FSU Undergoing Middle States Evaluation

Every month, Forstburg State University releases a “Middle States Update” to all the students, detailing specific information on the university’s purpose and overall goals as an educational establishment.   The university makes sure that students are aware of these updates by emailing them every month with substantial facts about the movement. In September, an email was released to students detailing the purpose of “Middle States.” According to the email, the program is formally called “The Middle States Commission on Higher Education” (MSCHE). It is a “voluntary, non-governmental, peer-reviewing body that assures the 216 member institutions conform to a set of operating standards.”

The commission “covers private and public colleges and universities in New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Washington DC, and selected sites overseas.” Its vision, according to their website, is to “aspire to be the preeminent resource for institutions of higher education striving to achieve excellence in fulfilling their missions.” It also “intends, through voluntary assessment and adherence to high standards for student learning outcomes and operational behavior, to assure higher education’s publics that its accredited institutions are fulfilling their stated purposes and addressing the publics’ expectations.” The commission encourages students to share their thoughts on the goals and operating standards of the university every month.

Dr. Sydney Duncan, an administrator of the commission and staff member of the university says, “If we can get word of mouth generated and get these focus groups for the program, students would want to come in and tell us what they think, because we want to hear from you.” With the update of the university’s future goals and desired standards, Frostburg along with other intuitions are required to provide a “strategic plan”. According to the Middle States Commission website, its purpose, including the strategic plan, is to “serve as resource for services to our members while ensuring that they meet accreditation standards.”

In October, a detailed update was emailed to all the students explaining Frostburg University’s mission and strategic plan for the future of the university. This is required for the update. According to the document, Frostburg’s official mission statement reads: “Frostburg State University is a student-centered teaching and learning institution featuring experiential opportunities. The University offers students a distinctive and distinguished baccalaureate education along with a select set of applied master’s and doctoral programs. Frostburg serves regional and statewide economic and workforce development; promotes cultural enrichment, civic responsibility, and sustainability; and prepares future leaders to meet the challenges of a complex and changing global society.”

Frostburg’s strategic plan involves six goals. According to the email “the university has a structure in place for collecting information on these goals, reporting that information, and using that information to make decisions on how to move the university forward.”

Frostburg’s strategic plan greatly relates to the MSCHE “Standards of Excellence. The Standards of Excellence is a proposal of expected and accredited standards of example for all of the universities involved in the commission. In the update, the university says “The organizational structure for the Frostburg State University self-study will align our six Strategic Plan Goals with the fourteen Standards of Excellence. Each of the Strategic Plan Goals will serve as a chapter in the self-study.” The fourteen strategic plan goals of excellence, detailed in a publication by MSCHE.org , are: Mission and Goals, Planning, Resource Allocation, and Institutional Renewal, Institutional Resources, Leadership and Governance, Administration, Integrity, Institutional Assessment, Student Admissions and Retention, Student Support Services, Faculty, Educational Offerings, General Education, Related Educational Activities and Assessment of Student Learning.

The email includes a detailed explanation of the strategic plan goals for the university, compiled into a chart. On the left is a list of the goals and on the right is details of which standard of excellence the goals relate to. The first strategic plan goal is to develop and support academic programs and student services that prepare a changing student population for an era of complexity and globalization.” This could relate to the university creating more educational programs that relate to students growing interests and personal academic goals and ideas.

The second strategic goal is to “enhance facilities and the campus environment in order to support and reinforce student learning.” The university has been attempting to follow through with this goal by renovating several on campus living arrangements and also constructing the CCIT building which is now open for students.

The third strategic goal is to “increase student quality and institutional retention and graduation rates while encouraging baccalaureate students to persist to graduation.” This goal would most likely relate to creating more programs that motivate students to work harder and retain enough information to move forward in their educational career.

The fourth strategic goal is to “recruit and retain diverse and talented faculty and staff committed to student learning and University goals.” This goal most likely involves hiring new staff—staff that will add something new to the university and also care about students and provide a substantial curriculum that has a positive impact on their students.

The fifth strategic goal is to “promote activities that demonstrate the University’s educational distinction.” This may include programs similar to “Late at Lane,” a theme night held the last Saturday of every month of each semester that gives the university a slight edge in extracurricular creativity.

The last strategic goal is to “serve as a collaborative partner in the cultural, social and economic development in Western Maryland, the region, and the state.” This goal most likely relates to the university reaching outside the campus and involving the surrounding area in activities that can improve the region as a whole.

Dr. Sydney Duncan expressed that the Middle States program is a way to make sure “universities are doing what they say they are doing.” She says, “There’s not really a federal agency that looks us over and says this is what you should do. We want to police ourselves and make sure that we are all doing what we should be doing.” The university stresses that students retain the information provided in the Middle States update and collaborate with them in helping to achieve these strategic goals. “It’s like a peer review, except it’s on a really big scale,” Duncan said, The university as a whole strives to create an atmosphere of excellence and encourage students to learn and enjoy their college experience. With the strategic goals set in place, the university hopefully over the following semesters greatly improves the university and continues to get students involved in the development of a better university.

Dr. Gibralter says, “It is truly commendable to receive feedback that reaffirms our accreditation and commends us for the way our process engages the entire University community. This is something we all should take pride in.”

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