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Institutional Research and Planning
Room 113 1871 Old Main Drive
Shippensburg, PA 17257
Phone: (717)-477-1154
Fax: (717)-477-4077

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Executive Summary

Shippensburg University is a public regional comprehensive institution and part of Pennsylvania's 14-campus State System of Higher Education (State System). The university offers 46 undergraduate baccalaureate programs in three colleges-the College of Arts and Sciences, the John L. Grove College of Business and the College of Education and Human Services. The School of Graduate Studies offers master's degrees in 24 programs. The primary commitment of the university is to student learning and personal development, which is accomplished through effective teaching and interactive learning and through student life programs that complement the academic goals of the institution. The university also works closely and collaboratively with the surrounding community and the region that it serves.

The current self-study began in the spring of 1997 with the selection of four areas that the institution identified as most appropriate and valuable for a "Selected Topics" approach to the process. Chosen after surveys of the university community and discussions of accreditation requirements, these topics were: Institutional Integrity and Effectiveness, Student Learning and Development, Technology and Innovation and Community Responsiveness. Each was integral to the mission and direction of the institution. Integrity and effectiveness are measures of how closely and well the university is meeting its goals, and student learning and development are the focus of the institutional mission. The integration of rapidly expanding technology into the culture and programs of the university has been a major challenge over the past decade, and the importance of service to the region for the mission of a public institution made it a logical choice for evaluation.

Following the appointment of an inclusive steering committee for the self-study, four study groups were formed to consider the selected topics. Each group was asked to prepare a written report on the extent to which the university was fulfilling its mission and goals in its respective area. The reports were to be analytical and databased, using evidence available to or generated by the groups themselves. Following submission of the reports early in 1998, discussions with each study group prompted a decision to hold campus-wide meetings in the summer on several issues raised in the reports. After the summer discussions, a draft document was prepared and shared with the campus community in another series of meetings in September and early October of 1998. Revisions were then made throughout the fall semester, and a final document was prepared following additional campus-wide meetings in January of 1999. The completed self-study is divided into two large sections. The first provides a comprehensive picture of the institution in the late 1990s, and the second contains the university's detailed analysis of the four selected topics with recommendations for change. A short summary of these recommendations and their impact on the mission and goals of the university completes the self-study.

The comprehensive overview of the university begins with a preface that describes a recent conversation among students that epitomizes both Shippensburg's strengths and its challenges-a student body that comes to the institution adequately prepared for higher education and also changes substantially in desired ways as a result of their university experience, but one whose motivation to think incisively about issues and to become independent thinkers and self-directed learners is limited. A brief introduction to the history of the institution and a statement of its current mission and goals follows. The overview continues with a profile of the students and the faculty and summaries of the key developments that have taken place at the university in recent years.

Both the profile of students and faculty and the summaries of major developments analytically describe their areas of concern. The student profile draws a statistical picture of the Shippensburg undergraduate and graduate student, particularly emphasizing data acquired from nationally-normed and internally-produced assessment instruments. These data for undergraduates confirm the implications about the student body contained in the preface to the self-study-that Shippensburg undergraduates come to the institution with a "non-academic" cognitive style, an orientation that presents a serious challenge for the learning process. On the other hand, the university faculty, over two/fifths of whom have been hired in the 1990s, bring collectively to their employment a strong commitment to the university's principal goal of enhancing student learning.

The student and faculty profile is followed by an assessment of the academic life of the campus that emphasizes three important goals of the institution: curriculum development that responds to changing needs; efforts to improve the overall learning environment; and the creation of more diversity within the university community. Of special interest in this chapter are the university's efforts to provide new programming both on and off-campus, to conduct assessment both at the institutional and at the departmental level, and to strengthen on-going programs aimed at increasing and retaining the number of minorities in the campus community.

The remaining two sections of the comprehensive overview are concerned with the organization and effectiveness of the Division of Student Affairs and of financial and resource planning at the institution. The responsibilities and recent changes in the eleven units within the Division of Student Affairs are discussed, detailing the scope of the division's involvement in co-curricular activities supporting the institutional mission of student learning. The financial position of the university is also examined, with emphasis on evidence of the institution's ability to live within its budgetary means and to compare favorably with its sister institutions in the State System. In addition, the final section of the overview reviews facility planning and the enormous recent success of the Shippensburg University Foundation in support of the programs and facilities of the institution.

The first special topic to be considered in the self-study is institutional integrity and effectiveness. To examine the congruence between the university's mission and its functions, the study group considered the appropriateness and efficacy of the planning processes at the institution and of the assessment instruments that the university utilizes at all levels to examine its academic, administrative and student affairs divisions. The report finds good evidence of the existence of congruence. Academic and financial planning are well integrated at the institution and are responsive to the university's mission and goals. The university has also responded quickly to assessment results from data regularly generated at the university-wide level, and student outcomes assessment, although relatively new to most academic departments, is now required throughout the institution as part of regular review processes. Summer discussions prompted by the report of the study group focused on the existence of and ways to encourage a "culture of evidence" at the university and to build confidence in its use in institutional planning. The recommendations at the conclusion of this section suggest ways to institutionalize this culture and to address issues raised by recent assessment data.

The section on student learning and development concludes that students receive a worthwhile education at the university, whether measured by the expectations and interests of the students themselves or by the goals and standards of the institution. Assessment instruments indicate high satisfaction levels both by students and by alumni, and retention and graduation rates are high in comparison to similar universities. Evidence is also compelling that the learning styles of Shippensburg undergraduates change in positive ways as a consequence of their education.

At the same time, the examination of this topic confirmed that students enter the institution less motivated to learn than their counterparts at other universities, and the recommendations in this section argue that further development of diverse teaching techniques by the faculty that complement the different learning styles of students should be encouraged and supported. Other recommendations call for efforts to energize the general education program and curriculum, the creation of a committee to define the role of developmental education at the university and a clarification and strengthening of the role of graduate programming.

The study group that evaluated the efforts of the university to keep pace with technological change found abundant evidence of careful and measured planning and accomplishment by the institution over the past decade. This success was achieved despite the limitations of relatively stable budgets and has included the networking of the campus, the enhancement of computer laboratories, classrooms and training opportunities, and recent efforts to become involved with distance education and with technological collaboration with other institutions. Summer discussions on this topic examined the possibility of developing and applying computer literacy and competency standards throughout the university. Recommendations call for the creation of a council with representation from all constituencies of the university to plan, coordinate and monitor the purchasing and usage of technology and the continuation of efforts to develop distance education capabilities.

The final topic considered in the self-study was community responsiveness. This section describes and analyzes the broad range of services offered to the region by the university, including educational programming, student internships, volunteerism by all members of the campus community and outreach providing institutional expertise. Also considered are the many activities that bring the regional community to the campus. The study group found the level of university services and interaction with the region consistent with institutional mission and goals. At the same time, the report recommends that the university begin to assess and to advertise and promote these efforts more systematically. It also recommends that further efforts be made to maintain the generally supportive historical relationship between the institution and the immediate surrounding community.

The document concludes with a summary of the recommendations from the four topic areas and presents several revisions of the goals of the university based on these recommendations and on the major findings of the self-study. The revisions are intended to guide institutional planning and assessment for the next few years and are accompanied by an indication of the timing and manner in which changes suggested by the self-study will be implemented.