Campus QEP efforts continue

Those who have spent any time at all on campus recently are bound to have heard something about the Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), and with good reason: it is part of Maryville’s re-accreditation process.

More importantly, it is what makes student diplomas worth something.

QEPs were put in place nine years ago by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), so this is MC’s first time creating and implementing a QEP.

In short, a QEP is the result of a given school’s evaluation put into action. Colleges put a lot of effort into making sure that they meet certain standards, and when that process is done, there is always room for improvement. This is where QEPs make an entrance.

The QEP process began at MC with ideas from faculty, staff and students about what they would like to see change on campus, followed by a series of conversations about how to improve student learning.

Ideally, the final product will coincide with the college’s strategic plan.

Kristin Gourley, director of student involvement, has been involved with the QEP process from the start and was part of the set that has been explaining to different groups on campus how the various suggestions for improvement were sorted.

It came down to four areas, ranging from international involvement to vocation, and in the end the cabinet decided that vocation was the best one on which to focus the school’s efforts.

Don’t dismay, however, if you were pulling for more involved international studies and study abroad programs at MC. Those on the committee which will be formed to expand and implement the QEP will have the opportunity to insert ideas like international internships.

Whoever is chosen for this committee made of students, faculty and staff will have their jobs cut out for them. According to Gourley, they will have to “work hard to show exactly what [the QEP] would look like at MC.”

Such labor will include resolving issues surrounding staffing, the budget, potential classes to add and how it will all play out over the next five years.

To fulfill its obligation, MC will have to create the QEP from nothing in just one year’s time. Then, in the fall of 2013, representatives from SACS will come to campus.

This group will include administrative staff from different small colleges and large universities, people with their own ideas about the operation of educational institutions. These are also, however, all people who have practical experience running schools and thus understand the entailed challenges.

Gourley said that while this group is on campus, its members will have the right to “stop anyone who may be passing and ask about the QEP.”

She expects that over the next year students will hear a great deal about the Quality Enhancement Plan, as they did the “Stretch Your Mind” campaign from a few years ago.

The QEP could change anything relating to vocation and discernment. This includes requiring more interaction with the Center for Calling and Career and changing the manner in which students are advised, among many other areas.

No changes may be implemented until they are approved by SACS, meaning the earliest the QEP can take effect is January of 2014.

Don’t let the far-off date lull you into indifference, though. The QEP is important.

If Maryville were to fail, the school would be put on probation, during which time it would be expected to correct its mistakes. After that, MC would face the possibility of losing its accreditation, which is what gives diplomas their worth and validates student education.

It is unlikely that this will happen, with all the work that will be put in over the course of the next year.

Nevertheless, the QEP is something to keep an eye on and an ear to. So take heed, and mind your QEPs.

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