The Office of Academic Affairs, led by Dr. Chris Evans, is responsible for maintaining the quality education for which the University of St. Thomas is known. UST offers a wide range of majors and minors and an important core curriculum provided by various schools and programs.
Our core curriculum is one of the most substantial cores in the country, embodying the dialogue of faith and reason and anchored by philosophy and theology. Our education is rooted in the Catholic intellectual tradition and open to continual exploration, dialogue and improvement.
The Office of Academic Affairs objectives include the following:
- Oversight of the planning, organization and administration of all academic programs in the University
- Promotion of UST identity and mission in academic affairs
- Promotion of high academic standards, teaching effectiveness and assessment of educational outcomes throughout the University
- Recruitment, development and evaluation of faculty
- Recruitment, engagement and retention of students
The OIAE supports the University’s mission, values, and strategic initiatives by providing research, support and coordination in the areas of accreditation and assessment.
The mission will be achieved through:
- Collecting, analyzing, and distributing relevant research.
- Supporting the campus through survey research, both national or campus-wide, (NSSE, Campus and Student Satisfaction Surveys and ad hoc surveys) as well as managing the course evaluation process.
- Coordinating a comprehensive system of Institutional Effectiveness Plans that contribute to the mission and strategic initiatives of the University.
- Providing guidance and research support for the University assessment cycle, individual departmental outcomes, and learning outcomes.
- Consulting with departments, programs, and schools from start to finish on research projects to ensure validity and value of data.
- Guiding and facilitating the process of reaffirmation of accreditation and obtaining new program approval from SACSCOC.
- Closing the assessment loop by facilitating the use of research to make informed decisions and change.
- Overseeing the director of the QEP and ensuring its successful implementation and continuous assessment.
Annual Assessment Cycle
Annual Institutional Effectiveness (IE) plans are required by all academic and administrative departments. The annual plan template and resource guides are available on the Office of Institutional Assessment and Effectiveness website. The template is designed to mimic the cycle of ongoing improvement beginning with the previous year’s outcomes and student learning outcomes (SLOs), the assessment and results of the progress toward those outcomes and SLOs, and plans for the upcoming year.
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Reaffirmation 2015 SACSCOC: Overview & Compliance Certification
The University of St. Thomas is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) to award baccalaureate, masters and doctoral degrees.
view accreditation statement (SACSCOC)
What does accreditation by SACSCOC mean?
Accreditation by SACSCOC means that UST:
Has a mission appropriate to higher education,
Has resources, programs, and services sufficient to accomplish and sustain the mission,
Maintains clearly specified educational objectives that are consistent with its mission and appropriate to the degrees it offers, and that indicate whether it is successful in achieving its stated objectives,
SACSCOC is the regional accrediting body for degree-granting higher education institutions in 11 Southern states: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. SACS, founded in 1895, is a private, voluntary, nonprofit organization dedicated to the enhancement of educational quality and improvement of institutional effectiveness through peer review and institutional self-regulation,
SACSCOC sets forth requirements for initial and continued accreditation of colleges and universities in its publication The Principles of Accreditation: Foundations for Quality Enhancement. Once an institution is accredited, SACSCOC maintains a continuous cycle of review at the following intervals:
- Initial accreditation
- Fifth-year interim reaffirmation of accreditation
- Tenth-year reaffirmation of accreditation
How does SACSCOC evaluate institutions for accreditation?
To be accredited, SACSCOC evaluates institutions on their:
- Compliance with the Principle of Integrity
- Compliance with Core Requirements
- Compliance with Comprehensive Standards
- Compliance with additional Federal Requirements
- Compliance with policies of the Commission
The SACSCOC tenth-year reaffirmation covers all aspects of the university’s operations – mission, policies, procedures, programs, resources and services. The reaffirmation process has five components that involve intensive internal and external reviews over an 18-month period:
- Compliance Certification
- Quality Enhancement Plan
- Off-Site Review
- On-Site Review
- SACSCOC Board of Trustees Review
- SACSCOC Board of Trustees Notification
The Compliance Certification is an intensive self-study in which UST takes a serious and reflective look at the quality and effectiveness of its programs and services and judges its own adherence to the over 80+ principles. The Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), developed by a broad-based representation of the UST community, is a detailed action plan to improve students’ learning outcomes or the learning environment.
The Off-Site Review, by SACSCOC, includes an evaluation of UST's Compliance Certification document and preparation of preliminary findings about UST’s compliance. The On-Site Review performed by SACSCOC is extensive and begins before their representatives come to campus.
The On-Site Review includes an examination of the Off-Site committee’s preliminary findings, a separate in-depth assessment of UST’s Compliance Certification, a thorough review of UST's QEP and how it was developed, a visit to a sample of UST’s off-campus locations where classes are offered, a review of third-party comments, and an exit conference with key UST personnel. The SACSCOC Board of Trustees makes its decision and posts it to the SACSCOC website. The three possible outcomes are:
- Reaffirmation of accreditation
- Denial of reaffirmation
- Removal from membership
SACSCOC Leadership Team at UST
The Southern Association of School and Colleges Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) requires that institutions form an Institutional Leadership Team to manage and validate the internal institutional assessment of compliance.
These individuals have a high level of responsibility for the internal compliance process and the integrity of UST’s compliance documents.
SACSCOC recommends that this leadership team include, at the minimum, the chief executive officer, chief academic officer, accreditation liaison and a representative faculty liaison. The SACSCOC also points out the importance of an institution’s governing board in supporting and funding the compliance process.
The UST Institutional Leadership Team consists of five UST administrative officers pictured below. In addition to the SACSCOC recommended team members, UST’s team includes our Associate Vice President of Institutional Assessment & Effectiveness and the Chief Financial Officer. Our leadership team attended the leadership orientation conducted by the SACSCOC in Atlanta in June 2013.
SACSCOC outlines some key responsibilities of the Institutional Leadership Team:
- Coordinating and managing the university-wide internal review process.
- Coordinating the completion of the Compliance Certification that is required by SACSCOC.
Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP)
The focus of the Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) for the University of St. Thomas is the development and deployment of a university-wide writing program for all incoming freshmen.
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools website includes information about the requirements for institutional accreditation and provides executive summaries of Quality Enhancement Plans developed by graduate institutions.
Planning documents for the 10-year reaffirmation of accreditation:
- The Principles of Accreditation: Any university that is accredited by SACSCOC must be in compliance with the Principles of Accreditation, which are the foundations for an institution's quality enhancement. This document includes all of the nearly 100 principles as of 2012.
- The Handbook for Institutions Seeking Reaffirmation: All SACSCOC-accredited universities must apply for reaffirmation of accreditation every ten years. The Handbook for Institutions Seeking Reaffirmation is designed to guide institutions through the reaffirmation process, and outlines the four major steps in the quest for reaffirmation in (1) building a foundation of understanding as the institution starts the process, (2) preparing for the off-site review, (3) preparing for the on-site review, and (4) completing the reaffirmation process.
- The Resource Manual for the Principles of Accreditation: The SACSCOC reaccreditation process is a major undertaking for any university. The Resource Manual for the Principles of Accreditation is designed (1) to provide guidance to institutions as they seek to identify strategies for documenting compliance with commission requirements and standards and (2) to be a resource in the training of review team members and trustees as they strive to apply the Principles fairly and consistently.
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IDEA – Course Evaluations
The Faculty Council approved the use of the IDEA (Individual Development and Educational Assessment) course evaluation system during the 2013-2014 academic year. Fall 2014 marks the launch of IDEA at the University of St. Thomas. The core idea of the IDEA is to assess pedagogical effectiveness by focusing on learning and curricular objectives established by the faculty. The IDEA system replaces the University of St. Thomas’s previous course evaluation process.
Provided below are a few resources that may assist you with the IDEA course evaluations.
To access your IDEA course evaluations, please use one of the links below. You will use your Celt ID and password (same as myStThom, Blackboard) to access these sites.
Below are some additional resources that may be helpful for faculty.
IDEA Frequently Asked Questions
OIAE has assembled answers for faculty to some of the most frequently asked IDEA questions below for your convenience. You might also consider searching the IDEA website, as it offers many valuable resources to help you utilize your IDEA results to improve your teaching effectiveness.
If you do not see the answer to your particular question, feel free to email email@example.com.
- What role does the Office of Institutional Assessment and Effectiveness (OIAE) play in the course evaluation process?
The OIAE is the office that administers the course evaluations and provides functional support to the faculty.
- Are my IDEA course evaluations administered online or by paper?
As of fall 2016, all evaluations are being administered online. Faculty may access their Objective Selection Forms (OSF) and course evaluation reports through the following website: https://stthom.campuslabs.com/faculty/
- What credentials do I use to login to the IDEA course evaluations site?
Your credentials to login to the IDEA site, whether you are a faculty member or student, is your Celt ID and password. This is the same username/password that you use to login to your other UST services (myStThom, Blackboard, etc.).
Please note that the username is not your entire UST email address. For example, if my email address at UST was firstname.lastname@example.org, then my username would be testuser.
- What is the difference between the Diagnostic Feedback (Long form) and Learning Essentials (Short form) Instruments?
- The Learning Essentials Instrument has 18 questions and a comment section, with the option of you adding in your own additional custom questions.
- The Diagnostic Feedback Instrument has 40 standard questions and a comment section, with the option of you adding in your own additional custom questions.
- The Learning Essentials Instrument only captures Progress on the Learning Objectives and 3 extra questions that help to qualify student’s motivation and work habits, along w/ 2 overall questions for excellent teacher and excellent course.
- The Diagnostic Feedback Instrument includes all the questions on the Learning Essentials Instrument along w/ 1 additional student motivation question, 19 additional questions on the instructor, and 8 additional questions on the course.
- Am I supposed to use the Diagnostic Feedback (Long form) form or the Learning Essentials (Short form) Instrument for my course evaluations?
SEHS, SOT, and PSN have chosen to always use the Diagnostic Feedback Instrument. A&S and CSB faculty have the choice on which instrument they wish to use on each course. A survey is distributed those faculty at the beginning of each semester requesting their preference. Please see the ‘What is the difference between the Diagnostic Feedback (Long form) and Learning Essentials (Short form) Instruments?’ question for more information.
Please note: Once the evaluations are open for faculty to select their course objectives, they can no longer request a change to their form type (e.g., change selection from Diagnostic Feedback Instrument to to Learning Essentials Instrument).
- I did not receive an email notifying me that my Objectives Selection Form (or a course report) was available for my course. Who is the best person to contact?
If you believe that you are not receiving any emails regarding your evaluations, please contact email@example.com we will be happy to assist you.
Fortunately, you are still able to fill out your OSFs or view reports as they are available even if you did not receive an email. Just log in here using your Celt ID and password: https://stthom.campuslabs.com/faculty/
- My response rates are not as high as I would like. What can I do to improve them?
Campus Labs offer some tips on improving response rates. Please use the links below to see if any of these tips might be applicable for your course(s):
Campus Labs - http://courseevaluationsupport.campuslabs.com/hc/en-us/articles/204025288-Improving-Response-Rates
- I don’t know how to interpret my IDEA results. Where can I find information on interpreting results?
The best guide for interpreting your results may be found on the IDEA website.
- When will I receive my evaluation results?
Evaluation reports will be available to faculty shortly after grades are posted. You will receive an email notifying you when they have become available
- How will I receive my results?
Once results for course evaluations are ready for you to access, they will be available to you though the following website: https://stthom.campuslabs.com/faculty/
This is the same website you use to fill out your Objective Selection Form (OSF).
- I am an administrator that needs to see other faculty reports. How do I access these reports?
If you are a dean, program director, chair, or other admin that needs access to evaluation reports in your department (other than your own reports), please use the following link:
Once you log in, there will be a 'Reporting' tab available where you can search for course reports. A guide to this feature may be found here:
NB: This feature is only accessible if you have been granted the proper security to view additional faculty reports. Administrative access to these reports is granted by the Dean of each school as needed. If you need access to school-wide or department-wide reports, please ask your Dean to send a request to OIAE.
- I’m still confused. Are there any resources that will help me understand how these IDEA course evaluations work?
Both IDEA and Campus Labs have online resources for faculty. See the IDEA Resources section at the top of this page for links.
Still have questions?
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The following online programs lead to licensure by the Texas Education Authority (TEA):
- School Counseling
- Educational Diagnostician
While many states reciprocate, not all states recognize Texas certification. Students are encouraged to check with their states to determine if their state accepts TEA certification. The School of Education and Human Services houses information that assists in completing documentation particular to the acquisition of certification beyond the state of Texas.
SACSCOC Accreditation Statement
The University of St. Thomas is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) to award baccalaureate, masters and doctoral degrees. Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097, or call 713-522-7911 for questions about the accreditation of the University of St. Thomas.
All SACSCOC-accredited universities must apply for reaffirmation of accreditation every ten years.
The following programs at UST are accredited:
School of Arts & Sciences
Chemistry: American Chemical Society
Cameron School of Business
Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business
School of Education
Texas Education Agency (TEA)
Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC)
Baccalaureate degree program in Nursing
Doctor of Nursing Practice
Approved by the Texas Board of Nursing and accredited by Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE),
Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
655 K Street, NW, Suite 750
Washington, DC 20001
School of Theology
Association of Theological Schools
The University of St. Thomas is a member in good standing of the following organizations and agencies:
- American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education
- American Association of Colleges of Nursing
- Association of American Colleges and Universities
- Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities
- Association of Graduate Liberal Studies Programs (AGLSP)
- Catholic Higher Education Research Cooperative
- Council for Higher Education Accreditation
- Council of Independent Colleges
- Council of Undergraduate Research
- Greater Houston Partnership
- Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities
- Independent Colleges and Universities of Texas
- International Council of Universities of St. Thomas Aquinas
- National Association of College and University Business Officers.
- National Association of Financial Aid Administrators
- National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics
- Red River Athletic Conference
- Texas Campus Compact
- Texas State Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors
- The College Board
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UST's overall mission is to educate leaders of faith and character. To that end, it is essential that these leaders are able to communicate effectively both within and across their respective disciplines. Our QEP mission is to improve students' writing skills across the curriculum, which we believe will foster critical thinking, effective communication, and professional success.
UST Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP)
The UST Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), “Toward a Culture of Writing,” will advance the University Mission by improving students’ writing skills so that they are able to
- communicate effectively within and across disciplines
- think critically
- achieve professional success
Working from clearly articulated educational values for writing, and through a careful analysis of available data in Core subjects, the UST community will
- evaluate existing practices, resources, strategies, and outcomes to determine their effectiveness
- identify and address our weaknesses
- build on our strengths and our unique identity as the Catholic liberal arts university in the heart of Houston
- educate better writers and thinkers in all disciplines.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a QEP?
A QEP is a Quality Enhancement Plan. Our regional accrediting body, SACSCOC, requires that we develop and implement such a plan within the next five years. According to SACS, “the QEP describes a carefully designed course of action that addresses a well-defined and focused topic or issue related to enhancing student learning.” This well-defined and focused topic must be derived from an analysis of comprehensive data, i.e. it must address a known area that needs improvement at UST, and its goals and outcomes must be measurable over the entire life cycle of the QEP. Finally, the university must have both the financial and administrative where withal to execute the QEP they choose.
What is the UST QEP topic?
“Write Well, Think Well: Toward A Culture of Writing”
The University of St. Thomas QEP focuses on improving student writing and creating a culture of writing at the University of St. Thomas. In short, we want our students to:
- Use writing to explore, reflect, and develop sound arguments using logic, persuasive rhetoric and sound grammar.
- Produce writing suitable for academic purposes in all disciplines such as the Humanities, Sciences and the Arts.
- Receive, where applicable, assistance in developing sound writing skills which are in keeping with current best practices in regard to remediation.
- Become more engaged in the creative process of writing through the student writing group, The Aquinas Writing Scholars, which will expose student writers to the world of professional writing in the disciplines.
How will the UST QEP improve student writing?
(In other words, what’s new about this program?)
The QEP proposes actions in four areas:
- Initiating a new student group, the Aquinas Writing Scholars, which will help those students who wish for a more immersive writing experience through monthly writing seminars, service learning projects and participation in the annual UST Writers Workshop where they will work alongside a professional author. Members of the AWS may also eventually serve as peer tutors beginning in their third year at UST.
- Annually assessing student performance relative to both newly established university wide writing outcomes as well as departmental writing outcomes within designated core classes as well as in all majors. We will also experiment with the coordination of writing outcomes among the core courses of English, Philosophy and Theology.
- Standardize precisely what is meant by an intensive writing course at the University of St. Thomas.
- Insure that selection of students for writing remediation be done in a systematic fashion utilizing recognized standards for remediation that are in place nationally as well in the State of Texas in keeping with best practices.
The Director of the Quality Enhancement Plan will serve as the liaison between the administration, staff and students and integrate the various aspects of the QEP. In addition the director of the QEP will assist in the continuous cycle of writing assessment for all undergraduate students at the University of St. Thomas working closely with the Office of Institutional Assessment.
When will all this happen?
Starting in the late spring of 2015, the University of St. Thomas will begin recruiting for the first cohort of Aquinas Writing Scholars. The Aquinas Writing Scholars (henceforth AWS) student group will be open to all entering first year students. Students who elect to join the Aquinas Writing Scholars and who are required to take either ENLG 1310 or ENGL1341 will receive a $1000 scholarship toward their tuition at UST and will be eligible for a $2000 scholarship upon graduation if they remain an Aquinas Writing Scholar throughout their time at UST. Throughout the course of the 2015-2016 academic year, writing outcomes will be assessed in all Core classes through the annual Core Goal Assessment. In addition, all departments will create departmental standards for Writing Intensive (WI) classes in line with established university standards.
Also in the fall of 2015, the core courses of English, Philosophy and Theology (approximately 78% of each entering class) will officially begin coordinating the writing outcomes of the nine (9) classes which make up their core. Students will experience this coordination whenever they take these courses in their academic career at UST. In addition, in the fall of 2015 the AWS will begin planning the first annual Young Writers Workshop which will take place in the spring of 2016. In all subsequent years of the QEP out to 2020, the process outlined above will take place.
An interim QEP director will be appointed in early summer of 2015 to coordinate all aspects of the QEP writing program (annual assessment, faculty development, the Aquinas Writing Scholars student Group, the annual Young Writers Workshop, etc.). A national search for the permanent director of the QEP will begin in the fall of 2015.
Is this only about freshman writing?
No. Although UST’s QEP exerts a lot of effort in establishing the Aquinas Writing Scholars and the coordination of writing outcomes in the core, the establishment of university wide and departmental writing outcomes will enable UST to monitor and assess student writing throughout their time at the University of St. Thomas. This information will be used to improve writing performance for all students, wherever they may be in their college career. From a student’s first class to the last capstone course in their major before they graduate, the QEP (“Write Well, Think Well”) will be there. Additionally, the AWS student group will, by definition, be in place throughout a student’s entire time at UST with the ability to become a peer writing tutor in their third and or fourth year at UST.
Why this topic and not another for our QEP?
The Topic Selection Task Force and other committees worked for more than two years to decide upon and develop the QEP topic. Why did these faculty, staff and students choose to focus on improving writing in UST’s QEP?
- Was the No. 1 response in the faculty and staff survey conducted in 2013
- Was the No. 1 response in regard to proposal submissions when ranked by the QEP steering committee in terms of SACSCOC requirements
- NSSE/FSSE data from 2006-2012 indicated that UST was slightly below peer institutions in both faculty and student desired outcomes in terms of writing
- Dominated discussions of the QEP Steering Committee, Faculty Listening Sessions, Dean and Director meetings, etc.
- Is integral in educating leaders of faith and character
- Is essential to students in all disciplines
- Is valued by alumni, employers and graduate schools
- Is deeply connected to our institutional history and mission
Who Developed UST’s QEP?
Over the course of the last two years over a hundred faculty, staff and students contributed to the current QEP either through serving on the numerous committees and sub-committees which spearheaded the project or by participating in campus listening sessions and surveys. After eleven distinct proposals from multiple disciplines were reviewed by the QEP steering committee in April of 2013, Student Writing Portfolio and Assignment Coordination (renamed with the far catchier Write Well, Think Well: Toward A Culture of Writing) was unanimously selected.
How will UST’s QEP be judged?
The SACS team of evaluators will judge our QEP using a fairly elaborate set of criteria. These criteria are sometimes framed as “guiding questions,” and they include the following:
- Has the institution provided a comprehensive and clear analysis of the crucial importance of the QEP for improving the learning environment?
- Has the institution demonstrated that various institutional constituencies have been involved in the identification of the topic for the QEP?
- Has the institution identified a significant issue related to student learning and justified its use for the Quality Enhancement Plan?
- Does the QEP provide evidence of careful analysis of the institutional context in which the goals will be implemented and of consideration of best practices related to the topic?
- Has the institution provided evidence of sufficient financial, physical and human resources to implement sustain and complete the QEP?
Perhaps most importantly, the QEP must center on clearly defined student learning outcomes that are achievable and measurable. Simply put, we need to be able to do what we set out to do and prove that we have indeed done it.
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University of St. Thomas Public Disclosure
The University of St. Thomas is in compliance with the Policy Statement: Institutional Obligations for Public Disclosure issued by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). The policy statement obliges the university, “to provide to its students, constituents, and the public information about itself that is complete, accurate, timely, accessible, clear and sufficient.”
UST is further required to provide, “statements of its goals for student achievement and the success of students in achieving those goals. Information on student success may include reliable information in retention, graduation, course completion, licensure examinations, and job placement rates and other measures of student success appropriate to institutional mission.”
The following reports support the SACSCOC policy statement on institutional obligations for public disclosure:
- Offsite instructional locations at which the university is approved to offer academic instruction
- Active academic programs with the CIP codes
- Student achievement data
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