Finding A Voice: Improving Oral and Written Competencies

The University of Southern Mississippi selected Finding a Voice: Improving Oral and Written Competencies as its 2006 SACS-designated quality enhancement plan (QEP) based on input from the University community, alignment with the strategic plan, and demonstrated need for the project.  

The need for a comprehensive, institutional-wide initiative to improve oral and written communication skills was based on four factors:  percentage of students needing remediation in writing, national comparisons of scores on the CAAP exam in writing, graduate exit survey data, and new requirements in the general education curriculum for writing and speaking.

Upon a review of the literature and of best practices, the QEP Leadership Team designed three primary enhancement initiatives:  faculty development in methods to strengthen students’ communication skills, the creation of a university Speaking Center, and the expansion of the Writing Center.  The plan also called for more effective assessment of oral and written learning through rating of student papers and presentations, faculty surveys, student surveys, and logs of student usage in the centers.

The University committed over 2 million dollars to the project in the first five years of the effort, including the development of speaking and writing facilities in Hattiesburg and the Gulf Coast.  In March 2012, the University submitted the QEP Impact Report to SACS.  The report was fully accepted without follow-up and the reviewers noted the University's use of best practices in enhancing and assessing oral and written competencies in their feedback.  The Finding a Voice initiatives continue and the University persists in its commitment to support oral and written communication. 

The Finding a Voice QEP planning document (submitted in 2006) and the Finding a Voice QEP Impact Report (submitted in 2012) are linked below, as well as two presentations related to the Finding a Voice QEP presented at SACS annual meetings.  For questions about the plan or the report, contact the Director of Quality Enhancement, Dr. Julie Howdeshell, at

The University of Southern Mississippi QEP Planning Document 2006 (PDF, 103 pages)

The University of Southern Mississippi QEP Impact Report 2012 (Color PDF, cover plus 10 pages of text)

Concurrent Session Presented at the 2010 SACS Annual Meeting:
Assessing Faculty Development in Writing and Speaking (PDF of PowerPoint, 34 slides)

Concurrent Session Presented at the 2012 SACS Annual Meeting:
A QEP on Speaking and Writing: One Institution's Experience (PDF of PowerPoint, 36 slides)