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Comprehensive Standard 3.1.1
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Compliance Certification Report
Comprehensive Standards 3.3.1

Last Updated August 31, 2004
(static edition)

Comprehensive Standards 3.3.1:

The institution identifies expected outcomes for its educational programs and its administrative and educational support services; assesses whether it achieves these outcomes; and provides evidence of improvement based on analysis of those results.

The Institution Certifies Compliance: Yes

Compliance report completed by: Audit Team 14

Statement of Rationale for Judgment of Compliance:

The cornerstone of institutional effectiveness at the University of Memphis is the Strategic Plan. [1] The Strategic Plan builds from the university’s vision, mission, and values and identifies university-wide goals. Progress toward these goals is evaluated on a continuous basis and at various levels within the university. Each university division articulates expected outcomes that measure accomplishment of goals and guides improvement actions.

1.  Expected Outcomes

The University of Memphis uses multiple indicators to gauge institutional effectiveness and to assist the decision-making process. The Office of Institutional Research maintains the Administrative Data website [2] and provides information on the university as a whole and the individual academic units. In the past several years, the Office of Institutional Research has developed a data warehouse to give users access to student, faculty, and program review data. Pre-packaged reports and interactive tools allow customization, while a secure site provides details on personnel and budgets. In 2002, the Office of Institutional Research was awarded the Exemplary Models of Administrative Leadership Award from the American Association of University Administrators. [3]

Assessment of institutional effectiveness is also required by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission’s Performance Funding program. Performance Funding provides a financial incentive for public colleges and universities across the state to improve institutional programs, services, and operations, especially those related to student outcomes and performance. [4]

Faculty at UofM have established learning outcomes for each academic major and these are included with the individual program descriptions in the graduate and undergraduate catalogs and on the law school's website. [5] For the past eight years, the Information Technology Division has conducted detailed strategic planning [6] sessions with all major constituent offices and student representation groups and conducts evaluations of the impacts of its strategic directions. The Division of Student Affairs has also established program outcomes for its units as part of its quality improvement program. [7] To improve performance across the organization, the Division of Business and Finance has adopted a self-assessment-feedback model that is based on the Malcolm Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence. [8]

2.  Assessment of Outcomes

Provided here is a summary of the student and institutional indicators along with recent assessment data:

General Education Assessments.  General education testing at the University of Memphis provides a measure of student achievement in English, mathematics, science, social science, and critical thinking. From 1992 to 2003, the primary test instrument for general education assessment at the UofM has been the College BASE (CBASE) examination. College BASE, developed at the University of Missouri, is a criterion-referenced achievement test that evaluates knowledge and skills in English, mathematics, science, and social studies. On average, students at the UofM score at the national norm for the reference group of similar universities. [9] In 2002, the university added the California Critical Thinking Skills Test (CCTST) to its repertoire of assessment tools. During the first two years of administration of the CCTST, UofM students scored on average at the 57 percentile when compared with students at similar universities. [10] All graduating students take either the CCTST or the College BASE each year. Thus every student, approximately 1900 per year, takes one of these nationally normed examinations (commonly referred to at UofM as the Senior Test). There is no sampling, nor does the university use volunteers for its general education evaluations. Furthermore, the university carefully monitors test administrations and results and conducts research studies on those results [11] to assure confidence and reliability of test results.

In 1996, a General Education Review Committee undertook a thorough review of the university’s general education program. A self-study document was completed in spring semester 1997. [12] An external evaluation team composed of recognized experts in the field of general education (Jerry Goff, Association of American Colleges; Thomas Lowe, Ball State University; Cynthia Margolin, San Jose State University; Michael Reardon, Portland State University) reviewed the program in 1997 and prepared a report. [13] While nearly every aspect of the UofM program was approved at that time as having met the requirements for a healthy general education program, the consultants made recommendations concerning  faculty development opportunities, the review and use of general education requirements in planning student learning outcomes, and clarification of the university’s general education requirements and objectives in the undergraduate bulletin.

Following this report, a General Education Review Implementation Committee was appointed in fall 1997 to identify the key concerns raised by the self-study and consultants’ reports, make recommendations on how the UofM should address those concerns, identify the offices and personnel responsible for implementation, and establish a timeline for implementation. [12] Although all of the committee's recommendations have not been put into place due to resource constraints, many important improvements have been made and are discussed in section 3 of this standard.  

In 1999 and 2000, the university’s general education committee conducted a recertification process to ensure that each course in the general education program was in line with the intended outcome goals as stated in the General Education Manual. [14] The committee provided evaluation reports to department chairs with concerns, recommendations, and a time line for addressing these points prior to recertification. [15]

Accredited Programs. Programs in areas for which a recognized accreditation is offered by an external agency or organization are expected to qualify for accreditation and maintain it. The Office of the Provost monitors the accreditation status of all such programs. Currently, all undergraduate and graduate degree programs at the UofM that are eligible for accreditation, with the exception of Computer Science (B.S.), are fully accredited and meet the standards of their accrediting bodies. [16] Computer Science is preparing for accreditation review in fall 2005 by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology/Computing Accreditation Commission, ABET/CAC.

Peer Reviews.  Programs in areas not eligible for a recognized external discipline-specific accreditation are evaluated once every seven years by outside visitors. For these peer reviews, the university selects reviewers who have distinguished themselves in their discipline, who are highly respected throughout higher education, and who will also challenge the university with their insights. [17] Evaluations, similar to an accreditation assessment, are based on standards established by the Tennessee Board of Regents and the Tennessee Higher Education Commission. At the undergraduate level, reviewers are asked to evaluate the presence or absence of 26 quality standards on a review checklist and also prepare a written narrative covering curriculum, faculty, student admission, retention and advising, and the teaching and learning environment.

At the graduate level, programs are measured against formal and qualitative standards established by the Tennessee Conference of Graduate Schools. Formal standards, which are either met or not met, include items related to the screening and supervision of students, core curriculum, sophistication of course work, methodology and techniques of the discipline, extra-disciplinary experiences, comprehensive examinations, culminating experiences, communication skills, and the application of knowledge. Qualitative standards, measured on a 0 to 3 rating scale, are reviewers’ judgments of the overall quality of students’ learning experiences, faculty, teaching and learning environment, and program evaluation. [18] A narrative report similar to the undergraduate report is also prepared by the reviewers.

Licensure Exams Pass Rates. First-time pass rates are reported annually on licensure exams for the following fields: teacher education, engineering, law, nursing, clinical nutrition, audiology, speech pathology, and school psychology. For the past three years, UofM students have, on average, an 87% pass rate on these licensure exams. [19]

Subject Field Exams. Undergraduate majors are evaluated once every five years by the performance of graduating students on nationally standardized tests or locally developed tests. On average for the past five years, student scores are above the national norm or have improved from previous administrations. [20]

Undergraduate Student and Alumni Satisfaction Surveys. The University of Memphis conducts surveys, both of alumni [21] and currently enrolled students approximately every two years. [22] These surveys contain questions related to the university’s academic programs, services, faculty, advising, and student services.  For example, the following concepts are included on the surveys: self-confidence in expressing ideas, appreciation of different cultures, speaking effectively, writing effectively, understanding graphic information, defining and solving problems, and understanding global environmental concerns. On average, responses of UofM students and alumni for these questions are at the state mean, with many showing an upward trend over the years. [23] The National Survey of Student Engagement [24] is a third tool used by the UofM to evaluate students’ competence in general education proficiencies—and also to gain insight into the students’ own perceptions of the value of general education to their overall educational experiences. The university participated in this national survey in the spring of 2003 [25] and will again participate in 2005 as part of a longitudinal study to measure changes in what students actually do as part of their educational programs.

Assessment of Employer Satisfaction. In 2003, UofM conducted a survey to assess current employers’ perceptions of recent bachelor-level graduates whom they interview and hire from regional universities. A total of 42 individuals participated in the five focus group meetings. [26]  Groups consisted of individuals from private and public sector organizations and educators from private, public, and independent school districts. Two key points came from these interviews. One, internship experience was said to be important to the bachelor’s degree. From an employer’s perspective, lack of an internship experience puts a graduate at a disadvantage when competing with other job applicants. Two, employers place very high value on an applicant’s ability to communicate well, especially in written form.  

Institutional Program Reviews. In 2002, UofM began the Academic Program Review process to systematically evaluate existing programs and to consider development of new ones. During that year, each department prepared qualitative and quantitative program data about their academic programs. The Office of Institutional Research later hosted and maintained a website that contains key data about each unit on campus. [27] In 2004, unit heads were asked to respond to a set of substantive questions that centered on continued development of the areas of focus, interdisciplinary initiatives within the department, faculty productivity, departmental advising services, use of technology in the classroom, strategies for increasing graduate enrollment, strategies for improving the quality of majors, potential program development or elimination, student demographics, student recruitment and retention, research opportunities, and connections to the community. [28] These data, and any recent external program review information, were used in formal program reviews with each unit head in the spring of 2004. Individuals who attended the program reviews included the chair and staff members of his or her choice, the dean of the college, the provost, the vice provosts, the associate vice provost for enrollment services, the director of institutional research, the director of space planning, the director of academic programs and assessment, the director of administration in academic affairs, and the director of business affairs in academic affairs. After the program reviews ended, the provost and provost’s staff prepared summary documents for each department. The provost subsequently met with each dean to discuss strengths, concerns, and suggestions for the future.  In the new academic year, the program reviews will continue, but will be expanded to include representatives from Information Technology, Business and Finance, Student Affairs, Advancement, and the administrative units within Academic Affairs. Those reviews will focus on progress made since the last program review, plans for the future, and connection to the budgeting process.  

3.  Evidence of Improvements Based on Analysis of Assessments

Highlighted here is a representative sample of improvements based on assessment activities at UofM.

Undergraduate Admissions Requirements.  Student data collected over a period of five years have led to changes in UofM’s admissions process.  In 2002, the Office of Institutional Research examined student retention data and found the strongest determinant of success and retention among the UofM student population was overall high school GPA; performance on the ACT was more weakly correlated.  Following careful analysis, and after presenting the data to the Provost's Council, the Enrollment Management Council, the President’s Council, the Faculty Senate, and the Tennessee Board of Regents, UofM instituted a new admissions index in fall 2003 that takes high school GPA and ACT into account, but weights GPA more heavily than the ACT score. This change in the admissions index was predicted to have little or no impact upon the diversity of the student population.

General Education Program.  As follow up to the peer review of the general education program in 1997 and the report of the university’s implementation committee in 1998, the university instituted the following actions:

  • reformatted the undergraduate catalog and degree descriptions to clearly indicate the general education program requirements as distinct from other requirements;
  • provided additional funding for faculty development and to increase assessment activities;
  • revised existing and developed new articulation agreements with institutions within the UofM area of service to ease transfer of credit;
  • appointed a coordinator who held “Writing Across the Curriculum” workshops for faculty teaching general education courses;  and
  • established special sections of mathematics and science courses to provide for the variety of student preparation and major area needs.

Although College BASE scores over the years show UofM graduates at the national norm, subscores in the science area (total, laboratory, and fundamental concepts) were found to be below national norms for the period 1997-2000.  For the two major general education science courses (BIOL 1010 and CHEM 1010), student data indicated that 45-52% either withdraw before the end of the semester or receive a D or F as the final grade. A 2002 peer review of the Physics program recommended changes in introductory labs, the addition of more modern equipment, and the introduction of newer computers to complement lab experiments. UofM has responded to these indicators by: (a) piloting a revision of CHEM 1010 with assistance from the Advanced Learning Center; (b) revising the course syllabus and teaching strategies of BIOL 1010; and (c) for Physics, adding 6 computers and new courseware to the introductory labs, replacing approximately 40% of the lab experiments with new units and necessary equipment, adding new demonstration materials and equipment for the introductory lecture sections, and purchasing a Smartcart for physics classroom lectures and demonstrations. In 2003-04, ten new computers were added to the astronomy lab.

Academic Advising. Over the years, student and alumni surveys have indicated weaknesses in academic advising at the University of Memphis, specifically in the areas of (a) overall advising satisfaction, (b) availability of advising personnel, (c) quality of the information, and (d) clarity of degree requirements.  In response to these issues,

  • The Academic Advising website was added in 2002 to the UofM server and linked from the Students page on the university homepage. [29] With a simple click, students now have quick access to major program information; information for transfer students; the degree audit system;  the names, phone numbers, and office locations of all university advisors; advising contacts for general education, scholarships, and financial aid; and a contact for those who have not declared a major. The Registrar’s Office now includes information about the website with all student correspondence.
  • Two years ago, faculty in each department developed a typical sequence for each of the university’s undergraduate programs. With these guides, students can track their progress toward a degree, and if they follow the plan, will be able to complete all graduation requirements in eight semesters. The typical sequences have been placed in the bulletin and are available at each departmental website. Typical sequences are also included with advising information given to new and transferring students.
  • In 2003, UofM established and funded the Distinguished Academic Advising Awards for one professional advisor and one faculty advisor on an annual basis. These awards were designed to be comparable in every way with the existing Distinguished Teaching and Distinguished Research Awards presented each year during Faculty Convocation.
  • Access to academic advising has been facilitated by two newly renovated buildings on campus: Wilder Tower and Brister Hall were dedicated on opening day of the fall 2003 semester. Student services, once spread across campus, are now in one location. They include academic advising, career services admissions, financial aid, counseling services, and the bursar.
  • The Academic Counseling Center has revised procedures for how students receive advising services. In addition to the regular individual student appointment times, certain days have been designated as walk-in days in which a multipurpose room is used to streamline undecided students through the process of advising. Group advising techniques are used to present common information to many students at one time.  It also allows for a large number of students to be seen in a short period of time. Most importantly, no student is denied the opportunity to register at their earliest assigned time without being given the chance to interact with an advisor due to appointments being full. Also, Honors students are recruited to serve as peer advisors and assist the Academic Counseling staff during these busy times.
  • In 2004, the Center for Academic Transitions was opened to assist transfer and other new students with academic planning. [30]  

Note that recent enrolled survey results indicate a significant improvement in advising services and quality of information provided by advisors. [31]

University Libraries. Student surveys have indicated weakness in satisfaction with library facilities and services. Also, inadequacy of library resources is one of the most frequently mentioned program weakness for peer reviews conducted over the past five years. The university initiated the following actions in response to these concerns:

  • Increased the number of library instructional sessions (course-related) in 2002-03 by 10% of 2001-02 baseline (227 sessions).
  • Increased library funding by over $1,000,000 during the past five years. [32]
  • Revised the collection process by assignment of library faculty to specific academic departments; developed individual collection policies for the various disciplines; and established departmental liaisons.
  • Initiated a University Libraries Endowment Fund in 2002 with a $300,000 gift from the Willard Sparks family. The endowment was established to supplement university libraries budgets and to strengthen the collections.

Note that recent enrolled survey results indicate a significant improvement in student satisfaction with library services. [33]

Campus Information Technology. Since 2000, planning sessions and Information Technology Division evaluations have led to the complete redesign of the campus network to provide improved security for the technology “commons” while increasing the speed and access to the backbone. In response to requests from faculty and students, UofM has implemented a wireless network in every academic building and will create a completely wireless campus within the next few years.

Interviews with faculty have indicated students were having difficulty getting work completed because some software packages were restricted to specific labs.  In 2004, UofM created an improved TigerLan image [34] that allows limited licenses to be available in any lab but still preserves licensing restrictions. A goal for the near future is to enable the provision of any software package to any authorized student regardless of location, whether on-campus or across the globe.

Other strategic planning assessments indicated that the faculty Technology Access Fee (TAF) [35] grants were not on a schedule that permitted faculty to maximize their use of the grant. Thus, two years ago the university developed a process that provides the TAF grant money to the faculty just two months after the submission of their proposals. This has enabled faculty to be more productive during their grant periods.

During the IT strategic planning sessions of 2001, it became clear that the campus community needed a means of resolving “sneaker net” problems wherein files were copied to disks and carried to faculty offices by students. Similarly, faculty needed a means of getting access to their files from any location. The Information Technology Division created UMDrive, a browser-based file management system. Now students can create and save files to UMDrive and make them shareable to faculty and, in turn, faculty can read these files as well as their own using any browser from any networked machine in the world. A related problem was solved at the same time with the implementation of Quick Place as a collaboration tool. This allows UofM faculty and students to create a powerful collaboration space around any topic and requires little expertise to create and manage it. This tool is being used by an increasing number of students and faculty as well as administrative staff.

Using input from the division’s planning sessions, UofM has expanded the number of “SmartRooms” on campus, introduced the use of “portable computer labs,” and launched AskTom, a self-correcting knowledge management system that answers frequently asked questions. In response to the need for better information, the university has  created the Data Warehouse, Web for Employees, Web for Students, and Web for Faculty. The ID management system [IAm] enables UofM community members to manage their campus email redirection and creates automatic email lists for classes, thus substantially reducing the burden on faculty to manage this data individually. The university has also standardized the WebCT for course management system and use by the faculty is growing quickly. More detail is described in the response to Comprehensive Standard 3.4.14. [36]

To assist faculty with the task of providing instruction for a variety of computing skills, the university has introduced Element K, an on-line, self-paced tutorial system. And finally, in response to a need to provide faculty assistance in the use of technology, the provost and chief information officer jointly established the Advanced Learning Center [ALC] to help faculty improve the use of available technologies. More detail is described in the response to Comprehensive Standard 3.8.2. [37]

Graduate Assistantships. Program peer reviews over the past several years note that graduate assistant stipends are increasingly non-competitive with other national universities. In the fall of 2002, the university instituted a revised policy that raised the minimum stipend for each graduate student, created a new category of graduate assistant (assistant to the instructor), and created different standards of tuition waivers and number of work hours for part-time and full-time graduate assistants. Priorities for increasing the number of teaching and research assistants and decreasing the number of graduate assistants in service roles were also established. Simultaneously, the university significantly increased the stipend allocations for the colleges. On average, graduate assistant stipends have increased 30% over the past three years. These changes yielded a more competitive stipend to attract a higher quality student and resulted in little diminution in overall numbers of graduate assistantships. Work-study funds  continue to increase and are a critical means of enhancing graduate student stipends.  

Employer Satisfaction. In 2003, UofM conducted a series of employer focus interviews with individuals from private and public sector organizations that highlighted the value of internship experiences and the ability to communicate well for job applicants. In response to these findings, a new position was created within the Office of the Provost to coordinate out-of-class experiences (internships, service, and international experience) for undergraduate students. During the first year in this position, the coordinator has identified goals, objectives, and strategies for internships, established baseline data reflecting current internship opportunities, and clarified the legal and financial agreements for internships. The SACS Quality Enhancement Plan [38] is also a response to the findings of the employer interviews, especially as they relate to developing out-of-class experiences and stronger communication skills for UofM graduates.

Relevant Organizational Unit(s):

Office of the President

Supporting Documentation and Evidence:

[1] UofM Response to Core Requirement 2.5
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[2] Office of Institutional Research
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[3] Office of Institutional Research Award
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[4] Performance Funding Standards, 2000-01 through 2004-05
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Undergraduate Learning Outcomes

Graduate Learning Outcomes

Law School Learning Outcomes

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[6] Information Technology Division Stategic Plan, FY2004
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[7] Division of Student Affairs

Adult and Commuter Student Services

Campus Recreation Intramural Services

Career and Employment Services

Center for Student Development

Office of Minority Affairs

Office of Student Judicial and Ethical Programs

Residence Life and Dining Services

Student Health Services

Student Disability Services

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[8] Division of Business and Finance Performance Excellence Initiative
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[9] College BASE
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[10] California Critical Thinking Skills Test
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[11] Philip Batty Letter, February 28, 2003
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[12] General Education Review Implementation Committee, Final Report
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[13] Peer Review ReportReturn to narrative

[14] General Education Manual: General Education Requirements, Rationales and Criteria
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General Education Recertification Recommendations

General Education Recertification Letter, Example

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[16] Accreditation Bodies
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[17] Peer Reviewers
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[18] Peer Reviews

Undergraduate Checklist

Graduate Checklist

History of Reports

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[19] Licensure Pass Rates
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[20] Subject Field Exams Scores
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[21] Alumni Survey Results
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[22] Enrolled Student Survey Results
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[23] 2004 Enrolled Student Survey, Scoring Analysis
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[24] 2003 National Survey of Student Engagement
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[25] UofM 2003 National Survey of Student Engagement Results
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[26] Employer's Interviews
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[27] Office of Institutional Research, Program Review
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[28] 2003-2004 Program Review Documents
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[29] Academic Advising Website
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[30] Center for Academic Transitions, News Release
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[31] 2004 Enrolled Student Survey, Advising Scores
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[32] UoM Libraries 5 Year Analysis of Expenditure Budget
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[33] 2004 Enrolled Student Survey, Library services
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[34] Software Provided through TigerLAN
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[35] UofM TAF Awards 2004-05 Request for Proposals
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[36] UofM Response to Comprehensive Standard 3.4.14
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[37] UofM Response to Comprehensive Standard 3.8.2
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[38] Quality Enhancement Plan, Executive Summary (draft)
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