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Institutional Context


...with liberty and calculus for all. Anonymous UCSD freshman

In 1960, the inaugural class of one hundred graduate students enrolled in the University of California, San Diego, the sixth campus established in the ten-campus University of California system. Over the past forty-five years, founder Roger Revelle's vision of a powerhouse campus in the sciences and engineering has been fulfilled and greatly expanded to include impressive programs in the arts and humanities and the social sciences. (Nancy Scott Anderson chronicles UCSD's development and the driving force behind it in An Improbable Venture , published in 1993.) The campus offers an intellectually rich curriculum, opportunities to participate in research and creative activities, and a wide variety of co-curricular activities giving students the opportunity to explore, learn, and develop both intellectually and personally. In Fall 2004, more than 25,000 undergraduate, graduate, and professional students pursued educational and career goals in the arts, biological and health sciences, humanities, engineering, management, physical sciences, and social sciences.

The quality of UCSD's academic programs has been nationally and internationally recognized, and UCSD is ranked among the most highly rated institutions in many, widely cited polls, e.g., US News & World Report, The Lombardi Program on Measuring University Performance, Newsweek, the 2006 Kaplan/Newsweek College Guide, Washington Monthly, and Shanghai Jiao Tong University. While not substituting for rigorous, empirically based investigations of education quality, these rankings reflect beliefs commonly held by the educational and research community about the excellence of UCSD's programs.

For undergraduate students, the campus' much-lauded college system enhances the student life experience by providing a sense of belonging to and identity with a smaller, more intimate, and more accessible institution within the context of a large research university. Each of the six colleges-Revelle, John Muir, Thurgood Marshall, Earl Warren, Eleanor Roosevelt, and the newest, Sixth-has its own unique identity, academic approach, general education requirements, and geographic campus neighborhood.

Much of the institutional context within which our reaffirmation self-study will be conducted, from the development of this proposal through our Educational Effectiveness Review, is presented in the accompanying text, data displays, and appendices. One feature of our institution, however, that is particularly important for understanding the following proposal is our culture of continual educational improvement using data-driven analyses. Empirical evidence, ongoing monitoring, self-study, and reflection are not confined to our laboratories, our study carrels, our studios, and our performance venues, but they are essential components of our approach to education at all levels-undergraduate, graduate, professional, and extended studies.

Like many large universities, UCSD is proficient at recognizing problems and shortcomings as they emerge. There are many sources of input for the expression of those concerns: student, faculty, and alumni surveys, faculty committees, the faculty, staff, and administrators who work regularly with students and who oversee educational programs. In addition, Chancellor Marye Anne Fox is accessible to every member of the campus community and has set has aside time each week for "walk-in appointments". The Chancellor has also established a website at http://www-chancellor.ucsd.edu/new_rev.html for anyone to use who wishes to send anonymous comments or suggestions about UCSD to her directly.

UCSD is reasonably good at investigating and proposing solutions to problems, as is witnessed by the large number of committees, task forces, and work groups that study putative problems and recommend solutions with the hope and expectation that our educational product will be improved. The institution is also reasonably adept at implementing the recommendations of these groups, although at times budgetary and personnel constraints, local culture, and a host of other factors can make implementation slow and, occasionally, difficult. What is most demanding is the post-implementation assessment and evaluation of instituted changes in order to determine the extent to which

• these efforts at "continual self improvement" have actually accomplished their goals; • the desired and expected changes have occurred; and • the quality of education has been improved.

In our proposed reaffirmation activities, we plan to engage in this final and critical step of continual educational improvement as well as launch an inquiry into an issue that we believe will develop considerable significance over the course of the review process.

As indicated above, UCSD relies on many information sources to identify issues that merit attention. Not the least of these is the WASC accreditation reaffirmation process. Appendix 1 details actions that we have taken since our last reaffirmation in response to the observations and recommendations that were made by the review team. There are a few, however, which should be noted at this point, for they directly bear on our proposed activities and the institutional context for the review. One of the major points made in the earlier reviews was the need to assure the availability of accurate and relevant information to the campus community for the purposes of planning, assessment, and self-understanding. To this end, data on all aspects of university functioning have become widely available through websites and the active distribution of reports to the academic units. (A list of many of these websites and a summary of their content is given in Appendix 2.) In addition, then-Chancellor Dynes appointed the Institutional Research Coordinating Committee to oversee the production and dissemination of institutional data. This committee is one of the three central committees involved in our reaffirmation efforts. It is our hope that the degree to which this activity has been successful will be clearly demonstrated in this proposal and in the two reports and site visits to follow.

A second major point made in the last review emphasized that the budget and planning process should be more inclusive and actively seek input from faculty and campus academic units. We are pleased to report that Senior Vice Chancellor Marsha Chandler has instituted Charting the Course. This new budgeting process begins with individual academic departments, colleges, and other instructional units and focuses on the development and justification of planned growth and change for a three-year projection. It has now been successfully used during three budgetary cycles. The plans and requests of the individual units are consolidated by the divisional deans and provosts into divisional and college requests. These planning documents become the basis for budgetary decisions to be made by the Senior Vice Chancellor.

A third major theme mentioned in the last review dealt with institutional commitments to undergraduate education and to educational outcomes-as opposed to inputs alone-as the basis for understanding educational effectiveness. As a result, the institution has taken additional steps to advance undergraduate education; some of which are central to our proposed self-study. In addition to these initiatives, a new position, Associate Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Education, was established five years ago. Among the activities of that office has been the creation of a Council on Undergraduate Education, whose members are the Vice Chairs for Undergraduate Education within each department and academic unit. This council has become a major forum for the discussion of key issues in undergraduate education at UCSD.

For the current reaffirmation process, we have chosen four self-study themes. Three result from our emphasis on a model of continual educational improvement; they are freshman writing, foreign language instruction, and undergraduate program review. The fourth, information literacy, grew out of discussions through forums such as the Council on Undergraduate Education. These themes will serve as specific focal points for our assessment of UCSD's adherence to the four WASC Standards of Accreditation (1) Defining Institutional Purposes and Ensuring Educational Objectives, (2) Achieving Educational Objectives Through Core Functions, (3) Developing and Applying Resources and Organizational Structures to Ensure Sustainability, and (4) Creating an Organization Committed to Learning and Improvement. In addition, we will examine and report on other aspects of institutional behavior that indicate the degree to which the four Standards are deeply embedded in the basic philosophy and psychology of the institution.

During the course of the accreditation review process, we anticipate that in-depth examination of the four themes will result in improvement of these particular aspects of the academic enterprise and further the pursuit of the University's mission of education, research, and public service. Although it is beyond the purview of this review, we further propose the broader goals of the development of an ongoing campus-wide data portfolio and expansion of review processes to insure that each academic program has specific student-learning outcomes in order to provide the campus with a framework for continual improvement.