Division of Student Affairs Strategic Planning Process


I. Charge for the Division of Student Affairs
II. Definition and Purpose of Assessment
III. Major Strategic Planning Activities for the Year
IV. The Strategic Planning Loop
V. Development and Completion of Assessment Activities
VI. Assessment Methods
VII. Values, Mission and Vision for Division of Student Affairs
VIII. Timeline
IX. Conclusion

I. Charge for the Division of Student Affairs

In 2011, the Vice Chancellor for Educational, Student Services, and Student Life (former name of the Division) charged the Office of Testing Services and Student Life Research with the following tasks related to assessment for the division:

  1. Design and manage a comprehensive assessment plan for continuous improvement based on multiple data sources.
  2. Provide leadership for developing processes and systems for continuous improvement efforts.
  3. Oversee the design, development and management of a comprehensive integrated assessment system that provides information to evaluate productivity, effectiveness, and impact as feasible and as related to the goals and mission of the Division of Educational, Student Services and Student Life.
  4. Develop an assessment system and processes to document, monitor and support the work of the division.
  5. Design and deliver staff training and support associated with the assessment system.
  6. Conduct, evaluate, and report on follow-up studies of program graduates.
  7. Maintain up to date information for the Division on the University’s Assessment Central web page.
  8. Coordinate and communicate with the UA Little Rock community and various publics including current and prospective students and parents, the Provost’s Assessment Advisory Group (PAAG), institutional research staff, and college leadership for the purpose of assembling reports required for a variety of purposes.
  9. Assist departments with continuous improvement initiatives identified by the Vice Chancellor.

In order to carry out this charge, the Office of Testing Services and Student Life Research created a Strategic Planning manual of which assessment is a vital component. The purpose of this is to ensure that departments within the division are able to define their core values, mission, and vision in an atmosphere of continuous improvement.  The plan was updated in November 2016.

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II. Definition and Purpose of Assessment for Student Affairs at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock

Upcraft and Schuh (1996) define assessment as any effort to gather, analyze, and interpret evidence which describes institutional or departmental effectiveness. This effectiveness includes student learning outcomes, cost effectiveness, clientele satisfaction, and meeting clientele needs.

The purpose of the division’s assessment efforts is to effectively communicate the mission, progress, and outcomes of the various offices within the division. It is essential that events, programs, successes, and student learning outcomes of those in the division are effectively communicated to both internal and external constituencies. These efforts, when combined, become the division’s means to demonstrate why student services are an essential function of the institution. In effect, the various components of the division should utilize these tools to show (1) what they are doing (2) how they are able to effectuate change, and (3) the tools and data that they have used to better their services.

Ultimately assessment within the division should be utilized to demonstrate program effectiveness, and should allow for a methodical approach for improvement in order to continually enhance services for UA Little Rock students based on data driven decisions.

To properly assess departmental efforts, each area within the division needs to be able to communicate the principles that guide their actions. These principles are outlined in the department’s strategic plan, which should be the guiding document for the primary actions of the office. Assessment of these efforts can then be effectively compared to the goals of the university.

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III. Major Strategic Planning Activities for the Year

The following includes the strategic planning activities for this academic year. To be able to properly assess, staff must understand their fundamental beliefs (core values), the primary purpose of their department (mission statement), and who they aspire to be (vision statement). Finally, they must articulate their goals, responsible parties, timelines, and assessment efforts in order to effectively track their improvement efforts.

  1. Development and/or Review of Core Values
  2. Development and/or Review of Mission Statements
  3. Development and/or Review of Vision Statements
  4. Development of annual Strategic Plan which provides guidance for the coming year with specific objectives, responsible parties, and due dates
  5. Annual Report which shows how well we carried out our strategic plans, as well as other activities and projects accomplished
  6. Annual goals from Student Affairs employees to their supervisors which outlines individual professional goals for the year
  7. Professional Staff Performance Reviews, which includes a review of how well annual goals were met, supervisor’s feedback, as well as a 360 review from colleagues and students that helps employees make continuous improvements

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IV. The Strategic Planning Loop

The strategic planning loop is a visual representation of the planning and assessment activities that should inform the policies, practices, and improvement efforts of departments within Student Affairs. Note that each effort should inform all other areas within the loop.  This illustration is from CAS (Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education).

Council for the Advancement of Standards assessment cycle

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V. Development and Completion of Assessment Activities

What are Core Values?

Core values are the fundamental beliefs of your department. These are the elements that drive your work on a daily basis. Your core values should be short and easily communicated, and should guide how your department interacts with the rest of the university and the general public.

For example, the UA Little Rock Bowen School of Law’s core values are:

  • Professionalism
  • Public Service
  • Access to Justice

For further explanation, please see Building Your Company’s Vision from Harvard Business Review.

B. What is a Mission Statement?

  • The mission statement is the very practical definition of why you exist. So, while the core values are your fundamental beliefs, the mission statement lays out quite precisely what you do for the institution.
  • The mission statement should specifically define each of your areas of responsibility and should lead directly into goal development for each of your primary functional areas.
  • The mission statement should be written to reflect the mission statements of the institution and the division.

University of Arkansas at Little Rock Mission

The mission of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock is to develop the intellect of students; to discover and disseminate knowledge; to serve and strengthen society by enhancing awareness in scientific, technical, and cultural arenas; and to promote humane sensitivities and understanding of interdependence. Within this broad mission are the responsibilities to use quality instruction to instill in students a lifelong desire to learn; to use knowledge in ways that will contribute to society; and to apply the resources and research skills of the University community to the service of the city, the state, the nation, and the world in ways that will benefit humanity. (Adopted by the UA Little Rock Faculty Senate, 1988)

C. How to Write a Mission Statement

A Departmental Mission Statement*:

  • Is a specific statement of what the program or unit is, what it does, and for whom it does it
  • Describes the purpose of the department
  • Reflects how the program contributes to the education and careers of students who utilize the department
  • Is aligned with the university mission
  • Should be distinctive for the department

Components of a Departmental Mission Statement

  • Primary functions or activities of the department—most important functions, operations, outcomes, and/or offerings
  • Purpose of the department—primary reasons why you perform your major activities or operations
  • Stakeholders—groups or individuals that participate in the department’s activities and those that will benefit from the department

Attributes of a well written Mission Statement:

  • The statement explicitly promotes the alignment of the department with the division and the university
  • The statement is easily communicated and effectively explains the primary functions of a department.

Example of a Mission Statement

The Mission of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s Office of Testing Services and Student Life Research encompasses four primary functions:

  • To serve the university community and external constituencies by providing an optimal proctored testing environment that adheres to the National College Testing Association’s Standards and Guidelines.
  • To collect data and disseminate information about university students for data driven decision-making.
  • To provide the structure, training, and tools that foster an ongoing culture of assessment within the Division of Educational, Student Services, and Student Life (ESSSL).
  • To equip ESSSL departments with the tools necessary to maintain their digital presence.

*Based on material from the University of Central Florida: “UCF Academic Program Assessment Handbook”, 2005, material from the University of San Diego and the University of Connecticut.

D. What is a Vision Statement?

  • The core values are the department’s fundamental beliefs, the mission statement specifically describes what you do for the institution, and now, the vision statement, will serve as a blueprint for what the department plans to become.
  • The vision statement is for big ideas. What goals seem unreachable? Name that goal, and then create the steps needed to get there.
  • Example: In (amount of time) the (department’s name) will (be or achieve this).
  • Goals should be established specifically focused on carrying out this vision statement.

E. Strategic Planning Tracking Form

Once the mission and vision statements have been established the department can create goals and objectives for each of the listed primary areas. To do this, the department can complete the strategic planning tracking form that is part of the strategic planning manual. (These do not have to be submitted, but can help guide the process for the department).

Note: There is quite a bit of discussion about the definitions of goals, objectives, strategies, and tactics. For this process, there are only two definitions:

  • Goal (What do you want to accomplish?) – Goals should not be “pie in the sky.” Make these highly practical and measurable.
  •  Objective (How are you going to do it?)

Work through goals and objectives for each of the primary functional areas, while keeping the following in mind

  1. Goals
  2. Objectives (There can, and should be, multiple objectives for each goal. You may need multiple sheets).
  3. Responsible Party (who is in charge?)
  4. Timeline (when should it be completed?)
  5. How does this align with the university’s goals? Does it? Should we do it if it doesn’t? If this an area of advocacy that we would like to have for the university?
  6. How will you assess it? Note that not every objective needs to be assessed.
  7. Which Student Learning Outcome does it address?

F. Assessment Reporting Templates

Assessment reporting templates (Appendix A) can be completed based on the goals and objectives outlined by the department each academic year. See the template example for instructions on how to complete (Appendix B). These do not have to be submitted, but are helpful in the annual reporting process.

G. Annual Reports

The Student Affairs leadership team will review the annual report template at the end of each academic year to discuss appropriate changes.

H. Professional Staff Performance Reviews

Professional staff performance reviews should reflect how each employee contributes to the goals of the department. The Student Affairs leadership team will review the professional staff performance review templates at the end of each academic year to discuss appropriate changes.

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VI. Assessment Methods

  1. Appropriate Measures – Any assessment for departments should be meaningful and should directly measure questions that can assist the department in bettering services for students. According to the Metropolitan State College of Denver, assessment methods:

    …will naturally vary in the different departments. In general, strong assessment plans incorporate data from a variety of sources to arrive at valid conclusions. In most cases, assessment will use a combination of surveys of students or clients, collection of qualitative information from focus groups, and data derived from the student information system or, in cases of services that serve a large clientele such as Campus Recreation or Student Activities, participation data from events or activities.

  2. Assessment Questions to Ask:
    • What do you want to know?
    • Why do you want to know it?
    • How can you get the answer?
    • How does this align to your strategic plan?
    • How does this align to the university strategic plan?
    • How can you use the data to improve services?
  3. What Can You Assess?
    • Needs
      • Students
      • Community
      • Employees
    • Demographics
      • Participation
      • Target Markets
    • Satisfaction
      • Experience/Participation
      • Program/Services
    • Outcomes
      • Learning
      • Operational/Financial
    • Culture and Climate
      • Norm/Values
      • Member Perceptions
      • Campus Environment
    • Organizational Effectiveness
      • Operations
      • Planning
      • Leadership (ACPA, ASK Standards)
  4. Administration
    • Please note that all data collected from student records must be collected in such a way that ensures the privacy of those surveyed.
    • It is required that you obtain Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval for a survey if you are planning to utilize the results outside of the university – at a conference, publication or a report that is shared outside of the University. IRB approval may also be required for any study involving material of a sensitive nature.
    • The IRB approval process can take some time.  If you are planning to utilize your results outside the University, please allow yourself plenty of time to gain IRB approval.

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VII. Values, Mission, Vision, and Student Learning Outcomes for the Division of Student Affairs

The values, mission, and vision for the Division of Student Affairs were set at a leadership team retreat in the fall of 2014, and the Student Learning Outcomes were set at a retreat in Summer 2016. These should guide the goal development for each of the administrative units in the division.

Student Affairs values, mission, vision, and SLOs are on the Student Affairs website.


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VIII. Timeline

Items will be due in the listed format on the dates listed below. If the date falls on a weekend, the items will be due the following Monday.

  1. Development and/or Review of Core Values, Mission Statements, and Vision Statements – Website posting: September 15th.
  2. Annual Report – submission to Vice Provost for Student Affairs and Website Posting: September 15th.
  3. Professional Staff Performance Reviews – submission to Vice Provost: September 15th.

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IX. Conclusion

This document should serve as a living document to guide the assessment efforts of the departments in Student Affairs. Revision and feedback are essential elements in continuing to refine this process so that we may continue to improve our services and student outcomes.

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