Component B: The organization has the capacity and the commitment to engage with its identified constituencies and communities.

Strategic Planning: Building on Areas of Strength
Both the Growth Plan (2007) and VCSU's current strategic plan, VCSU 2015, focus on enrollment growth, to "Identify, promote and support high enrollment programs and opportunities, to increase enrollment in both online and in residential programs" (Goal 2, VCSU 2015). The success of both plans in increasing enrollment can be seen in the approach described in Goal 2 - the identification, promotion, and support - all deliberate, planned acts. By selecting programs that provide a distinct market niche - fisheries and wildlife science, or online programs in music, ELL, library science; by identifying programs with academic strength - elementary education, biology, and health sciences; and by using these programs to develop opportunities - a new graduate program, a center for water education and research, a STEM education center - VCSU has successfully developed programs that meet constituent needs. Similarly, VCSU has been practical in the growth of its distance-delivered programs by building on its academic strengths, its faculty capacity, and its partnerships with other educational entities. The University currently offers affordable, quality, online courses and programs that meet the needs of the distance students it serves. It works with partners who have requested and appreciate the online programs it offers:

  • VCSU currently partners with seven community colleges in Wyoming. Through credit transfer, online coursework, and face-to-face summer workshops by VCSU faculty, the University provides Wyoming students with opportunities to complete four-year degrees in Elementary Education, History Education, and English Education. The Wyoming program is assessed in the same way all of VCSU's NCATE accredited teacher education programs are assessed.
  • VCSU offers an online major in Music. This online program, accredited by NASM in 2009, builds on the department's strength in music technology and responds to frequent requests from students for distance courses in music; the Music Department works with College Plus! to identify online student needs in music and build enrollment.
  • VCSU added a graduate concentration in Library Information Technologies in 2007, in response to a direct request by the President of the North Dakota Library Association to the NDUS Academic Affairs Council, and survey responses from state educators, who indicated that North Dakota needed an in-state graduate program in library information technologies both for enriching the depth and breadth of expertise in this area and for movement on salary schedules.

Student Engagement with External Communities

The educational programs at VCSU provide students with connections to external communities in their fields of study. These connections include field experiences for pre-service teachers, internships, access to professional business tools, and community service opportunities.

Teacher Education. The University's Teacher Education programs connect students with external community partners through educational field experiences, clinical practice, and academic projects. These partners share in the design, delivery, and evaluation of the field experiences. Partners include the Valley City Public School, other schools in the surrounding areas, schools in the Fargo/Moorhead region, and diverse schools in St. Paul, Minnesota, and Fort Totten, North Dakota. Table 8.4 identifies the types of interactions required and the number of hours completed.

Table 8.4 Field Experiences and Clinical Practice by Program

Assessments are collected from external and internal stakeholders for each activity and results are recorded in VCSU's assessment system. Assessments are reviewed by department members within Elementary and Secondary education units.

The SAP University Alliance. The Division of Business and Information Technology actively participates in academic programs offered by industry including the SAP University Alliance Program and the Americas' SAP Users' Group (ASUG) University Connection. These programs provide students with opportunities to network and collaborate with individuals in organizations in North Dakota, Minnesota, nationally, and globally. SAP provides the SAP University Alliance Program to support universities teaching advanced technologies and enterprise systems by providing a hands-on learning experience. The ASUG University Connection facilitates the building of relationships between businesses and universities who are part of the SAP University Alliance.

Internships. The Office of Career Services organizes and oversees internships for students in every academic division of the University. Over the past ten years 316 students have interned in over 200 locations inside and outside North Dakota. Many academic majors include internships in their programs: Business Administration, Computer Information Systems, Communication, Psychology, Human Services, and Fisheries & Wildlife Science.

Community Service. Data from the 2007 National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) provides a sense of overall student involvement in community services during their enrollment at VCSU. Of freshmen, 36% and seniors, 57% indicated they had done community service or volunteer work. The 2009 NSSE survey indicators showed freshmen at 50% and seniors at 58%. After the NSSE survey was completed in 2009, the statistical data became a real life experience as the city of Valley City encountered the biggest flood fight in its history. The Sheyenne River crested at 20.69 feet, above its previous 1882 crest of 20 feet. Valley City Mayor Mary Nielson said, "The students, staff, and faculty of VCSU have made a difference in our flood fight. They have been a force at Sandbag Central. Our volunteer firemen have high praise for the students on the lines and building the dikes. The sports teams have been outstanding. We wouldn't want to be without VCSU in this time of need."

University Engagement with the Community

The University also values the participation of its employees in City activities. Many administrators, faculty and staff take leadership and volunteer positions within the local community, serving on various boards, service organizations, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Valley Development Corporation. In addition, the University serves the regional community through extended learning activities.

Dual Credit. Most of the dual credit activities in the state are delivered by two year campuses. Recognizing the training and assessment efforts necessary to deploy a large dual credit program effectively, VCSU has chosen to minimize its dual credit activities except for its relationships with several local school districts, in programs where faculty already have collegial relationships and understand each others' academic expectations. VCSU follows NDUS Policy 402.3.2 in managing these relationships, with appropriate course alignment agreements and documentation of assessment processes. The high school faculty teaching the courses are hired as VCSU adjunct faculty and must meet the academic qualifications of adjunct faculty; department chairs meet with these adjunct faculty and review syllabi annually to assure course quality.

Extended Learning @ VCSU. Established in Fall 2006, "Extended Learning @ VCSU" offers non-program graduate credits used by North Dakota teachers for professional development. Approved by the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education, the unit provides a flexible framework for programs, courses, and activities that are generally outside the traditional university structure. All courses have the course number 700 and are listed on transcripts as "Continuing Education." Initially in 2005, VCSU was approved by the Higher Learning Commission for 20, one credit courses of this type, and in 2009 VCSU received approval for unlimited course offerings in professional development for educators. In the summer of 2006, over 200 teachers received non-program graduate credit in the content areas of Education, Library Media, Technology, and Business and Vocational Education. In 2010-11, Extended Learning offered 59 non-program courses to 495 teachers. Courses are offered face-to-face both on and off campus as well as online.

Evaluation of Core Component 5b

Strengths: VCSU has focused its resources on program strengths to meet the needs of its constituencies. Both students and faculty are regularly engaged with external constituents. Commitment to community engagement and service are deeply embedded into the University's mission and strategic plan.

New Initiatives: VCSU's undergraduate Elementary Education initiative in Wyoming continues to bring more students into that hybrid program. Growth continues to be at a pace which the School of Education and Graduate Studies (SEGS) can support.

Challenges: The growth of the online Graduate program in Education continues to put some stress on SEGS unit due to advising and the need for flexible scheduling of courses from semester to semester. However, the program has seen steady growth of about 20-30 new students each year. With planning, this growth seems manageable.

Another recent challenge has been meeting the State Authorization requirements of the 34 states in which VCSU has distance students enrolled. A long-term effort is necessary to identify the expectations for each state and determine the "physical presence" definition for the state. VCSU continues to receive support for this activity from the North Dakota University System staff.