Academic excellence

February, 2014

The Academic Excellence Subcommittee is a subcommittee of the Student Experience Enhancement Council -- a council that aims to maintain Iowa State's trademark high-quality student experience as enrollment surges. Following are the work group's objective, priorities and actions items.


Develop systematic processes to enhance coordination among standing committees, councils, and units within student affairs and academic affairs (including colleges and departments) to enhance the academic excellence of undergraduate programs and the undergraduate academic experience at ISU.

  • Enhance the excellence and learning effectiveness of the in-class experience
  • Refine systematic approaches to program review, outcomes assessment, and course evaluation processes to continuously improve the quality of undergraduate courses and curricula, to identify new courses and curricula that should be considered for initiation, and to identify outdated courses, curricula or programs that should be updated or potentially eliminated
  • Improve the availability and increase the effectiveness of academic support policies, processes, and programming
  • Enhance student success as measured by retention, completion, time to degree, and initial career success
  • Develop and implement more efficient and effective processes, especially electronic and web-based, to enhance the undergraduate experience
  • Create a more nurturing, success, personal development, and productivity focused environment on campus for undergraduate students

The subcommittee will explore issues that involve: course work (such as backlogs, room availability, outcomes assessment); academic support (such as tutoring, supplemental instruction, financial aid); and student success (retention, early intervention, community college transfers).

2014 Priority item progress

Priority 1 – Address critical space-related course capacity issues that diminish the student experience, negatively impact academic quality, and potentially increase time to degree


  • Basic science laboratory capacity needs were met for Fall 2013 by scheduling additional laboratory sections and by extending the laboratory times of offering for an introductory biology laboratory to include section times from 7:00 am until 10:00 pm Monday through Thursday.
  • A 3/4-time faculty associate director of CELT for online learning position was funded and filled to lead efforts to provide faculty programming support in the development and implementation of blended, online, and technology enhanced learning approaches.
  • A proposal for the creation of an ISU blended learning innovation hub to be housed in the Parks Library was developed by CELT and has been funded for implementation during FY 2014. Initial funding, including new and reallocated funding within CELT, is expected to be approximately $300,000 in FY 2014.
  • Online testing capacity has been increased by approximately 80 seats for final exam week and other peak demand periods.
  • The Biosciences Facilities Planning Study has been completed and provides refined space and capacity need projections for biosciences teaching and laboratory spaces.
  • Academic colleges, in collaboration with FP&M have identified a variety of projects to improve the quality and increase the capacity of classroom and laboratory teaching spaces.
  • Provided an institutional commitment of $300,000 per year for FY 2014 and FY 2015 to enable ISU participation in the development of the Kuali Student open source software package.

Priority 2 -- Address critical student success issues that decrease retention and graduation rates, increase time to degree, and increase student indebtedness

  • The Student Success Council was formed as a collaborative effort of the SVPSA and SVPP from the prior Student Retention Task Force to broadly address student success issues and to develop institutional student success initiatives. The SSC is co-chaired by Associate Vice President Harmon and Associate Provost Holger and includes representation from student affairs stakeholder units, academic affairs units, and academic colleges.
  • The budget of the Writing and Media Center was increased by approximately $50,000 for FY 2014 to enable increased staffing and expanded programming.
  • The Supplemental Instruction program budget was increased by approximately $50,000 for FY 2014 to enable hiring of 18 additional supplemental instruction leaders and to support additional SI programming by increasing capacity and scope of courses included in SI.
  • The Office of the SVPP hired an academic data analyst to provide additional capability to analyze disaggregated data on student success and to allow implementation of enhanced learner analytic approaches to identifying students who are becoming academically at-risk.
  • The theme of the ISU institutional quality initiative for our next Higher Learning Commission institutional reaccreditation scheduled FY 2016 focuses on processes to systematically gather information about and enhancement of initial success of our graduates and was approved by the HLC during summer 2013. The initiative is well-leveraged with the broad student success efforts of this priority action item.
  • The Library improved access and enhanced public safety with expanded hours, additional security, and expanded space for collaborative learning.
  • 9.3 additional academic advisors were hired by academic colleges and departments and this will enable greater capacity to intervene in ways that increase student success.
  • CELT continued to provide programmatic and staff support for the analysis of student learning outcomes for internal student success enhancement purposes and external reporting purposes.

Subcommittee members

Co-chairs are David Holger, Associate Provost and Dean of the Graduate College and Arne Hallam, Associate Dean, Liberal Arts and Sciences

Other subcommittee members are: Katie Baumgarn, Coordinator of Instructional Facilities (Course Availability Group); Tom Brumm, Assoc. Prof., Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, Professor-in-Charge, Engineering-LAS Online Learning, Director of Assessment, College of Engineering; Jonathan Compton, Senior Research Analyst, Records and Registration; Ana-Paula Correia, Assoc. Prof., School of Education; Laura Doering, Registrar (Course Availability Group); Gary Mirka, Associate Dean for Academic Programs, COE (Undergraduate Programs Council, Orientation Committee); Jay Newell, Assoc. Prof., Journalism and Communication (CELT Advisory Board); Sree Nilakanta, Professor and Chair, Department of Supply Chain and Information Systems, COB (Department Chairs); Susan Rhoades, Assistant Director, Academic Success Center; Cris Salinas, Multicultural Liaison Officer, College of Design; Brad Skaar, Assoc. Prof., Animal Science (Chair, Faculty Senate Outcomes Assessment Committee); Ann Wessman, Program Coordinator, Student Financial Aid.