WORKING DRAFT #5
April 4, 3:00 pm
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The University of Nebraska at Kearney is a public, residential university that is committed to be one of the nation's premier undergraduate institutions with excellent graduate education, research and public service.
The University of Nebraska at Kearney will achieve national distinction for a high quality, multidimensional learning environment, engagement with community and public interests, and preparation of students to lead responsible and productive lives in a democratic, multicultural society.
Key to such improvement will be: clear focus on mission imperatives, fidelity to historic core values, and continuous and rigorous self-appraisal or assessment of outcomes.
We understand the following commitments to be central to the mission of an exemplary institution of our kind.
A public university must serve its state in at least the following ways.
- It must meet citizens' educational and personal or career growth needs.
- It must contribute to broad developmental objectives of the state.
- It must be accountable to citizens and other stakeholders for the quality of its work and for good stewardship of its resources.
- It must deploy research, service, and outreach activities that apply university expertise to public needs not only within but also, where appropriate, outside of the state.
- Its curriculum, pedagogy, and activities must be informed by the larger society of which the state is a part. Its intellectual and programmatic horizons encompass regional, national and world environments and incorporate the values and objectives of academic disciplines.
A residential university provides an inclusive, integrated academic living/learning community in which structured and unstructured modes of association outside of class both support academic achievement and help to foster in each individual the attitudes and skills essential to responsible life in society. Student development and learning through interaction with others, on- and off-campus, and in varied leadership and service opportunities is a hallmark of education at such institutions. So are modern, well-maintained, and secure living/dining accommodations, recreational facilities, and campus grounds, although these provide only the bare infrastructure, not the core dynamics, of a Residential University. At such an institution the "residential" community is constructed and operated to benefit all individuals including those who may live off-campus. Residential universities are also fully conscious of the formative influence of their geographic location, and they incorporate the advantages of their surroundings into instructional and developmental strategies for students.
An undergraduate institution must have the following attributes:
- A holistic concept of student development manifested in a comprehensive academic curriculum and a wide array of personal growth opportunities outside the classroom and both on- and off-campus.
- A commitment to student learning, evidenced by an emphasis on exemplary teaching by fully-credentialed and active scholars and plentiful opportunities for students to engage in research with their professors.
- A curriculum that provides solid grounding for all students in the liberal arts while also enabling them to specialize and to prepare for careers.
- High quality academic programs that attract top students and draw faculty from learning centers of scholarship nationwide.
- A faculty/student/staff community whose diversity -- ethnic, experiential, geographic, intellectual, etc. -- is itself an educational resource.
- A lively and intentional "informal curriculum" featuring activities and organizations that are designed to enable students to pursue special interests, to develop a sense of responsibility to lead and to serve, and to acquire skills enhancing interpersonal effectiveness.
- Student services that foster academic success, satisfaction with and involvement in campus life, and progress toward graduation.
- A modern instructional and information technology infrastructure that makes academic offerings available to both on-campus and off-campus learners.
- Mechanisms to assess student learning and to adjust plans, programs, and budgets in light of that appraisal.
In this context, graduate programs:
- grow from areas of undergraduate strength, and are therefore qualitatively select;
- respond to public need/demand;
- are complementary to and synergistic with the undergraduate curriculum, and are subject to similar assessment imperatives, and
- are essential to the identity and mission of the institution.
Finally, in a university that values research, faculty are actively engaged in research, scholarship and creative activity of professional quality that directly advances academic disciplines and, where appropriate, directly addresses the needs of the state, region, and nation. Such activities, moreover, are understood to be intrinsic ingredients of good teaching. They enrich the curriculum, provide individualized intellectual growth opportunities for faculty and students, prepare students for advanced and continuing study, involve them in experiential learning opportunities, exemplify the commitment to lifelong learning, and engage faculty in work that advances individual disciplines and community/societal interests. While individual faculty research interests and activity at UNK may range widely, the institution places particular value on scholarship and creative activity that involves students, enhances instruction, aids faculty professional development, and contributes to community welfare.
Historically at UNK, the animating principles and ideals of institutional development have placed commitments to learning and to people above all others.
Democratic society needs an educated citizenry of lifelong learners who are aware, collectively, of the accomplishments of diverse civilizations and cultures, the historical context of current affairs, and the ways in which our society seeks to discern and serve a common, unifying public interest. Individual citizens, if they are to lead satisfying and productive lives in society, need to develop not only career skills but also such personal and intellectual qualities as integrity, respect for others, initiative, diligence, and capacities for clear thinking, writing, and speaking. It is the university's role to meet these needs, both within and outside of classrooms and laboratories.
UNK's learning environment is student-centered and reaches both on- and off-campus to build an active community of scholars. It:
- is grounded in principles of academic freedom and academic responsibility;
- centers on personalized, individualized teaching-learning relationships between faculty and students, with facilities, faculty capabilities and workloads, class sizes, and out-of-class activities that support and encourage those interactions;
- is designed to foster students' success in their academic programs and achievement of their academic goals;
- is structured to provide personal growth opportunities in student life, activities and government;
- values civility, celebrates learning and accomplishment, and offers full opportunity for every individual to realize his or her potential.
At UNK, faculty -- who are the heart of the university -- have always been devoted to serving students and others in the larger community who can benefit from their scholarship and creative expertise and activity. Administrators and staff have always been devoted to serving faculty and students and to meeting the public's educational needs. Students have always prized the opportunity to live and learn together in this unique academic community at the most formative time in their lives. UNK has no institutional life apart from these networks of dedication, interaction, and mutual support. The people who generate these dynamics are UNK's greatest strength -- indeed they are UNK.
For these reasons, as we plan for the future:
- It matters -- and will always matter -- whether students are satisfied and succeed at UNK.
- It matters -- and will always matter -- whether faculty have the wherewithal to engage productively with individual students and with community interests.
- It matters -- and will always matter -- whether staff employees have the requisite capabilities to serve students and faculty.
- It matters -- and will always matter -- whether our community and state are better off because of the work of the people at UNK.
We will graduate persons who know the accomplishments of civilizations, who value disciplined thought, and who are prepared for productive careers, further education, and responsible citizenship.
We will advance state and community interests by applying university educational programs and other expertise to meet public needs.
We will be known nationally as among the best universities of our kind.
Accordingly, UNK strategy, plans, decisions, operational and academic assessment processes, and resource allocations should seek to produce the following results.
- A higher proportion of academic programs that are demonstrably first-rate among comparator institutions.
- A larger body of research, scholarship, and creative activity that is influential in academic disciplines and in our community, state, nation, and world.
- A record of service to the public by the faculty that is noteworthy and responsive to the needs of the citizens of Nebraska.
- A student body, staff, and faculty whose composition reflects, at least, the multicultural composition of the state at large.
- Continuous renewal of the academic, residential, and recreational/campus life infrastructure.
- More extensive financial support from private sources.
- More numerous and broader operating partnerships of mutual benefit and support with off-campus communities both inside and outside of Nebraska.
- Student enrollment that remains at least at current numerical levels with improved qualitative indicators.
- Student retention, graduation, and advanced study placement rates comparable to those achieved by exemplary similar institutions.
- A public and professional perception of UNK that centers on excellence.
SPC -- Working Draft 5