Mississippi Public Universities
2006 Academics Winners
First Place: The University of Southern Mississippi
"Finding a Voice: Improving Written and Oral Competencies"
As the result of assessment findings at the University of Southern Mississippi, a leadership team worked with faculty in the English and Speech Communication Departments to design two intervention programs. The team first designed a ten-week faculty development seminar series to assist faculty in integrating speaking and writing components into their courses and in developing assessment techniques to measure oral and written competencies. The seminars include introductions to Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) and Oral Communication Across the Curriculum (OCXC) as fields of study, as well as opportunities for sharing materials, such as syllabi with detailed assignments in oral and written communication, assessment rubrics, classroom exercises and accompanying handouts, etc. The team then worked to develop a coordinated Writing Complex and Speaking Center. The Writing Complex is a writing-dedicated laboratory where students may produce their ideas with guidance from trained writing assistants. The Speaking Center provides students with access to personalized assistance with oral communication projects at any stage of the process from generating topics to delivering the presentation. As a result of these best practices, student outcomes have improved as illustrated by average scores on first versus last papers improving by 20% when evaluated by the course instructor using a rubric.
Second Place: The University of Southern Mississippi
"Community College Partnerships"
Southern Miss is taking a number of steps to improve the transfer process to create a seamless transition between the community colleges and the university. The university began by establishing a new doctoral-level position titled Assistant to the President for Accreditation, Planning and Articulation. The position addresses problems, concerns or questions related to transfer students and academic programming. The position works to communicate curriculum changes to the community colleges in a timely manner and holds regular "counterpart" meetings with community college faculty and administrators to ensure constant communication. In addition, an ombudsman program was established on the campuses of two community colleges to provide advice about the transfer process to students nearing the completion of their associate's degree. Southern Miss provides onsite registration at interested community colleges, and has recently developed and piloted a system to electronically transfer student transcripts. Southern Miss has received three external grants, totaling $1,172,000, to fund partnership programs with community colleges. The university continues to care about the transfer student after transfer through programs like the First Year Experience. Transfer students also have a designated point person, the Manager of Transition Programs, to engage them and support their adjustment to university life. The leadership of area community colleges has lauded the changes made by Southern Miss to improve the transfer process. In addition, 40 percent of community college graduates who pursue a four-year degree in the IHL system choose to attend Southern Miss.