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SACS/QEP: UNCP to emphasize writing in its 5-year plan

December 15, 2009

With the 10-year SACS (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools) reaccreditation comes sweeping changes for students, faculty and staff of The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

The Compliance Certification Report (formerly self-study) was sent to SACS on September 10, and the on-site visitation is set for March 2010, said Dr. Elizabeth Normandy, SACS coordinator and director of the Teaching and Learning Center.

The Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), still in draft form, will be implemented into the curriculum across campus with an emphasis on writing, Dr. Normandy said. She emphasized the QEP will be implemented gradually over a five-year period, and faculty training will be a key piece of the program.

“This is a major change in the curriculum and graduation requirements,” Dr. Normandy said. “It will begin with Freshman Composition courses and new courses will enhance student writing in all disciplines.”

The QEP Student Writing Survey saw a clear need for a more focused approach to writing: “The survey shows that the number of writing assignments is very low, and that there is a tendency for some students to avoid courses requiring ‘a lot of writing.’”

Dr. Charles Harrington, provost and vice chancellor for Academic Affairs, endorsed the plan to improve students’ writing skills.

“The QEP promises to enhance significantly the learning experience for students at UNC Pembroke,” Dr. Harrington said. “Written communication skills are vital for academic and career success and indispensible for engaged citizenry.”

The QEP is a five-year improvement plan that faculty hammered out in a series of meetings.

“It will take us until the end of the semester to get it into a polished form,” Dr. Normandy said. “By the March visitation, we will be able to demonstrate that everyone on campus knows what the plan entails.”

The final draft of the QEP is due in early 2010 before the on-site visit, and the writing program will be launched beginning in the fall semester 2010.

“It gets scary to think of a program with 6,000 students and hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Dr. Normandy said. “We’re holding a contest to name the program.”

The program’s annual budget is estimated at $350,000, and will include a QEP director, faculty development and additional funding for the Writing Center.

“Reaction has been very positive,” Dr. Normandy said. “We are still informing the campus and developing a marketing plan for faculty, students and staff.”

Dr. Normandy is not a newcomer to projects of this sort. This is the second 10-year SACS reaccreditation she has coordinated. It is a time consuming process, she said.

“Few institutions have the same person coordinating consecutive reaccreditations,” she said. “We began the process in 2007 and spent a year soliciting ideas because it is a participatory process.”

The requirements change from cycle to cycle, and the Compliance Certification Report this time contains far fewer pages, on paper at least.

“It used to be that everything happened during the on-site visit, but now there is an off-site review team,” Dr. Normandy said. “It is more difficult than the former self-study because the proof of compliance is more rigorous.

“It appears more streamlined, but there are 700 - 800 electronically generated documents,” she said.

After the March visit, SACS will issue its report in November with time for UNCP’s response. The process will be final in December 2010.