Full QEP

Please follow this link to the UMW Final QEP.


Executive Summary and Plan Overview

The University of Mary Washington (UMW), a public comprehensive liberal arts university with approximately 4,500 undergraduate and 750 graduate students, has a long history of executing high impact practices to enhance student learning. The four-course writing intensive requirement (established in 1982) and a two-course speaking intensive requirement (established in 1997) were both supported by the establishment of peer consulting centers directed by professional staff. Following best practices and modeled by other institutions, UMW’s efforts have bolstered its long-standing commitment to a liberal arts education.

As part of a sweeping overhaul of the general education program, UMW established a First-Year Seminar (FSEM) requirement in 2008. This three-credit course, required of all first-year undergraduates, was designed to help students cultivate the knowledge, skills, and habits of mind necessary for liberal learning through the in-depth study of a topic in a seminar setting.  One expectation of the course is the provision of instruction on how to gather and analyze information for the purpose of formulating and defending an opinion. With a 15-1 student-tofaculty ratio, individual FSEM courses are distributed across various academic departments, are taught by members of the full-time teaching faculty, and involve topics requiring no prior background or discipline specific knowledge. FSEM course titles reflect the rich diversity of experiences offered; courses have focused on topics such as “Mozart and ‘Amadeus,’” “Finding Fashion,” the “Graphic Novel,” “Infographics,” “Cinderella and Harry Potter,” and “Energy Resources in the 21st Century.” Since 2008, more than ninety individual FSEM courses have been developed by UMW faculty.

While the 2008 FSEM requirement established general course goals, it had ill-defined student learning outcomes and insufficient support for faculty who were tasked with implementing an ambitious introductory college-level experience in oral communication, written communication, and information literacy. Consequently, UMW’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) is designed to enhance the existing FSEM as a foundational liberal arts educational experience. The plan establishes a rigorous and clearly defined set of integrated FSEM learning outcomes in the areas of information literacy, writing, and oral communication. To enhance the realization of these outcomes, the plan develops online learning modules to
support instruction. Over a three-year period, the plan envisions the creation of at least twelve modules distributed among the three skills areas. UMW is piloting this approach in spring 2013 with an information literacy module.

Framed by best practices drawn from multiple sources, the QEP is the result of thirty-six months of collaborative planning, reflecting, narrowing, and revising that included representatives from senior administrators, faculty, staff, and students. An open call for topic suggestions led to the creation of teams of faculty and staff who developed three potential topic areas in additional detail. Selection of the “first-year experience” as the principal subject area came about after the President and the Provost reviewed the topic proposals developed by the three teams. A call for volunteers to serve on the QEP Development Team resulted in 23 participants who began the work to develop the plan. In summer 2012, the QEP topic was narrowed considerably by a smaller group of individuals working with the Provost. The plan’s focus on the FSEM course was in part prompted by analysis of both nationally normed and internal data sets indicating a need to improve student performance in common literacy skill sets during the first-year so that students could take full advantage of the rigorous academic programs UMW prides itself on offering, ones that focus on close faculty-student relationships, individual study, and undergraduate research. The plan was affirmed in fall 2012 by appropriate faculty governance bodies, including the University Faculty Council on December 6, 2012.