Provost outlines future plans at Board of Regents committee meetings

Provost Cheryl Stevens fields questions from faculty members during the faculty senate meeting on Aug. 29, 2019. The provost discussed reallocation of money in the senate budget, representation of minority student populations and a state orchestrated program evaluation.

Acting Provost Cheryl Stevens shared her vision for the coming year at WKU’s Board of Regents committee meetings Friday morning.

One of Stevens’ goals is attracting “a diverse body of undergraduate, graduate and nontraditional students” by launching “new and improved innovative and market driven academic programs.” 

Stevens said this comes after the Comprehensive Academic Program Evaluation took place last year.

“To this end, we shared a process and timeline for programs identified for transformation last year through CAPE, with an eye toward developing programs that will prepare students for success ten years from now,” Stevens said.

Stevens said the preliminary plans for each program’s transformation are due to the Office of the Provost by the end of November.

“If this work is done well, this should take a good part of this academic year,” Stevens said. “Our developing programs will prepare students for ten years from now with the expectation that these transformed programs will attract a diverse body of undergraduate, graduate and nontraditional students.”

Another of Stevens’ goals is implementing “efficient electronic curriculum, personnel and workload processes.”

“This is particularly important for us in Academic Affairs to function more professionally and efficiently,” Stevens said. “What we really want to do is eliminate some paper processes.”

One of Stevens’ goals is to create a positive outcome from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

“The importance of this goal cannot be overstated,” Stevens said. “We cannot function as a university without our regional accreditation.”

WKU’s fifth year after the SACSCOC review is 2021, Stevens said. She said because of the changes in personnel at WKU over the years, few people here have the historical knowledge of the SACSCOC review, Stevens said.

“We worked hard, worked with SACS, and are gaining a thorough understanding of the review process and understand the work that needs to be done,” Stevens said. “There’s a conference in December that several of us are going to go to to make sure we have our ducks in a row.”

The final goal Stevens outlined aims to “foster mutually supportive and productive partnerships between the Divisions of Academic Affairs and the Division of Enrollment and Student Experience with the ultimate goal of increasing enrollment, persistence and graduation rates.”

When Stevens and her staff wrote this goal, she did not know how closely she would be working with Brian Kuster, vice president for Enrollment and Student Experience and with Susan Howarth, Executive Vice President for Strategy, Operations and Finance.

“Brian [Kuster] and I and Susan [Howarth] and I meet very regularly work together on collaborative work,” Stevens said.

Stevens said student retention efforts such as Living Learning Communities have placed both Enrollment and Student Experience and Finance and Administration at the center of WKU’s plans for student success.

After Stevens, Kuster spoke on ongoing efforts by WKU to restructure scholarships and financial aid. Kuster spoke of the new scholarship model, which abandons ACT scores for most of the scholarships WKU awards.

“This is a culmination of probably a year and a half of work Since President [Timothy] Caboni created the Division of Enrollment and Student Experience,” Kuster said. “We have been working tirelessly as a Division, working with the provost and [Executive Vice President] Howarth on doing things to make students successful.”

Under the new scholarship guidelines, ACT scores will no longer be utilized when awarding the majority of WKU scholarships. Additionally, the minimum GPA requirement to attend WKU was lowered, from 3.3 to 3.0.

“The last time this model was revised was the fall of 2015, so it definitely as time for us to look at that,” Kuster said.

Immediately following the presentations of the Student Affairs Committee, Bruce Schulte, associate vice president for strategy, performance and accountability and chair of the Strategic Plan Implementation Committee gave a presentation updating the BoR on the strategic plan and the metrics behind it. 

“The idea of a metric is to give you a measurable outcome that points to a loftier goal,” Schulte explained. “When you talk about things like graduation rates or retention or financial consulting and things along that line, it’s a matter of  how much of the community is actually being touched by this.”

According to Schulte, WKU’s Strategic Plan has 15 major working metrics, each with data sources, baselines from both the 2017-18 and 2018-19 terms, midterm targets and targets for the 2027-2028 academic year. These metrics included goals centered around three major categories: Our Students, The Hill and Our Community.

Within these categories, WKU saw a majority increase from the 2017-2018 academic year baseline of the 15 Working Metrics during the 2018-2019 academic year , with only two categories that decreased.

Metric five, which was to increase the number of freshmen, sophomores and juniors progressing to the next classification or graduating during the academic year saw an increase in freshmen meeting the goal, but saw a decrease in sophomores from 2,207 to 2,194 and a decrease in juniors from 2,802 to 2,727.

Metric 13, which was to increase the number of readmitted and transfer students who obtain baccalaureate degrees also saw a decrease from the 2017-2018 numbers. Although the 2017-2018 academic year saw a baseline of 1,211 readmitted and transfer students earning their bachelors, the 2018-2019 academic year saw a smaller figure of 1,128 students meeting this goal.

After Schulte’s presentation, President Caboni gave a President’s Report, that focused on the progress made on the FirstYear Village and WKU Commons, the launching of LifeWorks at WKU, the successful events of Homecoming and Parents Weekend and the plans for more aggressive recruitment in Middle Tennessee.

To close the meeting, Gil Johnson presented Caboni’s Annual Evaluation to the Board of Regents.

The evaluation consisted of a self-evaluation and the evaluation of Caboni by the Board of Regents, which focused on his achievements from the past academic year, which included his contributions to recruitment and retention, philanthropy, WKU experience, budget stabilization and community engagement.

“As the WKU worked through significant challenges during the past two years, thoughtful, innovative and forward-thinking leadership was critical to our confronting and overcoming those challenges,” The evaluation reads. “President Caboni’s collaborative and reasoned leadership style allowed our university to navigate these challenges and emerge as a more financially-stable, student-focused and attractive institution that is well prepared to continue its climb.”

Friday’s meeting slate also included a special called meeting of the Board. 

The main focus of the meeting was the first reading of the amendments to the Board of Regents bylaws to write the authorities of the President in a separate set of policies. The Board of Regents created an ad hoc committee last year to tackle this issue. One of the members is Staff Regent David Brinkley.

“We think recently that we have come to a solution that will enable us to modify policy needed as it relates to the president and I think this will give us more flexibility,” Brinkley said.

The amendments were read and a motion was passed to make this occurrence the first reading. The amendments will be read again for approval at the next meeting.

The Finance and Budget Committee discussed the use of paper during their time before accepting an action to file the 2019-2020 First Quarter Statement of Revenues and Expenditures.

During the special called meeting, the board approved the naming the new WKU golf facility after Phillip Hatchett, the late former coach of the golf program.

News reporter Abbey Nutter can be reached at abbigail. [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @abbeynutter.

News reporter Lily Burris can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @lily_burris.

Reporter Jack Dobbs can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @jackrdobbs.