Johns Hopkins University
The Johns Hopkins University has chosen a Selected Topics Model for its Self-Study Report in fulfillment of the requirements for reaffirmation of its accreditation status by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). The topic selected is "The Challenge of Improving Undergraduate Education in a Research Intensive Environment." The report focuses on the five schools of the University that offer undergraduate degrees: the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, the Whiting School of Engineering, the School of Nursing, the Peabody Institute, and the School of Professional Studies in Business and Education.
The University's self-study was directed by an Accreditation Steering Committee whose members were drawn from each of the academic divisions as well as several central offices. The Steering Committee reviewed the proposed self-study design, the timetable, the plans for demonstrating compliance with the MSCHE standards, and, ultimately, this Self-Study Report. The self- study was conducted in two phases, over two years. The first phase of the self-study involved an examination by a forty member Commission on Undergraduate Education (CUE), appointed by President William R. Brody, with student, faculty, trustee, alumni, and staff membership. The Commission's charge was to consider the core values that should characterize a Hopkins education and to develop recommendations for specific actions that would improve the quality of education, both inside and outside the classroom. Through its four working groups, the Commission addressed issues related to the undergraduate academic experience, advising and career support, diversity, and student life. In order to secure the feedback of various University constituencies, the Commission issued its findings and initial proposals in an Interim Report that was widely discussed (and, with the exception of only a couple of controversial proposals, enthusiastically endorsed) in over two dozen campus meetings. With the benefit of that input, the Commission formulated 34 recommendations and issued a Final Report in May 2003.
In the second phase of the study, each of the five schools offering undergraduate programs was charged to assess the strengths and weaknesses of undergraduate education in their divisions in the context of the specific standards articulated by MSCHE. The Steering Committee selected seven standards as being particularly relevant to undergraduate education:
Standard 1: Mission, Goals, and ObjectivesConsistent with the requirements of the MSCHE and the provisions for the Selected Topics Model, a separate process was designed to facilitate the review of documentation from across the University that would establish compliance with all fourteen standards for the graduate and professional schools and, for the schools with undergraduate programs, with the seven standards not addressed in the Self-Study Report.
For the second phase of activity, the five selected schools were to consider not only the MSCHE standards and to assess their programs and services against those elements, but also to reflect more broadly on the extent to which they have been responsive to the recommendations of the Commission on Undergraduate Education. To monitor implementation of the CUE recommendations, a "tracking chart" has been developed and periodically updated since CUE completed its report last spring. Accountability has been further maintained by reconvening the Commission to review the implementation status of its recommendations and by continuing to bring together the five deans of the schools with undergraduate programs.
More broadly, the self-study process has helped to sustain a focus on undergraduate education across the University and to continue the forward momentum. Progress in implementing CUE recommendations has been heartening, as there is movement on virtually every front, and signs of the effects of change are evident in strong admissions yields and our perception of enhanced morale (a perception that will be tested in the next administration of Student Satisfaction Surveys this spring). At the risk of overgeneralization, a summary assessment of the health of undergraduate education at Hopkins across all five schools against the template of the seven standards would include the following observations:
There is strong commitment to the University's distinctive mission, to the objectives articulated by CUE for undergraduate education, and to the specific charges for each school's undergraduate programs.
The admissions position is robust at each of the schools. Generally, application numbers are strong; the quality of applicants is excellent; and the yield on admitted students high. Financial aid budgets are constrained in each program, but fundraising for student aid remains a high campaign priority. It is especially important that the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences and the Whiting School identify endowment funds that will allow the continuation of competitive financial aid packages and merit programs.
As a result of aggressive recruitment, student bodies have grown more diverse in racial, ethnic, and international terms, but there still is significant room for improvement.
Each school offers a range of effective student support services staffed by qualified professionals who are oriented toward student development. Some services need additional staff, and a few need to focus more heavily on customer service and/or communication.
While all Hopkins divisions share a need for larger numbers of faculty, the current faculty reflects a level of academic excellence and a thoroughgoing dedication to original research, scholarship, and creative endeavor that is the hallmark of the University. However, the Hopkins faculty lacks a sufficient element of diversity, particularly with regard to underrepresented minorities, and efforts must be redoubled to address this weakness.
The University offers a rich array of rigorous academic programs for undergraduates. Students benefit as well from an exceptionally wide range of educational opportunities outside the classroom, including the ability to become engaged in serious research, the chance to demonstrate civic concern through volunteerism or to take advantage of study abroad programs, and plentiful occasions to interact with national and international leaders. The schools are committed to serious evaluation of teaching. They must work to identify the best instruments and processes for measuring effectiveness and the proper weight to accord teaching in promotion and tenure decisions. One division has a more fundamental challenge to develop a consensus among faculty about its importance.
While the schools differ in their approaches to general education, mechanisms are in place to assure educational breadth and the development of critical thinking, human relations, and oral communication skills. Partnerships with first-rate library professionals contribute in important ways to information literacy.
A discipline of assessment and analysis has been established in a number of areas across the University, including benchmarking in the areas of competitive position, professional best practices, quality of services, and student satisfaction. The impressive success of Hopkins graduates, in terms of graduate and professional school placement and attaining places of leadership, remains the main evidence of learning outcomes. With the creation of an Office of Institutional Research, and initial steps to build appropriate databases to support assessment, the University must now construct more systematic approaches to evaluating outcomes.
The decision to focus our decennial accreditation self-study on improving the undergraduate experience in the research intensive environment of Johns Hopkins University has proved to be wise. Building on very strong foundations, we have enhanced undergraduate education in significant ways and created considerable momentum toward a goal of making Johns Hopkins a model for advancing knowledge and for demonstrating "Characteristics of Excellence" in all respects.
Go to Middle States Commission on Higher Education Self-Study Report
Go to Johns Hopkins University Reports
Go to JHUniverse
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