Recruitment and Retention Fulfilling the Promise Members of the Fulfilling the Promise Committee (FP) met on four separate occasions to deliberate the question: Are We Fulfilling the Promises we make to our students? Do we in fact meet the expectations we create for our audiences in our various media about the merits of a Nipissing University education? A partial list of promises includes the following: small classes; access to professors; a high quality of student life and full services; a fully qualified and full-time professoriate; guaranteed scholarships; a room in residence for every first-year student; a high quality undergraduate education; diversity of programs; a national reputation for excellence; a reasonable schedule of classes, a good choice of 3 and 6 credit course options; a student-friendly and safe campus; undergraduate research opportunities. While the list is admittedly incomplete, members did feel that this list includes most of bestknown promises. These promises are to be found in various Nipissing University publications, including the Website, and media outlets. Rather than attempt to address every area, this committee chose to focus on selected issues that receive frequent comment and appear high on our list of promises. These include: small classes, guaranteed scholarships, room in residence, quality of student life and services (Counselling, Advising, Registrar's Office), campus safety, high quality programs, full-time and fully qualified faculty, accessibility to University resources. Members of the FP committee also recognize that some of the recommendations below may appear contradictory (e.g. the recommendations regarding small classes and the need for fulltime faculty [# 1 and 6]). However, the intention of the recommendations is clear and widely supported. Small Classes Although we rightly pride ourselves on the provision of small classes, there is concern that some of our first-year classes do not quite fit the picture (e.g. English, History, Psychology, Sociology, and Philosophy). While the norm is indeed low in upper-year classes, it is not so among a significant handful of first-year classes. Further, even though these large classes are in many instances accompanied by breakout seminars or labs, these classes are nonetheless large by Nipissing standards. The fact that they are significantly smaller than comparable classes at larger universities doesn't detract from the problem they pose for an institution that promotes itself on intimate class size and similar advantages. A quick review of first year courses confirms this impression of relatively large first year classes: ENGL 1105: 169; Intro PSYCH: 221; Intro SOCI: 115 and 88; Intro HIST: 55, 104, 55: Human GEOG: 84, Physical GEOG: 97; Intro PHIL: 106. While we do note that these larger classes are succeeded by much smaller classes in the upper years, there is evidence of escalating growth in first year classes which may be compounded by the arrival of the double-cohort intake of new students, perhaps beginning as early as next Fall. In sum, our reputation for small class size needs careful monitoring at the first year level if this promise is to remain credible. 2 Recommendation 1: That the Faculty of Arts and Science make every effort to preserve the small class option where and when practicable including first year courses. Access to Professors Like many smaller Canadian universities, Nipissing promises the student that courses will be taught by faculty, not Teaching Assistants, and that they will have ready access to these faculty members. For the most part we do very well in this regard, as the so-called Manitoba Survey regularly confirms. However, the student members of our group indicate that access to professors is perhaps not as universal an experience as we commonly believe. They suggest that a significant number of their peers have had some difficulty in meeting with their professors beyond the classroom. While the problem is not restricted to part-time faculty, it is perhaps more evident there. This may be because many part-time faculty do not have office space, a situation that will be remedied next year with the completion of the new Academic Building which includes office space for part-time faculty members. Most faculty members do post and observe regular office hours. In addition, many are available on a frequent basis outside office hours. Nonetheless, it appears that there may be some full-time faculty members who are not so accessible. While it was recognized that research activities, committee and teaching obligations also consume much of a professor's time, it was agreed that student access to faculty remains a priority for our students and institution. In this connection, Dean Andrew Dean and the Chairs of Departments will be asked to follow up on student access to faculty members. In sum, our faculty members are indeed readily and willingly available for the most part; however, there may be some part-time and full-time members who do not for various reasons fully live up to this part of our promise to students. Recommendation 2: That all faculty members, both full-time and part-time, post and observe office hours and provide such additional access to students as seems reasonable. Scholarships The question was raised on several occasions whether our present scholarship program was still competitive or if it should be modified in some way to attract more and better students. While everyone agreed that more and richer scholarships are always desirable, in the present economic context our current method of scholarship allocation remains our best option because of its predictability and attraction for our incoming students. Ken McLellan, Manager of Financial Aid, presented the committee with a thorough review of our scholarship programs and confirmed the opinion that we remain competitive in general terms, if not at the higher reaches. Ken has undertaken an inquiry into how our scholarships compare with those of other universities. Given the high cost of the current scholarship program, with a very significant boost anticipated with the arrival of the double-cohort students, costs here are under close scrutiny. Murray Green informed the group that he is working on a five-year funding plan for scholarships. 3 Allen LeBlanc informed the committee that we may have access to some larger named scholarships in the future, which would increase our ability to attract top-level students. Comments from Liaison's perspective on scholarship effectiveness were unavailable at this time. Diane Huber was unable to attend because of High School visit commitments. In sum, at the very least, the scholarship program should be maintained as is until such time as we have access to further funding resources. Additional high-end scholarships -- indeed, more scholarships in general -- would of course be most welcome additions to our promises of financial support for, and recognition of, superior academic achievement. Recommendation 3: That we ensure our scholarship program remains competitive, predictable and attractive, especially to our incoming students. In order to meet these conditions, the Committee recommends an annual review of our scholarship program by the Student Affairs Committee. Room In Residence Very briefly, this was felt by all Committee members to be a very attractive option for our firstyear students, as well as for upper-year students space permitting. All realize there may be some pressure with the arrival of the double-cohort class. The consensus was that upper-year students, some of who currently enjoy residence space, should make way for the new students even though that might have some negative impact on the present healthy mix. It was widely recognized that not only is the promise of a room of one's own a much cherished feature of Nipissing University student life, so too is the promise of an academic place at Nipissing. Recommendation 4: Like our guaranteed scholarship program, we should retain this promise of a room in residence for all first-year students coming to Nipissing University directly from high school. Quality of Student Life and Services Academic Advising Students voiced concern that some of their peers had experienced long waits to see an academic advisor. While the quality of this service is highly regarded, some felt that greater access would benefit students significantly. It was suggested that perhaps some time might be set aside on a regular basis for a drop-in facility (a suggestion Academic Advising has already acted upon). It was also indicated that Chairs of departments should be able to complement academic advising once students have selected a program major. New Student Orientation Apparently faultless (as the Manitoba Survey confirms)! 4 Counselling and Other Student Services In general, it appears that these services are well received and that we live up to our promises to provide high quality assistance to our students when needed. However, with significant growth in student numbers, it was also recognized that there would have to be commensurate growth in Student Services in order to maintain the present high degree of service to students. Sports Teams There was some discussion of the benefits to the community of the addition of university sports teams such as basketball. It was felt that their provision would enhance the quality of nonacademic life on campus. However, it was noted that perhaps more could be done in terms of inter-collegiate sports in collaboration with Canadore College. Since we do not have such teams at the moment, it is difficult to estimate their impact on student life. With the arrival of significantly larger numbers of students in the next few years, some of whom will be under 18, it was felt that more needs to be done to enhance the quality of student life. NUSU's initiative on a new Student Centre should do much to provide more scope for student non-academic activities. The Nipissing University Experience Our students remind us time and again of just how proud they are of their university. This feeling is very evident in the Manitoba Survey and in general communication with students. While sports teams are one way of fostering this sense of pride and identity, other social activities also interest students. Such activities might include cultural and social events both on and off campus. These might include music, theatre, art gallery, dance etc. In this area too, there is room for much growth and diversity. Campus Safety This was a recurring item of discussion. The need for enhanced lighting and emergency telephone service between the lower residences and the main campus was brought to the attention of the committee. Indeed, the fact that there are now over 500 students in the lower residences is cause for concern over safety issues whether they be the responsibility of the city, or the University, or both. It was also mentioned that since 70% of our students are female, campus activities, social events and security provisions should reflect that fact. As the size of the undergraduate population grows significantly over the next four years, student services of all kinds will need to be able to respond effectively and appropriately. In sum, student services at Nipissing University are on the whole very good. We need to recognize that as we grow to our target of 2,500 full-time students we will need to ensure that the same quality of student services is maintained. Recommendation 5: That, as the University grows and diversifies, we make a significant effort to maintain and enhance all current safety provisions, student services of all kinds, and the diversity of social, cultural and sporting events and opportunities for our students in order to provide a richer undergraduate life experience. 5 High Quality Programs and Faculty; Undergraduate Research Opportunities I have put these items together for brief comment. While students are generally very positive about their programs and their quality, they do note the lack of depth in some programs, particularly new programs (e.g. Fine Arts) and science in general. It is obvious that our coverage of the creative and performing arts is also weak. However, the Arts and Science Faculty has produced a 5-year plan which is intended to address these issues as well as maintain growth in our present programs. Further, one of the primary intentions of the recent Arts and Science Grading Standards and Practices Report is to ensure that Nipissing University degrees are of the highest quality and contribute to our reputation for teaching excellence. Students drew attention to the problems posed by a lack of 3-credit course offerings in some areas and the timetabling difficulties attached to a roster of exclusively 3-hour classes. Dr Dean commented on the timetables of a few students which he had randomly scanned and found them to be far from 'student-friendly'! Arts and Sciences is currently reviewing its 3 and 6 credit course options and 3 hour classes. Dr Dean will also review scheduling options with the Registrar to determine the feasibility of a two-hour break late in the day to allow students to participate in social and cultural activities of all sorts. Nipissing University faculty are on the whole very well qualified and highly respected by their students and colleagues. However, it is recognized that hiring new faculty is especially difficult in some areas (e.g. Computer Science, some Education fields, Marketing and Business in general) such that fully qualified faculty may not always be available. Everyone recognizes the need to maintain the quality of Nipissing University faculty and their reputation for teaching and research. It is also recognized that many of our courses are taught on a part-time basis. In view of our emphasis on the importance of full-time faculty and student access to them, having a high proportion of courses taught by part-time faculty may become a problem. Student Research Opportunities Some of our publications indicate that students have research opportunities in the upper year courses. While this is indeed the case in Psychology, and perhaps Sociology, this is not universally true. The committee felt that we should indicate more clearly where the research opportunities really exist. It was also felt that able students in their final years in many other disciplines do have opportunities for independent research projects in collaboration with faculty and that this fact might be more publicized. In sum, our faculty, our classes and our students are the proving ground for our reputation. Everyone recognizes the need to hire the best possible faculty and to ensure that research and teaching are fully sustained and recognized. It is further recognized that scheduling problems need to be positively addressed if we are to maintain our promise of a student-sensitive learning environment. Opportunities for student involvement in research should be more clearly identified where and when possible. 6 Recommendation 6: That, as hiring first class faculty members becomes even more competitive, we retain our commitment to a high proportion of well-qualified, full-time faculty; that we assure our students of research and independent study opportunities where and when applicable; that our scheduling and course options become even more student sensitive; that we make every effort to continue to offer high quality programs which are carefully and regularly monitored and reviewed. A brief discussion of the transition of Arts and Science students to Education took place in the final session. Since many of students are progressing through to Education, it was observed that we should make sure we maintain our commitment to them. Recommendation 7: That we continue to ensure a smooth transition to Education for Arts and Science students. These then are some of the responses to the promises Nipissing University offers its students in different media. The general thrust of the comments is that while we do a good job, we do need to be more attentive in some areas. Further, as the recommendations indicate, there are specific concerns that should be addressed as we move towards our goal of 2,500 students. Respectfully submitted, Robert Forrest, Chair Robert Bergquist Andrew Dean Deborah Langford Angela Fera Murray Green Denis Lawrence Brock Leighton Allen LeBlanc Francoise Noel Dan Pletzer Julie Price Terry Roome Bill Ross Connie Vander Wall Recording Secretary: Debra Shank-Dokis 7 Members of this committee were aware that this report focuses on issues in the area of Arts and Science. A future, more comprehensive, report would include a review of the Faculty of Education. It should also be noted that a collaborative survey (Arts and Science, Residence and Student Affairs) of first year students' experience at Nipissing University is currently underway. The results of this survey will be forwarded to the umbrella Recruitment and Retention Committee. Recommendation 1: That the Faculty of Arts and Science make every effort to preserve the small class option where and when practicable including first year courses. Recommendation 2: That all faculty members, both full-time and part-time, post and observe office hours and provide such additional access to students as seems reasonable. Recommendation 3: That we ensure our scholarship program remains competitive, predictable and attractive, especially to our incoming students. In order to meet these conditions, the Committee recommends an annual review of our scholarship program by the Student Affairs Committee. Recommendation 4: Like our guaranteed scholarship program, we should retain this promise of a room in residence for all first-year students coming to Nipissing University directly from high school. Recommendation 5: That, as the University grows and diversifies, we make a significant effort to maintain and enhance all current safety provisions, student services of all kinds, and the diversity of social, cultural and sporting events and opportunities for our students in order to provide a richer undergraduate life experience. Recommendation 6: That, as hiring first class faculty members becomes even more competitive, we retain our commitment to a high proportion of well-qualified, full-time faculty; that we assure our students of research and independent study opportunities where and when applicable; that our scheduling and course options become even more student sensitive; that we make every effort to continue to offer high quality programs which are carefully and regularly monitored and reviewed. Recommendation 7: That we continue to ensure a smooth transition to Education for Arts and Science students.