Union College Assessment Plan

Steve Schmidt, Assessment Director
July 20, 2017 revision


Union College conducts assessment, as part of its planning-assessment cycle, as required by Middle States standards 7 (Institutional Effectiveness) and 14 (Assessment of Student Learning). As suggested in standard 7, Union has a single assessment system which covers both institutional effectiveness and student learning. This system operates at both the institutional level (called college level at Union, to avoid confusion between institutional level assessment and assessment of institutional effectiveness) and the unit level (usually referred to at Union as office level or department level).  The system is overseen by the Director of Assessment, who reports to the Vice-President for Academic Affairs. Relevant files are maintained in two web locations; a site on the college’s website which is available to the public, and an assessment course on the college’s Nexus site which is available to all faculty, senior staff, and unit directors.

Institutional/College Level Assessment

Union College’s strategic plan (summary here: full plan available through Nexus) identifies 27 long-term goals that the college aims to achieve. 13 of these goals deal with student learning and 14 deal with institutional effectiveness. The goals are revised when the strategic plan is revised, approximately every five years. The goals are rooted in the college’s mission statement and can be found on the public assessment website.

The Director of Assessment produces an annual assessment report on the achievement of these goals. A number of measurements are made annually; additional measurements cover the remaining goals and are made alternate years or every third year, either because of availability (for instance, NSSE data are available only one year in three) or because making them annually would be costly. The current list of strategic plan assessment measures is available in an Excel format on this website. Special assessment projects will also be done on an as-needed basis. A template for this report is found on the Nexus assessment site.

The annual institutional level assessment report is submitted to the Planning and Priorities Group and the senior staff in October. The Planning and Priorities Group’s membership and function are defined by the faculty manual; it is composed of “the four division Chairs of the Faculty, the Chair of the Faculty Executive Committee, the Secretary of the Faculty, the two faculty trustees, three students (full-time, day-time, undergraduates) to be appointed by the Student Committee on Committees, two members of the staff to be appointed by the Director of Human Relations for three-year terms with the possibility of reappointment, the Vice Presidents, the Senior Director of Campus Diversity and Affirmative Action, and resource people deemed helpful to the discussions of the Planning and Priorities Group.” Its function is to “review and recommend to the President policies concerning long-range planning, the establishment of College priorities, and the preparation of annual budgets…. It shall have the specific responsibility of evaluating the extent to which the annual budget of the College responds to established College priorities.” A condensed version of the report is also provided to the Board of Trustees at their winter meeting. The full report is the primary source of assessment information available to P and P and the senior staff in formulating annual objectives and the budget, though P and P can also draw on unit-level assessment reports as it wishes. The institutional level report will be made available to the faculty and professional staff as well through the Nexus assessment site. In years when the college is conducting a self-study as part of a Middle States review or a revision of the strategic plan, the assessment information will be incorporated into that report, which will replace the annual assessment report for that year (since it will contain a much more detailed analysis of the college’s performance on its goals).

Unit/Office Level Assessment

The College is divided into six responsibility centers (RCs) headed by a vice-president (VP), or in the case of the President’s Office, by the Chief of Staff. Each of these RCs is in turn divided into smaller units called, variously, offices, departments, or other names, headed by a director (in a few cases the title is “manager” rather than “director”, and in the academic program, the title is “chair” for departments and “director” for programs). For assessment purposes, the term “offices” includes all of these smaller units, and the term “director” includes the head of any one of these offices. Most of the college’s directors report to one of the five VPs or, in Academic Affairs, one of the other academic deans, except for a few who report to the Chief of Staff or the Chief Diversity Officer. See the college’s table of organization for a list of offices and directors, and the responsibility center in which they operate.

Each of the units has a statement of that unit’s long-term goals, which is found on the public assessment site. Directors revise their long-term goals, in consultation with their supervisors, as needed. Revisions to the goals are included in the unit’s annual assessment report and updated on the college website by the Director of Assessment. Each of the units will have an assessment plan, which will be available on the Nexus website.

Each of the unit directors submits an annual assessment report to his or her supervisor. The timing and content of these reports varies from RC to RC, but in all non-academic cases the report is submitted prior to an annual meeting between the director and his or her supervisor (in Academic Affairs, all four academic deans attend) in which the previous year’s assessments are evaluated, the previous year’s annual objectives are reviewed, annual objectives for the coming year are set, and assessments for the coming year are established. Reports for academic departments and programs are distributed to the faculty of the department or program and discussed at a meeting of the faculty, annually. Templates for the reports, which also vary from RC to RC, are found on the Nexus site for assessment. The reports are forwarded to the Director of Assessment, who makes them available to the faculty and professional staff through the Nexus assessment site, and are available to the Planning and Priorities committee and the senior staff there as needed.

The cycle for each RC is as follows:

Student learning in academic departments and programs: Departments and programs collect assessment information during the academic year, evaluate it during the summer, and meet to discuss it during the fall term. Assessment reports are due to the Dean of Academic Departments with a copy to the Director of Assessment on January 10th. Departments and programs are externally reviewed once every ten years, and do an internal mid-term review five years after the external review. They are exempt from annual assessment for the academic year in which these reviews are done.

General Education, Writing Across the Curriculum, and International Programs: Writing Across the Curriculum reports together with the Writing Center as they have the same director. (This may change in future years.) General Education’s report is produced according to the General Education assessment plan by the Gen Ed Board. It is submitted at the end of each academic year to the Academic Affairs Council; a draft of the report is available to the academic deans at the Gen Ed director's annual meeting with them. International Programs reports to the Dean along with directors reporting on institutional effectiveness. There is internal assessment of each program but this is not public; a summary of it which does not identify individual terms is included in the report.

Directors in Academic Affairs dealing with institutional effectiveness: Each director meets with the four academic deans once a year between January and May. The report is due one week before that meeting. It is sent to all four deans and to the Director of Assessment.

Student Affairs: Reports are due in June. Each director discusses an early draft of the report with the VP in April or May. Reports are submitted to the VP who collects them into one package and forwards it to the Director of Assessment in September.

Finance and Administration: Reports are due in April or May and are discussed with the VP at that time. Reports are submitted to the VP and forwarded to the Director of Assessment as they arrive.

Admissions: Reports are due in June. All directors meet in April for general discussion of the year’s assessment, and each director discusses an early draft of the report with the VP in May or June. Reports are submitted to the VP who collects them into one package which is sent to the Director of Assessment in August.

College Relations: Reports are due in June. Each director discusses an early draft of the report with the VP in April or May. Reports are submitted to the VP who collects them into one package and forwards it to the Director of Assessment in August.

Chief Diversity Officer: Report is due in June and discussed with the Chief Diversity Officer, who forwards it to the Director of Assessment. (This report uses the Academic Affairs template.)

Chief of Staff: Reports are due in June, discussed with the Chief of Staff, and are forwarded by the Chief of Staff to the Director of Assessment.