This week, following the recent arrival of Dr. Vernon Smith as new APUS provost, Mr. Robert Gay (Bob) joined the university as chief operations officer (COO). Bob’s primary role is to lead our focus on strategic enrollment growth, consistent with our established mission to provide an affordable, accessible and relevant education. The COO oversees the strategy of the university and leads and/or interfaces with teams focused on admissions, financial aid, marketing, military, corporate and community college outreach, transfer credit, and alumni relations. To achieve strategic enrollment growth in an ever-changing higher education and learning environment, he will focus on simplifying the prospect and student experience so that it is seamless and free of unnecessary administrative roadblocks.
Assessment is a vital part of the core APUS mission and work in higher education. As such, our Assessment and Accreditation Department is a multifaceted group that facilitates Higher Learning Commission accreditation activities and all programmatic/specialty accreditation endeavors, as well as oversees assessment processes including curricular mapping and program review. Our 2016 goals collectively included the following:
A university provost leads the academic community of faculty, directors and deans, is responsible for the library and its staff, for academic and instructional design and quality and, ultimately, for ensuring the strategic priorities and goals of academic excellence are achieved with a special focus on learning outcomes assessment. To achieve academic excellence in an ever-changing higher education and learning environment, the provost also leads innovation advancement initiatives for faculty and curriculum.
The Center for Postsecondary Research at Indiana University School of Education administers the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) in partnership with the Indiana University Center for Survey Research. In November, they released the 2016 annual report, based upon survey results regarding the engagement of first-year students and seniors on campus and compares institutions to all 1,600 participating schools as well as to a defined group of “peer institutions.” The study assesses contributions to student success, including time and effort of students in the learning process and institutional resources provided to support them. The report provided to each institution contains valuable information for internal review and discussion and contributes to continuous improvement of both the student experience and student success.
First Women: The Grace and Power of America’s Modern First Ladies, published earlier this year by Kate Andersen Brower, was given to me as a gift upon my appointment as APUS president. It tells the story of ten of our country’s first ladies, including Barbara Bush, Laura Bush, Rosalynn Carter, Hillary Clinton, Betty Ford, Lady Bird Johnson, Jackie Kennedy, Pat Nixon, Michelle Obama and Nancy Reagan. At the time, I thought, well, this is interesting, and why this book? I was quickly captivated by the fascinating stories of their unique and similar challenges living in the White House and being in the public eye as first lady.
We are always looking for ways to enhance the APUS student experience, and one way to do this is to improve course quality. Toward that end, in late 2015 we created a committee charged with creating some standards for use in course design and revisions. These standards have assisted academics in reviewing, revising, and establishing guidelines for use in the creation and modification of our courses. The guidelines are not meant to be prescriptive, but to help provide best practices that will aid course authors as we work to continuously improve courses. It should be noted that articulating guidelines was but the first step in the process – we are now developing a series of exemplary courses in each school to serve as models or examples so that other faculty might emulate them.