February 14, 2011

University College at SIUC gains approval

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees’ Executive Committee today (Feb. 14) authorized the creation of a University College at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

The full board will be asked to ratify the Executive Committee’s action at its next regular meeting in April.

By centralizing and coordinating all services supporting new freshman and transfer students, the University College will improve the campus experience for these students.

Creation of a University College model is based on recommendations from the Foundations of Excellence/SIUC First Year Task Force. Three units will comprise University College: University Core Curriculum, the University Honors, and Saluki First Year, which includes New Student Programs, Pre-Major Advisement, the Center for Academic Success, Student Support Services, Supplemental Instruction, Career Services, and the Suder First Scholars Program.

“While we already have many excellent programs and offices in place that support our new students, the University College will enhance the effectiveness of these programs and significantly broaden the number of students who will benefit from these services,” Chancellor Rita Cheng said.

The idea for a University College at SIUC goes back to 1999. That year’s self-study, completed as part of the University’s re-accreditation process, promised the creation of a comprehensive first-year experience program by the time of the next accreditation review. In 2004, a campus committee investigated the need for such a program, as did a subsequent study in 2007.

The newest effort stems from the 2008 decision to join the Foundations of Excellence project. A campus-wide study involving approximately 90 faculty, staff and students led to the establishment of Saluki First Year, a first-year success program, as a precursor to establishment of a University College.

Mark Amos, associate professor of English, and Julie Payne-Kirchmeier, director of University Housing, led the First Year Experience task force, and serve as academic director and student affairs director, respectively, of Saluki First Year, and remain involved in the implementation of University College.

“SIUC admits only students we believe have the potential to succeed, and so we are obligated to help our students get oriented to campus, map out a pathway to their goals, and to support them along that path, especially early on,” Amos said. “The University College model allows the University to align the structures, programs and functions that impact our students early on so that they have the best chance of excelling academically and becoming a member of the campus community. The programs in the University College share the lofty goal of providing our students with the tools and support they need to become successful scholars and informed citizens.”

“We began as co-liaisons of the Foundations of Excellence Self-Study Process when it began in 2008,” Payne-Kirchmeier said. “We continue to stay with this program because we believe in its philosophy of student support and learning. Having a coordinated, purposeful and comprehensive program like the University College shows a true commitment by SIUC to our students and their long-term success. A successful first year helps students identify resources, establish a positive support network, develop coping skills, and create for themselves a solid academic foundation -- all of which increase a student’s belief that he or she can succeed in college. A predictable byproduct of these things is an increase in retention.”

Students admitted to SIUC after the implementation of the University College structure will still enter the college that is home to their majors, if they have declared a major, and that is where they will continue to go for their academic advisement. However, those students who have not declared a major will find a home in University College. In addition, all first-year students will benefit from the coordination of and better communication among the services and programs pertaining to new students.

New programs and services slated for the fall 2011 semester pertaining to implementation of University College and Saluki First Year include testing all incoming students for placement into the appropriate mathematics courses, and broadening the scope of the early intervention system. Co-curricular events will deliver programming similar to a Common Reader program, and, perhaps most pervasively, the offerings of “Foundations of Inquiry,” the college-specific student success courses, will expand.