The SACS-Quality Enhancement Programs Office oversees the University’s accreditation-designated Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP). A QEP is an action plan focused on student learning outcomes and/or student success that emerges from the institution’s ongoing planning and evaluation processes. A QEP is required every ten years by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) and is an integral component of the reaffirmation of accreditation and on-site visit.
USM’s first QEP, Finding a Voice: Improving Oral and Written Competencies, provided faculty development in methods to strengthen students’ communication skills, created a university Speaking Center, expanded its Writing Center, and improved assessment of oral and written learning. Collectively, these initiatives contributed to improvements in student learning as shown through multiple direct and indirect measures. The University submitted its Impact Report to SACSCOC in 2012 and received feedback noting that “best practices for enhancing and assessing oral communications were researched and employed.”
The University’s second QEP, Eagles Engaged, focused on two critical areas of student success: gateways and pathways. Gateways are historically difficult high-enrollment courses. Pathways are significant experiences connected to a student’s post-graduation goals, such as internships, research, or other fieldwork. To enhance gateway experiences, faculty committees participated in the John N. Gardner Institute Gateways to Completion® process. Three primary initiatives were identified: faculty development in active learning pedagogy, peer-assisted learning through in-class Learning Assistants (LAs), and classroom space designed for active learning for large enrollment sections. The initiatives worked to reduce DFW rates and improve successful course completion. To enhance pathway experiences, USM established a dedicated office, funded competitive scholarships, provided faculty development, and developed a structured reflection process (Center for Pathway Experiences). Based on the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), internship participation increased in the first three years of the QEP, then decreased during the pandemic although still ahead of pre-QEP rates. USM also saw gains in peer comparisons on career competency measures analyzed by NSSE. The University submitted the Eagles Engaged Impact Report in March 2022, and the report was approved by SACSCOC in June 2022.
USM’s next QEP will emerge from the University’s strategic planning process that is currently underway. The plan will be submitted to SACSCOC as part of the 2026 reaffirmation process. For more information, contact Dr. Julie Howdeshell at julie.howdeshellFREEMississippi.