SACS reps return to campus to review plan for undergraduate research

By Tyler Whetstone

March 19-21, 2013 will forever be seared in Lena Welch’s mind.

qepOn those days, Welch, the dean of arts of sciences, will report to the body that accredits Trevecca on a project that she and a committee of faculty and staff have spent months working on.

Representatives from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, or SACS, is coming to assess Trevecca and its progress towards accreditation.

With this visit, SACS will eventually decide whether or not Trevecca’s diplomas are worth anything. This process occurs every 10 years.

In the fall, representatives came and graded Trevecca on 95 standards. Trevecca completed all but 14 of the standards which deal with issues ranging from academic programs to student services to the finances of the university, Steve Pusey, university provost, said.

Trevecca addressed those detailed 14 inefficiencies and is awaiting the SACS’s second official visit to campus where they will review those 14 standards and several more while on campus.

After the standards are gauged and observed, the SACS committee will begin a thorough examination of Trevecca’s Quality Enhancement Plan, or QEP, which Welch has authored for months.

The plan must be something that can be implemented university-wide as a plan that improves student learning.

“The [onsite reviewers from SACS], from what I understand, will spend a lot of their time when they’re here on campus looking at the QEP and asking questions about it,” Welch said.

Trevecca’s QEP is undergraduate research. It will be implemented in the fall of 2014 and consists of three levels.

The first level of undergraduate research will begin in general education courses, mostly English 1020, English 1080 and freshmen LEAP courses, Welch said. Students will be learning to do research that has to do with their discipline or major.

This will begin with freshmen. In four years after implementation, all students who have been at Trevecca for four years will have had the teaching.

“I think this will draw students. Research shows that it benefits the student professionally. [Research shows] that universities that develop strong undergraduate research programs [are] one of the things that students are looking for,” Welch said.

The second level of Trevecca’s QEP will be Faculty Led Academic Research Experiences or FLARE which students will get academic credit for.

At this level, students will apply for positions on teams of seven or eight students that assist a professor in a research based assignment outside of the classroom.

Trevecca has pledged $40,000 a year to supporting three to four research based assignments for students and professors to be working on side by side. Most of them will be semester by semester.

“There will be some really good opportunities for faculty members to work with students in small groups, and that’s [already] one of our greatest strengths as a university, faculty-student interaction; so I think it builds on what we are already strong at,” Welch said.

Every discipline will be allowed to apply; it is not a science based activity. Every student who is accepted will receive academic credit, and, depending on the assignment, some could even receive pay, Welch said.

The third and final phase is more suited for juniors and seniors that are looking to take their research skills that they have acquired and apply them to their major regardless of whether or not the student participated in the FLARE program.

The individual will talk with a faculty member who would again guide them as they propose a topic, actually research and experiment with the topic and present the topic in an academic symposium type of event. Students who wish to do this third level will

not be paid but will receive academic credit again.

To learn more about the QEP and to learn how to get a shirt and win prizes such as an iPad Mini, visit URtheQEP.com.

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