Shaping the Undergraduate Experience through Experiential Learning
Valdosta State University (VSU) has developed a comprehensive Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) that meets all requirements of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). The proposed QEP topic is based on, and aligns with, the VSU Strategic Plan, and the VSU Divisions of Academic Affairs and Student Affairs strategic plans.
The ongoing institutional process includes input from faculty, staff, and students from across the entire university, including Academic Affairs (the six Academic Colleges, Graduate School, Honors College, and the University Library), Division of Student Affairs, Division of Student Success, and University Advising as well as the office of Institutional Effectiveness (including assessment and accreditation compliance). The QEP proposal aligns with the institutional mission and reinforces the student-centered focus of the University’s strategic plan as “a catalyst for regional comprehensive progress.”
The QEP, entitled Trailblazing: Shaping the Undergraduate Experience through Experiential Learning, provides students a comprehensive offering of experiential learning (EL) opportunities reflecting the diversity of our university and the local/regional communities that we serve; the educational, research, and service disciplines of our outstanding faculty; and, most importantly, the needs of our students. Included is an array of opportunities that are recognized as High Impact Practices (HIPs) by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) including First-Year Seminars and Experiences, Common Intellectual Experiences, Learning Communities, Undergraduate Research, Diversity/Global Learning, Service Learning & Community-Based Learning, Capstone Courses and Projects. Each of these contribute to students’ sense of belonging, as well as personal growth and academic success.
Experiential Learning challenges both faculty and students to think critically, innovatively, collaboratively, and creatively within a safe and engaging environment, with a goal of both deepening learning and broadening the educational impact of the experience. Curricula, courses, and projects are designed to engage students in a scaffolded approach to self-reflection, integrating the critical analysis of academic understanding and application, personal growth, and community service. Moreover, experiential learning opportunities will be reviewed by a standing QEP Coordinator and Experiential Learning Advisory Committee to ensure compliance with thoughtfully crafted guidelines and outcomes. With the integration of Presence (a campus engagement platform branded at VSU as Blazerlink), VSU Trailblazing through Experiential Learning encourages students to explore beyond the classroom, lab, or studio and motivates students to make connections across campus, to collaborate with others, and to apply and synthesize every aspect of their collegiate experience, leading to success while at VSU and long after graduation.
The success of VSU Trailblazing through Experiential Learning will be measured through a direct and indirect assessment plan addressing QEP goals and student learning outcomes in addition to student skill development aligned with the institutional mission and strategic plan. The QEP will implement and execute the institutional Strategic Plan and meet SACSCOC principles for reaffirmation, with a goal of long-term sustainability for the program.