Johns Hopkins University
The decennial reaccreditation for Johns Hopkins University has been used as an occasion to take stock of the University's undergraduate programs and to consider "The Challenge of Improving Undergraduate Education in a Research Intensive Environment." We welcome the flexible approach to self-study afforded by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education's new provisions in its Designs for Excellence and, consequently, our ability to choose a Selected Topics Model. By using the opportunity of the reaccreditation self-study to direct concerted attention to the undergraduate experience, we think we not only have fulfilled the University's formal obligations for reaffirmation of accreditation, but also have improved Johns Hopkins. The completion of our official responsibilities to the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) does not mean that the initiative we have undertaken in fulfillment of our obligation will cease. In fact, the initiative that has been set in motion reflects a long-term commitment, one that involves cultural change and institutional transformation. It is in that spirit that the following Self- Study Report is submitted to the MSCHE.
Among American colleges and universities, Johns Hopkins' origins are unique. In contrast to private universities that developed around a core liberal arts college, Hopkins was established for advanced study with an express purpose to encourage research and discovery, and thereby to improve society. The University maintains the commitment to advancing knowledge through discovery and integrates that tradition into its undergraduate, graduate, and professional education programs. Hopkins' first president, Daniel Coit Gilman, so eloquently laid out the University's charge that, for more than 125 years, his vision has been the touchstone for the University's development and his language, in various addresses including his inaugural speech, the most compelling articulation of institutional mission. The occasion of the current decennial reaccreditation process has provided an opportunity to reflect on our institutional mission and to formulate the following statement, more succinct than Gilman's artful declarations, but equally true to our heritage and to our sense of our future:
The mission of the Johns Hopkins University is to foster independent and original research, to educate its students and cultivate their capacity for lifelong learning, and to bring the benefits of discovery to the world.The mission statement has recently been the subject of discussion by the Council of Deans and the Committee on Academic Affairs of the University's Board of Trustees and will be formally presented to the Board at its March 2004 meeting. Once adopted, it will be published in the requisite places, although it is quite likely that President Gilman's voice will continue to echo through future Johns Hopkins ages.
The University has grown to include nine divisions, including eight degree-granting schools and an Applied Physics Laboratory. Within the context of our institutional mission and highly decentralized university structure, each of the nine divisions also has articulated its specific charge and has determined how best to fulfill its particular mission. While not a formal part of the self-study design, the graduate and professional programs of the Johns Hopkins' School of Medicine, the Bloomberg School of Public Health, and the Paul H. Nitze School for Advanced International Studies (SAIS) are significant resources for students across all the academic divisions; the original research and advanced study undertaken in each contribute to Hopkins' rich learning environment. The special focus of the present self-study is the five schools that offer undergraduate degrees: the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, the Whiting School of Engineering, the Peabody Institute, the School of Nursing, and the School of Professional Studies in Business and Education. While they have distinct assignments, a common objective is academic excellence and academic leadership in each of their fields of endeavor. Underlying the academic programs is a strong belief that discovery, creativity, and learning are integrally linked processes and that research and teaching are complementary activities. The part-time programs in the School of Professional Studies in Business and Education reflect a variation on this theme by demonstrating that teaching and expert practice are equally complementary.
As confirmed in the University's previous accreditation evaluations, Johns Hopkins demonstrates a commitment to excellence and a dedication to very high standards. The decision to focus on undergraduate education as the lens through which to view the University for purposes of this reaccreditation visit has as its rationale several factors. The most important is a frank recognition that, notwithstanding extraordinary strengths in many areas, there are aspects of the undergraduate program that should be strengthened to reflect the same quality that distinguishes the University in other realms.
There have been two major phases of our institutional self- study. The first phase began in January 2002 when, in recognition of both the practical necessity of initiating Hopkins' self-study process and the timeliness of a thorough study of the undergraduate experience, President William Brody appointed a Commission on Undergraduate Education (CUE). He and Provost Steven Knapp charged the Commission to develop recommendations for specific actions that would improve the quality of the undergraduate experience in all five of the University divisions that offer undergraduate degrees. During the twelve months of 2002, the Commission and its four working groups conducted a review of key aspects of undergraduate education in order to assess the current state of affairs and to formulate proposals for reforms. The Commissioners reviewed relevant reports from peer institutions and national associations, examined undergraduate survey data, spoke with key campus faculty and administrators, met with external consultants, and conducted focus groups. The resulting Interim Report, produced and distributed in late January 2003, outlined a large number of specific recommendations.
As important as the substantive recommendations of the Commission are, the extensive series of presentations about the interim CUE proposals to almost every significant campus constituency in the five schools, approximately two dozen in number, provided an opportunity to engage faculty, students, administrators, parents, alumni, and trustees broadly in the conversation, and to strengthen constituent support for undergraduate education. After consideration of all the comments and suggestions from those who attended the meetings and feedback from those who sent messages to a special e-mailbox, a Final Report was created, endorsed by the full Commission, and sent to President Brody and Provost Knapp.
At the outset, it should be noted that the initial approach embraced by the Commission on Undergraduate Education stands in contrast to the "bottoms up" strategy traditionally employed in University initiatives at Johns Hopkins. The decision to engage at the University-level in a conversation across the five divisions proved to be a constructive one that prompted productive discussion and good ideas. It has helped to create a University-wide commitment to undergraduate education and to maintain the sense of accountability for implementation of the CUE recommendations. There were intrinsic benefits as well, in opportunities for enhanced understanding, strengthened ties among the schools, and the members' personal pleasure at working with colleagues from other campuses of whom too little is sometimes seen and known. In its Final Report, the Commission asserted the belief that the mission of Johns Hopkins University with respect to undergraduate education is to prepare students to be informed and engaged global citizens. Undergraduates in all programs should be challenged to hone critical thinking skills and to develop their creativity. Those preparing for advanced study or the professions should achieve mastery of their disciplines. Graduates should be ready to engage in a lifetime of learning related both to their chosen career and to their personal interests.
In the Commission's view, the University fulfills that mission to great extent. Hopkins students are offered a wide array of outstanding academic programs. Students who anticipate later graduate or professional study are prepared exceedingly well; those who enter the professions directly demonstrate high levels of professional competence. Moreover, undergraduate education takes place in a stimulating environment that is culturally diverse and rich in its international dimensions. Particularly large numbers of Hopkins students are, like their faculty mentors, engaged in the process of research and discovery, and in the case of SPSBE, expert practice.
Notwithstanding the many positive aspects of our undergraduate programs, students' levels of satisfaction with both their academic and social experiences at Johns Hopkins were found to be lower than what we regard as acceptable; they do not reflect the educational experience that the University can and should provide. Too many students graduate disappointed in not having more interaction with faculty and in the quality of life outside the classroom, where we believe learning also occurs. Perhaps the most sobering finding was how acutely many students felt an absence of a sense of community that might be expected in a small university the size of Johns Hopkins. Without a strong and healthy co-curricular life to bring such excellent students together, we were concerned that the undergraduate experience does not realize its full educational potential. Johns Hopkins is an institution that accepts excellence as a threshold criterion for any undertaking. Since we expect to be competitive for the very best faculty and students and we expect to engage in world-class research, our goal should be to offer the very best quality undergraduate experience.
To meet this goal, the Commission identified work to be done and needs to be addressed. The single most important undergraduate need at Johns Hopkins is to strengthen the sense of community. The second is the need for better integration of the elements of the undergraduate experience and for a healthier sense of balance. A third need around which many of the CUE recommendations cohere is the need for undergraduate education at Hopkins to be more personal. There also is a need to reconcile the gap between the perception of others not caring and the reality that many do indeed feel passionately about the satisfaction and success of undergraduates. And, finally, the need to be more intentional about undergraduate education is a fifth need and the focus of many of the Commission's recommendations.
Since the first phase of the self-study is detailed in the report of the Commission on Undergraduate Education which appears as Part II of this self-study document, there is little need to rehearse the complete findings and recommendations here. By way of summary, the Commission's 34 recommendations cover four broad areas of undergraduate life at Johns Hopkins: the academic experience, advising and career support, diversity, and student life. Not all the recommendations are equally important in the context of each of the different divisions. The Commission identified several that should be given priority because of their potential to enhance significantly undergraduate education in this research intensive environment. These are: the provision of small group or "capstone" experiences for upperclassmen; guaranteed University housing for Homewood students; and a significant increase in the diversity of the undergraduate student body. The Commission urged the five schools to develop plans to implement all its recommendations and to identify resources to support them.
And, indeed, that is what the schools are doing, as will be evident in the assessments offered in the school Self-Study Reports. Further, in order to ensure that the Commission report did not become simply another document gathering dust on the shelf, a "tracking" system was developed to record the status of implementation of the Commission's recommendations in each division. Given the decentralized nature of the University, the responsibility for implementation of many proposals rests with the administration and faculties of the schools. Thus, on most recommendations, there is not one status, but rather five. Notwithstanding this cumbersome aspect, we have continued to update the CUE Tracking Chart, and a copy appears as Appendix 1.
Equally important in continuing the forward momentum, near the end of this past fall semester, the Commission on Undergraduate Education was reconvened to hear a report on progress. A similar update will be provided to the Commission in the spring. The deans of the five divisions with undergraduate programs also plan to continue to meet each semester to sustain their collective consideration of progress and ways in which the schools can support one another's efforts.
Since the Commission issued its Final Report last May, significant progress has been made in implementing recommendations to improve the undergraduate experience. Indeed, even before the report was published, implementation of several of the interim recommendations began. While the Self-Study Reports in Part III of this document will evaluate progress in the schools, it is worth highlighting some of the most important actions that have moved this agenda forward.
The infrastructure for addressing undergraduate concerns has been strengthened with formal responsibility identified in the schools and departments. Numerous aspects of the academic programs are being reviewed, and plans have been developed to conduct more comprehensive assessments of undergraduate majors in several divisions. Specific initiatives to develop curricular innovations in small group formats and to create or strengthen capstone experiences have been undertaken in some departments, and others will be encouraged through departmental reviews. In an ongoing conversation with faculty councils in several divisions, attention is being focused on the means for recognizing teaching excellence and the weight that should be given to teaching commitment and quality in appointment and promotion decisions. The proper way to evaluate teaching is the source of substantial discussion on several campuses. At Homewood, a consultant has been engaged to strengthen the course evaluation process and instrument for Engineering and Arts and Sciences courses; new procedures are to be implemented by the next academic year. The Peabody Conservatory faculty are continuing to consider what kind of evaluation is appropriate given the special relationship between music students and their primary faculty mentors. SPSBE has implemented a faculty development initiative focused on the assessment of student learning outcomes.
A priority recommendation from the Commission on Undergraduate Education involved the development of additional residential options for students on the Homewood campus. Even as CUE was completing its work, initial planning was begun on a major project just across from the campus that, when completed, will provide about 615 residence hall beds for upperclassmen as well as dining and amenity space for additional students who live off campus. If final pro formas establish that the project can be undertaken, the Charles Commons will be a significant boon for the undergraduate residential experience. It can help to create an upper-class residential precinct that will build community and be a healthy complement to the freshman quadrangle anticipated on the campus proper. Consideration is now being given to engaging an architect to help complete a schematic design for the additional freshman housing. There is a consensus among the Homewood deans and student affairs officers that the ability to offer first-year students a common and traditional residential experience would go a long way toward creating a stronger sense of community among Hopkins students.
Although budgetary considerations constrain ambition, there are plans in most of the schools for new or refurbished facilities for teaching. Architectural consultants have been engaged to plan for a new wing of the School of Nursing that might provide classroom, laboratory, faculty office, and student space to relieve crowded conditions in a building that has been outgrown in record time, due to the success of its programs. Peabody has created exciting new space and remodeled some existing facilities in what is a welcome facelift for the Institute. At Homewood, a major planning exercise is focused on the "South Quadrangle," formed by Garland and Clark halls, where it is hoped that a new computer science building and a Visitor's Center can be developed, along with badly needed parking facilities. Another high priority and significant Homewood campus project involves the renovation of the home for the humanities departments, Gilman Hall. This renovation would not only enhance the physical space and eliminate troublesome heating and cooling issues, but also send a strong signal about the importance of the humanities disciplines. It would serve as well to strengthen the sense of community among students and faculty in the humanities. General classroom renovation needs on the Homewood campus also have been assessed, and it is hoped that work could begin soon on at least the first phase of a multi-year project. SPSBE already enjoys excellent remote classroom facilities that include informal study and gathering spaces, smart classrooms, and state-of-the-art technology labs.
No mention of the physical environment for undergraduate education would be complete without acknowledging the transformative gift that has allowed a major re-landscaping of the Homewood campus and the creation of attractive brick walks, plazas, and sitting areas that have dramatically approved the appearance — and morale — of those who live and work there. It is anticipated that, when complete, the facility enhancements at Peabody will prove equally salutary.
The only concern with regard to the Homewood campus refurbishment is that there is such a severe shortage of space where students can engage in informal play. Notwithstanding the severe land constraints, it is hoped that planning for a freshman quadrangle will allow the re-introduction of some areas where volleyball and frisbee can be enjoyed by the more energetic, without damaging the aesthetics that the rest of the campus community has come so thoroughly to enjoy.
Across each of the schools, as CUE urged, there is increased attention to academic integrity beginning with pre-orientation activities, continuing with freshman week programs, and sustained attention during the academic year. A task force has made a series of recommendations for strengthening academic integrity at Homewood, and these are being implemented with support from the faculty and administration. The School of Professional Studies in Business and Education is exploring an online tutorial on plagiarism and cheating that may serve as a model for education efforts in other schools. The School of Nursing also has a task force considering a new Honor Code and an academic integrity policy that would involve the formation of an Ethics Board.
The uneven distribution of students among the majors in Engineering and Arts and Sciences has been a source of concern to the Deans of both Homewood Schools. The admissions office has developed several programs to highlight academic programs with lower enrollments than can be supported by faculty resources, and recruitment initiatives are being targeted at these areas. Faculty have been called on to support these efforts, and the response is encouraging, although it will require a multi- faceted approach and sustained effort to convince prospective students that not everyone who comes to Hopkins has to study biomedical engineering or biology.
While minority student recruitment efforts have been strengthened and the results at Homewood and in the School of Nursing have been positive, and somewhat so at Peabody, there is room for further progress. More focused recruitment efforts are in place in several schools. Guidelines have been established for a Baltimore Scholars Program that would provide scholarship support for graduates of Baltimore City public schools, and an announcement of this program is anticipated this spring. By that time, it also is hoped that several other outreach and pipeline programs under discussion will be launched so that even students who may not be good candidates for Johns Hopkins will be encouraged in their aspirations for higher education. Less progress has been made on increasing faculty diversity across the schools, and this remains an ongoing challenge and one to which the University is giving serious attention. One major initiative is the creation of Presidential Professorships that will allow schools to hire a distinguished faculty member even in the absence of a faculty line.
The weekly course schedule for the Krieger and Whiting Schools emerged as a source of special concern during the CUE study. Of all the recommendations, the one for change in this area provoked the most vigorous negative response from some students but especially from Arts and Sciences faculty, many of whom see great merit in the present system. After a semester cooling down period, a committee of faculty, staff, and students has been appointed to explore alternatives. A report is anticipated by the end of the spring semester.
As detailed in the CUE Tracking Chart, there is other news to report, but what should be noted here as being equal in importance to the progress on implementing CUE recommendations is the effect that the Commission and its report have had on the tenor of the University. As a faculty member of CUE recently observed, undergraduate education is now part of the conversation in every important venue, to an extent not previously entertained at Johns Hopkins University. The University remains firm in its distinctive commitment to research and discovery, but it is now established that the effect of decisions on the quality of the undergraduate experience should routinely be considered. CUE has become part of the campus vocabulary, and there is a new appreciation for the richness and diversity of the undergraduate programs across the University.
Against the back-drop of the priorities that emerged from the CUE study and report, the second phase of the self-study has involved a division-specific examination of strengths and weaknesses as measured against a subset of seven of the fourteen standards stipulated by the MSCHE. We identified as particularly germane to undergraduate education the following seven standards:
Standard 1: Mission,
Goals, and Objectives
Standard 8: Student
Standard 9: Student
Standard 11: Educational
Standard 12: General
Standard 14: Assessment
of Student Learning
This second part of the process bears more of the usual marks of a Johns Hopkins University exercise: recognition of divisional differences and the importance of school autonomy and entrepreneurial activity. Each school was asked to undertake its self-study in the context of its specific mission and with the input of its relevant campus governing councils. Instructed to address each of the seven standards, the divisions also were invited to emphasize those aspects that seem particularly important to their schools.
It is the University's own assessment that, across the five divisions, Johns Hopkins essentially fulfills the standards required for compliance and certification as an accredited institution. This does not mean that there are no areas for improvement. Indeed, as we expect is the case with all complex institutions, and, in particular, with faculty driven research universities that foster an entrepreneurial environment, there is an inherent difficulty in imposing any standard other than excellence.
Primary considerations, and ones that Johns Hopkins takes as absolutely fundamental to its mission, are the quality of its faculties and its educational offerings. Across all five schools awarding undergraduate degrees, the quality of the faculty is of paramount importance, and each school maintains faculty quality as critical to fulfilling its missions of advancing knowledge, educating students, and serving society. Hopkins' academic programs are designed to accommodate the educational interests of students who tend to be more goal-oriented and focused than many of their peers. Nonetheless, it is important to note the considerable variation in core and general educational requirements among these divisions. In the professional schools, the School of Nursing and the Peabody Institute, the existence and complexity of core requirements derive from the professions themselves. Moreover, the demands of professional training in these respective fields of music and nursing dictate a style of education that gives heavy emphasis to individual instruction in the former and mentoring in small group settings in the latter. The School of Professional Studies in Business and Education accommodates the needs of professional, goal-oriented, and focused adult students.
For 90% of our undergraduates who obtain their degrees in the two largest Homewood Schools, the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences and the Whiting School of Engineering, the historical and cultural norm for study has been a variation on the model for graduate study that has been called locally "the hand tooled education." This concept derives from the original German research university model of mentoring in a graduate environment. At Johns Hopkins, its undergraduate iteration is found in the greater ability of many students to customize educational pathways. This translates to three characteristics: (1) freedom of choice of curriculum without core requirements- based on a belief in the ability of the independent and highly motivated students we attract to participate significantly in shaping their own academic programs and the premise that, with the help of faculty advisors, students will select a broad program if given a rich array of opportunities; (2) frequent opportunities for mentored learning in original and independent undergraduate research; and (3) small group learning in graduate style seminars.
The system has its advantages. It appeals especially to the goal-oriented and focused student whose further academic ambitions include graduate or professional school. Superb preprofessional education has long been a primary objective for Arts and Sciences and Engineering students, and it is one that appears to be fulfilled in the case of a substantial number of them. However, the commitment to meeting that objective has, in some cases, caused a proliferation of departmental requirements that end up potentially compromising the very freedom that the system had been designed to ensure. The Krieger School of Arts and Sciences continues to address this tension between the strongly preprofessional (particularly pre-medical) interests of a large percentage of the undergraduate student body and the concerns of those faculty and administrators who think students would be better served by more intellectual exploration and broader academic experiences.
While significant investments have been made in amenities for students over the past decade, we know from the CUE study that Johns Hopkins must further improve the quality of life outside the classroom for undergraduate students - not just for the sake of being more competitive in attracting students to the University, but, more importantly, to ensure that students receive the maximum educational benefits that can be derived from their time here as undergraduates. The adequacy of both the facilities and the human infrastructure to support undergraduates in such areas as residential life and academic and career advising was considered by the Commission on Undergraduate Education, and each of the schools speaks to the quality of its student services in its Self-Study Report.
A key area in which our efforts are at an early stage is that of student learning assessment, an exercise that faculty members take as a given in their regular appraisal of student work. Historically, at Johns Hopkins, we have judged the quality of our endeavors by the success of our graduates. The preparation that students achieve for the pursuit of graduate or professional education is, we believe, superior, and the feedback from those who are in a position to judge the extent to which Hopkins has prepared its students for lifelong learning gives testimony to that effect. Yet, we know that we can be more systematic about collecting these data and subjecting them to critical analysis, and we have taken action to position the University to pursue this endeavor by developing the supportive institutional resources. We need to invest additional effort to develop and employ instruments that will allow us to know with more precision how well our graduates are prepared.
Those assessment mechanisms that are in place in the divisions have contributed to significant change. The power of both quantitative data and qualitative evaluations from student surveys has been demonstrated in the formation of CUE recommendations and school initiatives to enhance the undergraduate experience. And, we are increasingly seeing evidence of administrative units adopting the discipline of assessment in their own work, through benchmarking, comparative analysis, goal-setting, and critical review against professional standards.
In order to show compliance with all fourteen standards as required by the MSCHE, a third major activity was conducted in parallel to the school self-studies. This process involved the identification of existing documentation to show that the graduate and professional divisions of Johns Hopkins complied with all fourteen standards and that the schools with undergraduate programs could document that they met the seven standards that were not included in this Self-Study Report. This proved to be a significant activity involving staff from many units across the University who were asked to identify those reports, publications, studies, surveys, and analyses that would show that the University had in place the policies, procedures, and structures to demonstrate qualification as an accredited institution. Such an exercise at a highly decentralized university such as Johns Hopkins was a particularly challenging and cumbersome task since, with respect to demonstrating compliance with even those fundamental elements, there is generally not one sample document for the University, but rather one for each school. To take but one example, each school has its own faculty handbook.
The documents were listed in a "roadmap" that linked each document to one or more standards and served as a guide during the preliminary site visit by two members of the evaluation team who conducted a review of the document files to determine compliance with the standards. Over 900 documents, including websites, were cataloged.
Those documents most relevant to undergraduate education, and the seven specially selected standards, have been organized into several document resource files to support the Self-Study Reports of each of the schools and will be made available to the Evaluation Team. Lists of the contents of each resource file can be found in Appendix 4.
A few words are in order about the organization of the accreditation process at the University. Guiding all of this activity has been a University Accreditation Steering Committee (ASC) with representation from each of Hopkins' eight schools, as well as several members representing central services and functions, such as the library, equal opportunity and affirmative action programs, the budget office, and the Provost's Office. (See Appendix 3 for a listing of ASC members.) A breadth of perspective, range of experience, and sense of University citizenship has been reflected in the Committee's discussions, and the process has been thus enriched. In addition to its oversight of the process, the Steering Committee also had the responsibility for reviewing and approving the draft Self- Study Report. The Provost's Office provided the support for the accreditation process and made appropriate staff available.
Each of the five schools with undergraduate programs was asked to appoint a Working Group Chair to organize its self-study and to solicit input from the various school constituencies. Two of our schools, the School of Nursing and the Peabody Institute, have undergone reaccreditation reviews by their professional accrediting bodies during the course of the University's MSCHE reaccreditation process. In fact, the School of Nursing actually had visits from two accrediting bodies, the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) within a year. Consistent with the provisions of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, Nursing and Peabody were invited to draw upon the self-study documents prepared for their professional association reviews.
Several times during the course of this process, the Working Group Chairs were convened to discuss the preparation of the Self-Study Reports. They formed, in essence, a matrix organization that helped maintain some symmetry in the process of "drilling down" in each of the schools. These individuals also are those within the schools who bear important responsibility for undergraduate education.
There is no doubt among those involved in the preparation of this self-study that Johns Hopkins has enhanced its undergraduate programs as a result of this endeavor and, further, that the University will maintain its forward momentum on this important dimension of its institutional mission. Our work is far from finished. On the other hand, we have set in motion a large number of initiatives (perhaps too many!), and it will take some time to see them to fruition and, importantly, to evaluate their success.
We have undertaken an examination of "The Challenge of Improving Undergraduate Education in a Research Intensive Environment." One hopes that, were he here to see it, Daniel Coit Gilman would feel that his legacy at Johns Hopkins is well-served by the efforts encouraged through the decennial MSCHE's accreditation process.
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