for students to gain experience editing scholarly articles. The Review’s circulation list includes all members of the Arkansas Bar Association. Its scope, however, is not limited to jurisdictional boundaries, as many law libraries, practitioners, and judges around the country subscribe to The Review.
Service activity also extends to the national community. UALR faculty are encouraged to use their expertise in all areas. For example,
- Margaret (Beth) McMillan in the Department of Earth Science used her expertise in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to assist first responders in Mississippi following Hurricane Katrina. She volunteered to help develop maps that detailed road conditions, power outages, and facilities with hazardous materials-information used by the Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Her work was noted on CNN Radio.
- Lars Powell, Assistant Professor of Finance, testified before a Congressional Subcommittee investigating the availability and affordability of insurance in May 2008.
- Win Bruhl, Chairman of the Art Department, was selected as a single representative of the United States in an International Linocut Symposium in Klenova, Czech Republic in October 2006.
UALR has also hosted a number of local and national conferences. For example in 2007, UALR hosted the 6th Biennial Feminisms and Rhetorics conference, which drew 400+ national and international scholars together. The theme, Rhetoric and Civic Discourse, drew on Little Rock and Arkansas’s rich history of political and civic involvement. Guest speakers included Minnejean Brown Trickey, an activist and member of the Little Rock Nine; Joyce Elliot, state senator and representative; and Joycelynn Elders, the former Surgeon General of the United State of America.
Other conferences have been held at UALR as well. The School of Mass Communication worked with Investigative Reporters and Editors to host their regional conference here March 5-6, 2005. The National Broadcasting Society held a national Executive Board and National Advisory Council here in 2003 and 2004, and the Girl Scouts of the USA Arkansas Council Realignment Committee PR and IT Sub-committees held meetings here in 2008. The School also worked with the Associated Press and Democrat Gazette to host Associated Press correspondent Bob Reid in November of 2006.
In keeping with its commitment “to provide a community of learning through creation of an academic environment that stimulates students, faculty, and staff to become life-long learners” articulated in the mission objective Community of Learning, UALR encourages life-long learning of its constituencies through various policies and programs.
Recently, UALR passed an admissions policy that allows community members interested in taking courses but not pursuing a degree to enter the University as non-degree-seeking students. As such, they are not required to meet the University’s admissions standards. If the student changes her or his mind and decides to pursue a degree, she or he must formally apply to UALR. Additionally, anyone age 60 years or older can attend UALR tuition-free on a space-available basis.
Other services available to the general public include
- The Ottenheimer Library. The Library is open to community members can obtain library loan privileges and access library databases.
- Arkansas Small Business Development Center. The Center provides workshops and consulting services to small businesses and individuals.
- The Community School of the Arts175. The only school of its kind in Arkansas, the Community School offers non-credit instruction in the arts to students of all ages.
- The Center for Economic Education176. The Center offers resources for K–12 teachers and conducts workshops to train K–12 teachers how to integrate economics into their curriculum.
- The University uses assessment data to improve curriculum, pedagogy, instructional resources, and student services.
- University faculty are committed to effective teaching and student learning.
- Faculty are productive in scholarship and creative endeavors, and receive national recognition for their work.
- The University supports student research with human and financial resources.
- Students are receiving national and international recognition for their research.
- The University is experiencing growing pains as it integrates its enhanced research role into its metropolitan university mission and traditional focus on teaching and service.
- It is time for the University to review its general education core curriculum and learning outcomes.
- The University needs to continue building a sense of campus community, in part through increased communication and outreach.
- The current level of funding for technology infrastructure is not meeting the needs of the University.