University Council and Faculty Senate

FACULTY MATTERS

August 2014, Volume 4, Issue 1


The mission of Faculty Matters is to keep the faculty informed
about policies, issues and events of interest to, and affecting, the faculty at NIU. It is written and published by the president of the Faculty Senate and distributed to all faculty. Comments and suggestions can be sent to Bill Pitney, Executive Secretary
of the University Council and President of the Faculty Senate, at wpitney@niu.edu. Letters to the editor will be considered for publication. Letter writers must identify themselves and will be identified if the letter is published.

In this issue:
Student retention - a shared responsibility
Need assistance?
Let's do lunch
Include an accessibility statement in every syllabus
I want to hear from you

Student retention - a shared responsibility ... and an important one at that

This past July I had the honor of participating in the president’s two-day strategic planning workshop. Approximately 130 university leaders, with representation from faculty and staff alike, examined the trends pertaining to NIU’s financial status. Enrollment and retention data were shared, along with projections as to the effects of improved student retention rates. 

We also heard from students to understand their perceptions of NIU, and learned about some recent initiatives, both on- and off-campus, that look to make positive change for our institution. A full description of the entire two days is beyond the scope of this column, but my objective is to apprise you of the very real financial challenges we face, provide information on how student retention can impact our financial status, and comment on what our faculty contributions might look like.

According to information presented by NIU’s CFO, Nancy Suttenfield, NIU’s primary revenue sources include state appropriations, tuition/fees, and room/board. Unfortunately, since 2003 our state appropriations have dropped by 15 percent, enrollment has dropped by 15 percent, and residence hall occupancy has dropped by 30 percent. Meanwhile, the total number of faculty and staff has remained relatively steady during this same timeframe. The end result is that we have less income, but just as many costs.

Not only has the current enrollment dropped, but also we are struggling with retaining our students. NIU’s Vice President of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, Eric Weldy, shared that among Illinois public universities, NIU ranks seventh for one year retention rates; NIU is at 70 percent. As a point of comparison, Illinois State University is ranked second for its one-year retention rate of just over 80 percent. The bottom line: With effort, we can make a positive impact on our financial situation by focusing on student retention. Data projections presented by Ron Walters, workshop facilitator, suggested that reducing our first semester freshman withdrawal from 12 percent to seven percent (a five percent change) could result in close to $1.5 million in increased revenue. This would represent retaining 125 additional students.

The financial impact notwithstanding, and perhaps just as important if not more, by improving retention we increase our students’ chances of becoming educated citizens so they can move on to positively impact our communities. But who is responsible for student retention?  In the spirit of shared governance, I argue we are all in this together; we all share a role in gaining traction with improving student retention. As faculty we will see failure with respect to retention if we think “it’s our department advisor’s job,” or “I have better things to do.” 

I believe our role in retention is a natural extension of what we do, who we are, and what our mission is as faculty here at NIU. That’s not to say we just need to continue to do what we have always done – that tactic is but a problem. When I was young, I heard my grandfather comment to his farming friends who lamented that their crops were not doing very well. His comment was, “If you keep doing what you’re doing, you will keep getting what you got.” I believe that advice applies to our roles as faculty with respect to student persistence in their academic pursuits. We must examine our efforts and endeavor to work with our colleagues to put to practice initiatives that will make differences in the lives of our students at NIU.

What might these practices be? First, we must expect students to achieve high standards, but provide them authentic academic and personal support. Several departments have already initiated, or plan to initiate, faculty and peer mentoring programs to facilitate this aspect of student retention. Second, utilize engaged learning strategies in the classroom. We have long known that active learning not only engages students in the learning and application of content, but also engages them with their peers and positively influences student retention (see, for example, the work of Braxton, Milem & Shaw Sullivan, 2000). Third, engage student investigation teams on areas related to your research/artistry agenda. Our undergraduate research initiatives have thrived in recent years on this campus. What a great way to foster student-to-student and student-to-faculty interactions and mitigate feelings of isolation that often lead to student departure from college (Nagda, Gregerman, Jonides, von Hippel & Lerner, 1998). Lastly, model genuine care for the students and show they are valued on our campus. Feeling like a “number” is but a sure way to feel alone and unconnected.

Okay, I’ll stop there with the examples of higher education practices faculty can use to influence retention efforts. Expect, however, for an emphasis to be placed on these and other efforts from faculty and staff alike to positively impact our students – they are, after all, why we are here. 

References
Braxton, J.M., Milem, J.F. & Shaw Sullivan, A. (2000). The influence of active learning on the college student departure process: Toward a revision of Tinto’s theory. Journal of Higher Education, 71(5), 569-590.
Nagda, B.A., Gregerman, S.R., Jonides, J., von Hippel, W. & Lerner, J.S. (1998). Undergraduate student-faculty research partnerships affect student retention. The Review of Higher Education, 22(1), 55-72.

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Need assistance?

Over the past several years, we have learned on Faculty Senate that many faculty members are not aware of the Faculty and SPS Personnel Advisor position. Our Faculty and SPS Personnel Advisor, Dr. Paul Stoddard, is a resource for you! The advisor’s role includes, but is not limited to, advising faculty about personnel policies and procedures, assisting faculty who are experiencing difficulties with the personnel process, and guiding faculty members who are dissatisfied with personnel decisions. Paul can be reached at 815 753-7929 or pstoddard@niu.edu. Visit the Faculty and SPS Personnel Advisor Web page for more information.

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Let's do lunch

Join me and your colleagues throughout the university for the Faculty Club lunches. This is a chance to meet faculty members from other colleges and departments and create a sense of community. The Faculty Club lunches were started by my predecessor, Alan Rosenbaum, in October of last year and were very successful. So let’s continue this tradition and get to know one another over a fantastic meal in a great environment. Here are the details:

  • Monday, Sept. 22, Chandelier Room – Adams Hall
    Menu: “It’s a Wrap” buffet featuring fresh fruit salad; Caesar salad; baked potato chips; California wrap with smoked turkey, bacon, and guacamole; vegetarian Greek-style rice salad wrap; assorted cookie tray, rich chocolate brownies, and beverages.
    Cost: $12, inclusive
    Time: 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., but seating until 1 p.m.
    Reservation deadline: Monday, September 15
  • Tuesday, Oct. 21, Hunt Room of Ellington’s
    Menu: To be posted on Ellington’s website as they are determined.
    Cost: To be determined (but approximately $10)
    Time: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. but seating until 12:30 p.m.
    Reservation deadline: Monday, October 13
  • Thursday, Nov. 20, Hunt Room of Ellington’s
    Menu: To be posted on Ellington’s website as they are determined.
    Cost: To be determined (but approximately $10)
    Time: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. but seating until 12:30 p.m.
    Reservation deadline: Monday, November 10

Lunches in Ellington’s will be limited to 50; those in the Chandelier Room will be capped at 80. As always, you will have to make a reservation in advance by emailing Pat Erickson. Please attend to the reservation deadlines.

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Don't forget to include an accessibility statement in every syllabus

At the Nov. 6, 2013 University Council meeting, a resolution was passed requiring an accessibility statement in every syllabus (APPM, Section III, Item 3, H. Course Syllabus Policy). The accessibility statement for your syllabus can be found at the Disability Resource Center (DRC) website, but it is also here for your convenience:

If you need an accommodation for this class, please contact the Disability Resource Center as soon as possible. The DRC coordinates accommodations for students with disabilities. It is located on the 4th floor of the Health Services Building, and can be reached at 815-753-1303 (V) or drc@niu.edu.

Also, please contact me privately as soon as possible so we can discuss your accommodations. The sooner you let us know your needs, the sooner we can assist you in achieving your learning goals in this course.

You can use this statement or craft your own, but please make sure you convey the following: 1) accommodations are available to students for your class, 2) the DRC coordinates the accommodations for students with disabilities, and 3) students can discuss their accommodations with you in private. 

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I want to hear from you

As your new president of the Faculty Senate I intend to take my role as the “voice of the faculty” seriously. To that end, I want to hear from you. I need to learn about your concerns, challenges, and celebrations. I want to understand what you would like to change here at NIU to make you more effective in your faculty role.

Please take about five minutes to respond to my NIU Faculty Survey and share your thoughts with me. No names are being collected; your information is anonymous. My plan is to collect this information over the next two weeks and then analyze the data. I plan to use the findings to guide initiatives to create constructive change.

You can access the survey by clicking on this link (or copying and pasting this URL into your browser):  https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Faculty-Fall-2014

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Important Links
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Faculty Senate
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Statement of Professional Ethics for Faculty
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