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Radford University’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) is recognized as a plan for the university to demonstrate its academic and student commitment by promoting student learning inside and outside of the classroom. RU’s QEP is a requirement of Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) reaffirmation accreditation process. SACS, RU’s accrediting agency, defines their mission as “the improvement of education in the South through accreditation” according to sacs.org.
Accreditation through SACS is important to the University as well as its students, faculty, and staff because of the many benefits it offers. According to the Radford’s QEP website, it helps to allow eligibility for student loans, increases a faculty’s understanding of the university’s philosophy and objectives, and helps them to grow in professional development, increases cooperation between faculty and staff, leads to recognition and reinforcement of good instructional techniques, and leads to improvement of student performance.
RU’s QEP has been developed through a writing team consisting of the University’s faculty, staff and students. What the plan centers on is titled “Scholar-Citizen.” By focusing on academics at all course levels, RU plans to recognize “scholar” students in all academic concentrations. Dr. Erin Webster-Garrett, co-chair of the QEP writing team, current director of the QEP and The Tartan Faculty Advisor, explains that the program is to recognize students that have a passion for helping and can work to connect that passion to academics.
Although eight other themes were considered when forming the QEP, “Scholar-Citizen” was what was decided on. Some main goals of the QEP “are to enhance student learning through real world problem solving and foster a culture of engaged learning and scholarship,” says Webster-Garrett. The plan “connects our personal identity with our fundamental and civic identity, which will often tie back to a student’s major and is a way for them to make that ‘real world’ connection.”
RU’s QEP writing team is working toward developing a change in the way RU recognizes and awards its scholar students, whether that may be through graduation cords or in some other form. RU defines a scholar-citizenship as “active and scholarly participation in the complex and multicultural world by connecting and applying disciplinary knowledge and academic skills to the challenges facing our local, national and global communities.”
Activities that fall under scholar-citizenship recognition include but are not limited to: course imbedded experiences and projects, undergraduate research, public lecture series, co-curricular programs, organizations and leadership, internships, study-abroad, alternative spring break, service learning projects, peer mentoring, film series, and performances.
The idea is to get students more involved, recognize them for that involvement, and have them connect that involvement to the real world and to their own personal futures. “As a people,” says Webster-Garrett, “we are becoming disengaged more and more all the time. Who but not higher education should be addressing these issues? It’s upon us to make a difference. Radford is at the front of this.”
When asked about the QEP, many students were not aware of the plan, while many faculty were not familiar enough with it to discuss. The QEP development team intends to make the plan more aware to the University.
Student benefits through the QEP program include opportunities to discover their scholarly identity while discovering ways to contribute to the world around them; it’s a way for them to utilize their academic training, it provides students with a mentoring relationship between them and the university’s faculty and staff, and it allows students to become involved in discussions of real life issues that are meaningful to them. It also allows them the development of leadership, use organizational and communication skills that will help with their marketability to employers and development in a scholar-citizen e-portfolio and recognition at graduation.
For those who want to make a difference but do not know how, Webster-Garrett encourages them to start with this program.
“It is practical and idealistic,” she said. “It gives real world skills for the steps after RU while filling that purpose driven life needed. It’s not simple volunteerism, but it has a scholar connection to it. It’s about being able to negotiate difference and see societal issues from multiple perspectives.”
To become involved, contact Dr. Webster-Garrett through email at firstname.lastname@example.org and for more information visit Radford’s QEP website at radford.edu/content/qep/home.html.