Core Component A: The organization learns from the constituencies it serves and analyzes its capacity to serve their needs and expectations.

VCSU's mission documents make the University's capacity and commitments clear. VCSU uses surveys, advisory boards and external review, and a variety of communication tools to determine how its programs and services are meeting the needs of its constituencies.
Defining Commitments
VCSU’s Defining Commitments - its mission, vision, purposes, and core values - all include reference to service to community and the region:
  • Mission: "...in teaching, learning, and service."
  • Vision: "...advance quality learning opportunities and economic growth..."
  • Purposes (#3): "Serve the best interests of our students, region, and society."
  • Values: "We are involved with our local and extended communities."
In addition to these Commitments, the University understands both its historic strengths in teacher education and the new roles it must play in supporting regional economic needs, environmental issues, and rural health care needs.
This understanding of its capacity and constituents guides the University's planning processes and collaboration decisions. Several examples illustrate the relationship between the understanding of capacity and constituents:
  • K-12 teachers in the region have been limited in their ability to access master's level programs because of driving distances. A survey of K-12 teachers in the state demonstrated that those in districts near universities that offered master's degrees were much more likely to complete a master's program. VCSU understood that its historical strength in teacher education provided a strong foundation for the development of an M.Ed. program; by offering it online, VCSU made it accessible to teachers throughout the state who needed access to a quality master's degree. The online Master of Education degree and associated professional development courses allow alumni to reconnect academically with their undergraduate institution. Nearly 60% of VCSU's graduate students are alumni.
  • Biology has long been VCSU's strongest science program, with an ongoing focus on water quality research. Over the past decade, this strength has developed in two ways to meet constituent needs: first, the addition of the Fisheries and Wildlife Science major, developed in collaboration with a two year program at DCB, provided students with an in-state pathway to complete a four-year degree. Second, as the related environmental issues of water quality and management have become increasingly important in the state, the establishment of the Prairie Waters Education and Research Center in 2010 provides opportunities for both research and K-12 education.
  • Rural health care is a growing need in North Dakota, while access to training programs for potential students is limited by distance. Recognizing that VCSU did not have the capacity - neither the faculty nor program depth - necessary to support a nursing program, the University sought the opportunity to collaborate in the Dakota Nursing Program, allowing DCB to offer the program on the VCSU campus, using VCSU facilities, for students in the Valley City region. In a similar fashion, VCSU has begun a collaboration with the University of North Dakota to provide a medical laboratory science major to interested undergraduates at VCSU who will be able to complete their clinical work in a regional hospital.
In each case, the University worked directly with constituents to identify workable solutions to meet educational needs, either by developing new programs or by organizing collaborations that offer programs not within the scope of the University.
Feedback and Communication
The University uses a variety of formal surveys and informal feedback activities to assess the effectiveness of its programs in meeting the needs of its students, employees, and community constituents. Survey tools. The University employs a variety of surveys of students, employees, alumni, and employers to gain insight into its programs' strengths and challenges. Selected nationally standardized surveys are used to understand the student's campus experience. The Noel Levitz Student Satisfaction Inventory (SSI), administered on alternate years since 2002, allows VCSU to assess itself against regional and national scales (see Table 8.1). In 2010, VCSU students reported a significantly smaller gap between the importance and the satisfaction of each of the eleven scales.
Table 8.1
The SSI results are reviewed by the Assessment Office and shared with academic divisions through the Assessment Committee; the Executive Summary is shared with Student Affairs Staff, department heads, and Executive Team.

University employees likewise respond biennially to the Noel-Levitz Campus Quality Survey. This instrument was developed by adapting categories used in the prestigious Baldrige Award and the Presidential Award for Quality to fit the educational environment. The survey results (see Table 8.2 for average satisfaction levels) are reviewed by VCSU's Executive Team and areas of weakness are identified and targeted with improvement activities by the Executive Team through the Director of Human Resources.

In 2010, focus groups were established for employees to voluntarily and confidentially respond to and discuss survey results in specific detail. Since 2002, faculty and staff at VCSU have reported average ratings higher than the NDUS for all eight quality dimensions and in employment satisfaction (exception 2004).
Table 8.2
Additional surveys that also inform the University are included in Table 8.3 (page 140), which identifies when each survey is administered and reviewed by appropriate groups on the campus.

The VCSU Foundation Office also solicits feedback on the educational experience of alumni through the administration of the ACT Survey in alternate years to a cohort of alumni three to four years post-graduation. The survey measures satisfaction with programs, services, and academic preparation. Results are shared with academic divisions.

External Communication. The University seeks feedback from its constituents in less formal ways:
  • The Foundation Office regularly invites alumni to participate in scheduled activities in North Dakota and in states where alumni numbers are high. Annual events such as Homecoming, the Scholarship Auction , and the Viking Scramble Golf Tournament provide entertainment and interaction while other activities such as socials and lunches provide discussion and information exchange.
  • Student Services interacts with parents using an emailed parent newsletter.
  • Faculty and staff participate in NDUS committees, councils, and summits that offer opportunities for communication, exchange of ideas, collaboration and planning.
  • Program advisory boards provide program feedback (as described in Chapter 7, Core Component 4c).
  • VCSU prepares the VCSU Quarterly Update for North Dakota Legislators and other external constituents.
  • The President writes a bi-weekly column for the local newspaper, the Times-Record, to keep the community apprised of campus activities.
In addition, program-specific accrediting bodies such as the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) assist the University in assuring the quality of individual face-to-face and online programs.
Table 8.3  Other surveys at VCSU

Evaluation of Core Component 5a

Strengths: The University builds on its strengths to meet the changing needs of its students, alumni, and community, and provides connections to other programs when it does not have sufficient capacity to meet its constituents' needs. The University has a variety of tools in place to solicit feedback, which allows for continuous improvement. Data from surveys indicate that students and employees are satisfied with VCSU programs and campus climate.

New Initiatives: The campus continues to use survey data to understand and meet the needs of its constituencies. Two committees have been established to provide forums for this review, Success 2015 (reviews, documents and assesses implementation of the VCSU 2015 Strategic Plan), and the Academic Assessment Committee. In addition, VCSU 2015 (the strategic plan) calls for additional advisory boards for selected academic programs.

Challenges: The institution continues to look for meaningful ways to discuss and disperse assessment data at the departmental and divisional levels. Another challenge is a recent budget decision: the NDUS, which conducts and funds a number of the surveys used by VCSU, will now require that system campuses continue the funding on an individual basis. In the next year, VCSU will need to decide which of the surveys provide the most value to the assessment process and continue to self-support those surveys.