CENTRAL CONNECTICUT STATE UNIVERSITY

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Institutional Overview

When NEASC last visited CCSU in 1998, the University’s President had held the position for three years, the senior administration was relatively new, the University had just adopted a new strategic plan, and the Connecticut State University System (CSUS) system had just appointed a new Chancellor. Ten years later, the University finds itself in a remarkably similar situation: President Jack Miller has just completed his third year, most of the senior administrators have only recently assumed their positions, the University has just approved a new strategic plan, and the Board of Trustees appointed Dr. David Carter to the position of Chancellor of the CSUS in 2006. However, despite these similarities, CCSU has undergone considerable change since its last NEASC visit and finds itself poised for an exciting future.

In response to the NEASC report from its 1998 visit, CCSU approved a Mission Statement, a statement of institutional values essential to “Fulfilling the Mission,” and a Vision Statement. These have guided the University over the past decade. In recent years the University has been honored by the American Association of Colleges and Universities as a “Leadership Institution” for its innovations in undergraduate education. Numerous academic programs have received accreditation by national associations, and our School of Business has made significant progress in its pursuit of accreditation by AACSB. In the past ten years, the University has been approved to offer its first doctoral degree, its first online degree, and its first engineering degree, as well as a four-year BSN degree. With the establishment of a new Office of Institutional Research and Assessment, the University has approved a formal Assessment Policy and become one of the initial adopters of the Voluntary System of Accountability.   CCSU’s commitment to environmental sustainability has distinguished the institution as a state leader in this critically important area. The creation of a new Office of Diversity and Equity and the appointment of our first Chief Diversity Officer reflect the University’s commitment to ensure a safe and welcoming environment for all members of our community.  As a result of Governor Rell’s approval of the CSUS 2020 plan, CCSU will receive nearly $250 million over the next decade to upgrade its academic, support, and library facilities. We list below some of the University’s specific developments in each of the NEASC Standards.

Mission and Purposes:  In response to a directive from the Board of Trustees for each of the Connecticut State universities to identify a “distinctive mission,” CCSU formally approved in April 2008 the four following areas of CCSU’s distinctive identity: (1) international education, (2) workforce and State economic development, (3) community engagement, and (4) interdisciplinary and cross-curricular initiatives. CCSU plans to revise its mission statement in the coming year to reflect these four areas of distinctiveness.

Planning and Evaluation:  In the past ten years, CCSU has been through two iterations of strategic planning.  The first plan, approved in 2004, reflected new institutional priorities, notably in undergraduate education. The second strategic planning process was initiated by President Miller to reaffirm established priorities and to identify emerging priorities. A new Strategic Plan, with seven broad goals and 47 unique objectives, was formally approved by the Faculty Senate in May 2008.

Organization and Governance:  The most significant developments in the organization and governance of the University over the past decade have been changes in the administration of CCSU and the appointment of a new Chancellor for the CSU system. In 2004, following the departure of the CCSU President and of several key administrators, CCSU entered a period of instability under the leadership of an interim president and of several interim appointments in key administrative positions. With the appointment of President Jack Miller in 2005 and his appointment of new permanent members of his cabinet, CCSU presently has a stable administrative team to lead the University. Starting in fall 2008, the first appointee to the newly created position of Chief Diversity Officer signals the increased emphasis that CCSU will place on promoting diversity and further improving its climate for diversity. In 2006, the Board of Trustees also appointed Dr. David Carter, who had served for 18 years as President of Eastern Connecticut State University, as the new Chancellor of the CSU System.  Under Chancellor Carter’s leadership, the universities anticipate greater decentralization of functions (e.g., online education) and attempts to reduce duplication through consortial and collaborative arrangements (e.g., international education), as well as more system-wide initiatives (e.g., “Bridges” program, transfer compacts with community colleges, and common course numbering).

The Academic Program: The most significant academic developments since the last NEASC site visit have been the approval of the University’s first doctoral degree program, the Ed.D. degree in Educational Leadership; its first entirely online degree, the M.S. in Data Mining; and its undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering—the only engineering degree approved at a public institution other than the University of Connecticut in the state; CCSU has also had a new four-year BSN program approved, which will help address the state’s severe workforce shortage in nursing.  In response to concerns raised during the 1998 NEASC site visit, CCSU instituted substantial changes to ensure the quality of its graduate programs, including establishing the position of Dean of the School of Graduate Studies, developing a mission statement for graduate study, defining core values for graduate study, further differentiating its graduate and undergraduate programs, and enforcing more consistent standards for admission to the graduate program. Despite these efforts, CCSU is concerned about the steady decline in its part-time graduate student enrollments, which can only be partially explained by the decision to temporarily suspend admissions to its MBA program in 2006; graduate programs at all four CSU institutions have experienced declines in their enrollments in recent years. A CCSU committee is currently exploring options for new graduate degrees to respond to emerging needs, including a degree in Global Environmental Sustainability. For its innovations in undergraduate education—notably, its First-Year Experience Program and its Learning in Communities (LinC) program—CCSU was recognized in 2000 as one of 16 “Leadership Institutions” in the U.S. by the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U). Several academic departments at CCSU are also exploring alternative formats for delivering degrees to potential student audiences (e.g., weekend program in Social Work).

Faculty:  Since the 1998 NEASC site visit, the number of faculty at CCSU has increased from 377 to 432 full-time faculty and from 439 to 453 part-time faculty. The percent of workload produced by part-time faculty was 13.55% in 2007-08—well below the 20% mandated by the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). The teaching, or instructional, workload of faculty has averaged 9.7 hours per semester for the past five years.  The number of hours of faculty reassigned time has significantly exceeded each year the amount mandated by the CBA (240 in 2007-08), as has the amount of funding mandated to support faculty travel and research; an $115,000 Deans’ Discretionary Scholarly Excellence Fund was established in 2006. Many teaching faculty continue to express concerns about perceived increases in standards and workload demands in such areas as scholarship, advising, community engagement, and assessment. Questions about the President’s criteria for tenure and promotion decisions in 2005 sparked a productive dialogue among the administration, the union, and the Faculty Senate in 2006, which led to the approval in 2007 of a “Promotion and Tenure Policy for Tenure-track Teaching Faculty”; the policy anticipates the development of departmental P&T guidelines, the standardization of student evaluations, and the institutionalization of the peer review of teaching.  Concerns remain that there is no systematic evaluation of the teaching effectiveness of part-time faculty.

Students: Full-time equivalent student enrollment increased 20% since the last NEASC site visit, from 7,301 in 1998 to 8,756 projected for 2008. Minorities represent 16% of CCSU students. Retention statistics indicate that CCSU admits students who can be successful; the first- to second-year retention rate has increased from 69% to 79% over the last ten years; the second- to third-year retention rate has averaged 64% over the past five years. Six-year graduation rates have increased from 40% to 44% over the last five years; these percentages are comparable to those of the three other Connecticut State Universities but below those of our peer institutions. Retention rates for minority students are comparable to and even slightly higher than those of the general student population, but their graduation rates are lower. A Retention and Graduation Council, established in 2007, is developing strategies to increase student persistence and success, including enhancements to advising services, the consolidation of academic support services, interventions for at-risk students, and refinements in course scheduling.  The University has substantially increased the amount of financial aid that it disburses, and the University has made a substantial investment in improving the facilities for student services, most recently in expanding the facilities and available space for recreational activities.

Library and Other Information Resources: Over the past ten years, CCSU’s Elihu Burritt Library has evolved from a print-oriented facility to one that is heavily invested in electronic resources and processes; a shared electronic catalog with the other three Connecticut State universities and the State Library greatly enhances the availability of materials. Extensive renovations to the first two floors of the library are planned for the coming year, with long-range plans for a large-scale renovation and expansion of the library. The University has also invested heavily in information technology resources in support of its academic mission, including a large computer lab, 20 discipline specific labs, 15 fully computerized general-purpose classrooms, and 134 “smart” classrooms, with plans to have all appropriate classrooms similarly equipped by 2010. CCSU supports online and hybrid courses with the Blackboard Vista course management system.  The University is currently exploring plans to expand the number of online courses it offers during the academic year. Students indicate that CCSU contributed significantly to their computer literacy and express a high level of satisfaction with the quality of information and instructional technology services.

Physical and Technological Resources:  CCSU has made significant enhancements to its physical plant since the last NEASC visit, including the construction of the Vance Academic Center, a state-of-the-art classroom facility; and the extensive renovation of laboratories to accommodate the evolving needs of programs in the sciences, engineering, and technology. Environmental sustainability is a major thrust of the University. It is now integral to facility design, building practices, and renovation, as well as daily operations.  The President’s Committee on Environmental Sustainability, formed in 2007, has implemented recycling programs and undertaken a review of the University’s water and waste management. The implementation of a new ten-year plan will position CCSU as a state leader in this area. CCSU has also made major improvements in its crisis response policy and procedures. CCSU will receive a $248 million capital investment from the state in the CSUS 2020 plan. These funds will provide CCSU with a new classroom building, comprehensive renovations of two classroom/office buildings, expansion of the library, an infrastructure for CCSU’s East Campus to accommodate residence halls and a proposed magnet school, and a new public safety complex. 

Financial Resources: CCSU’s total operating revenues nearly doubled during the ten-year period ending FY 2008 from $102 million to $198 million.  CCSU’s unrestricted fund balance grew from $15 million in FY 1998 to $37 million in FY 2008.  This increase in equity is matched with an increase in cash to $38 million, the result of a conversion to electronic billing and strong management of receivables.  Long-term campus improvements were supported by an investment of $200 million over the period. In FY 2007, Central converted to a budgeting model that assigns responsibility for all controllable costs in their respective units to each Chief Officer and Vice President. During the last ten years, CCSU’s endowment has increased from $5 million to $26 million; the appointment of a new Vice President for Institutional Advancement and of five dedicated development officers reflects CCSU’s increased emphasis on cultivation and institutional advancement.

Public Disclosure: A comprehensive analysis indicates that CCSU consistently publicizes relevant, current, and accurate information about its policies, procedures, fees, requirements, and operations. Information about all aspects of the institution is widely and readily accessible in both print and online forms. All of the institution’s marketing messages and other promotional claims are based on solid evidence. CCSU’s decision to participate in the Voluntary System of Accountability (VSA) reflects the institution’s commitment to publicize demographic and financial information, as well as indicators of institutional effectiveness. Surveys to measure CCSU’s effectiveness in meeting the NEASC standards for public disclosure confirm that a substantial majority of respondents perceive that CCSU readily and accurately discloses important information.  Changes in the budget process have added transparency to budget preparation and improved communication of the operating budget to the university community. A new content management system for the University’s Web site, which will be installed in 2009, will enable the University to project a more uniform image and to ensure that information is routinely and readily updated.

Integrity: As a public institution, CCSU is bound by and scrupulously adheres to Connecticut General Statutes, which mandate accountability and transparency; recent changes in the State’s ethics laws have increased CCSU’s requirement to document statutory compliance.  CCSU also embraces the core principle of nondiscrimination in all of its dealings with students and university employees, both prospective and current. In the wake of two highly publicized incidents of racist and sexist behavior at CCSU, concerns about the diversity climate on campus have been addressed with such initiatives as the appointment of a Blue Ribbon Diversity Commission, the creation of a cabinet-level Chief Diversity Officer, and plans for a Strategic Plan for Diversity. As confirmed by respondents to the recent Employee Satisfaction Survey, academic integrity and professional ethics are highly valued and respected at CCSU. The Faculty Senate has also confirmed CCSU’s commitment to and respect for academic freedom, which is affirmed as a core value in the Collective Bargaining Agreements and the Senate By-Laws.  CCSU ensures transparency in its conduct of business through its compliance with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), as well as its commitment to respect its students’ right to privacy, as specified by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). The University also has in place policies and procedures to address grievances, disputes, and complaints from all members of its community. CCSU has also demonstrated its commitment to honesty and integrity in all of its dealings with the Commission.

As CCSU looks to the future, the University intends to continue making strides in its commitment to student success, notably in improving student retention and graduation rates and reducing incoming students’ need for remediation, as well as facilitating the seamless transfer of community college students. As members of ACE’s Internationalization Laboratory and AASCU’s Civic Agency Initiative, CCSU will strengthen its distinctive commitment to international education and to community engagement; the University intends to pursue the elective “community engagement” Carnegie classification in the coming years.  With a renewed commitment to institutional advancement, CCSU also plans to generate the resources necessary to support innovative programs and to help support prospective CCSU students.  Having initiated the annual administration of an Employee Satisfaction Survey, the University is also committed to making continuous improvements in those areas that are valued by the university community.

 

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Last Update: Tuesday September 09, 2008