SACS Reaffirmation 2010 - Faculty Forum

On October 23 Faculty Senate Chair Thomas Breslin, Provost Ronald Berkman and Vice President Douglas Wartzok held a forum with faculty at University Park Campus and via video-conferencing with faculty at BBC to address the current status of the SACS reaffirmation process. Professor Breslin noted some of the changes that have occurred in accreditation since FIU last went through the process in 2000. One important difference from the perspective of the Faulty Senate is that the new requirement to develop a Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) will require revision to the University Core Curriculum (UCC). The University has selected enhancing international education for all FIU undergraduates as the QEP. This will involve the addition of a new Global Initiatives course to the UCC and modifying a required course in each major so that it incorporates significant international content. The UCC Oversight Committee is already working with the QEP team to determine the best ways of introducing the new Global Initiatives course.


Provost Berkman reviewed the national context in which accrediting agencies and institutions being accredited are now operating. The Spellings Commission, named for the current Secretary of Education who formed it, has caused all agencies to place increased emphasis on accountability. University associations such as the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges (NASULGC) have responded with a Voluntary System of Accountability (VSA) in order to maintain the principle of university self-regulation rather than Federal regulation of university academic issues. FIU is a member of the VSA program. In response to these national trends, SACS (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools) has revised the emphases in reaffirmation of accreditation. Overall there are approximately 90 Principles to which we must certify compliance. However, the most problematic for FIU, and for other universities that have gone through the new process in the past couple years, has been clear definition of student learning outcomes and program outcomes, appropriate measures for each proposed outcome, analysis of the results from the measures, and the use of the results in improving student learning and the degree program. In the past the assessment process focused on the academic part of the university. Now a similar assessment is required for the administrative and student support areas of the university. Another area of SACS interest that has caused problems for other universities, and will likely raise issues for FIU as well, is faculty credentialing. For this Faculty Forum, the Provost wanted the focus to be on Student Learning Outcomes and Program Outcomes.


Vice President Wartzok discussed the differences between course learning outcomes, student learning outcomes and program outcomes. Course learning outcomes are those the professor expects of students enrolled in a specific class. The unit of analysis is the group of students completing the course in a given semester. Student learning outcomes are what students graduating from a degree program are expected to know. The unit of analysis is the group of students who graduated with a particular major at a given commencement. For undergraduate degree programs, the student learning outcomes are the same as the Academic Learning Compacts faculty defined for their bachelor’s degree programs three years ago in response to a Board of Governors request. Finally, program outcomes are the sorts of measures that are considered in the seven year cycle of program review such as graduation rate, time to degree, quality of instruction, scholarly productivity of the faculty, and placement of graduates. We need to be conducting these program outcome assessments annually.


Academic Learning Compacts (=Student Learning Outcomes) build on expected learning outcomes of the core curriculum, such as critical thinking and oral and written communication, and also incorporate discipline-specific knowledge and skills. The assessment of the graduating majors can be accomplished most easily when there is a capstone course, portfolio, project, or for graduate programs, a thesis or dissertation. These assessments are best done by a faculty panel reviewing the appropriate artifacts rather than relying on the assessment of the instructor in the capstone course. It is not required to assess all graduates: a sample is sufficient. A rule of thumb was given that the assessment should be 10 graduates, or 10% of the graduating class, whichever is greater. Student learning outcomes can also be assessed through pass rates on national licensure examinations that have been designed to determine if the expected student learning has been achieved.


Because we need to show that we have measured student learning outcomes, analyzed the results of those measurements, and used that analysis to improve the curriculum and teaching, i.e., closed the loop, by the time we submit our SACS reaffirmation documents in September 2009, we need to conduct the student learning outcomes assessment on the students who graduate this December. A number of programs reported that they are already doing these assessments and have used the results to improve teaching. To assist programs in defining more clearly student learning outcomes and developing assessment methods, consultants have been hired who will be conducting workshops for assessment leaders in each department during November. These consultants have assured us that we do not need to conduct program outcome assessment this fall. Conducting program outcome assessment on an annual basis starting in Spring 2009 will be sufficient.

All three presenters took questions from faculty to conclude the open forum.

The handouts from the forum can be downloaded from the FIU SACS reaffirmation of accreditation website at

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Congratulations Tenure & Promotion Recipients

FIU President Modesto A. Maidique and his wife, Nancy, recently hosted the university's annual reception honoring faculty members who have received tenure and/or promotion. Dr. Maidique and Executive Vice President and Provost Ronald A. Berkman extended their appreciation and congratulations to 5 faculty members who were awarded tenure, 11 faculty members who were awarded tenure and promotion and to 17 academics who earned promotion effective in the 2008-2009 academic year.

Faculty receiving tenure and promotion to Associate Professor have demonstrated consistent and exemplary performance in research, scholarship, teaching, and service. These decisions involve a rigorous review process by departmental committees, chairs, deans, Provost, President, and the FIU Board of Trustees. Faculty members achieving promotion have a record of outstanding accomplishments and international stature within their discipline.

"This recognition is not easily won; it is earned only by achieving true excellence, " said Dr. Berkman. "As FIU continues to move into the top tiers of our nation's research universities, our progress depends on the outstanding work of our faculty members. They set the high academic standards so crucial to accomplishing our university’s mission and achieving its goals.“

The following faculty members were awarded tenure and promoted to the rank of Associate Professor: Chongsheng Cao, Math; Gwyn Davies, History; Michael Heithaus, Biology; Tatiana Kostadinova, Political Science; Assefa Melesse, Environmental Studies; Donna Weir-Solely, English; Elizabeth Cramer, Education & Psychological Studies; Hilary Landorf, Curriculum & Instruction; Wei-Chang Lin, Biomedical Engineering; and Rene Price, Earth Sciences.

Mary Joe Trepka in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics earned tenure and the rank of Professor.

Tenure only was awarded to Marisa Aya Gruber, Law; Watson Lees, Chemistry; Stephen Lin, Accounting; Robert Malow, Health Promotion and Disease Prevention; and Margaret Maisel, Law.

Academics promoted to rank of Professor were John Stuart, Architecture; Bradley Bennett, Biology; Werner Boeglin, Physics; Julian Edward, Math; Joel Heinen, Environmental Studies; Bruce McCord, Chemistry; Brian Raue, Physics; Stanislaw Wnuk, Chemistry; Yiding Cao, Mechanical Engineering; Howard Frank, Public Administration; Miriam Potocky, Social Work; Lisa Stolzenberg, Criminal Justice; and Matthew Mirow, Law.

Allan Richards, Journalism and Broadcasting; Hannibal Travis, Law; and Carlton Waterhouse, Law, were promoted to Associate Professor. Annie Paprocki was promoted to Assistant Librarian.

Congratulations to all of these individuals on the work they have done in their respective departments and for their continued service to the university. They will play influential roles in shaping FIU’s bright future.

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FIU Faculty Serve as Media Experts

Every day, national and local media contact FIU looking for experts to speak on a variety of topics. FIU faculty experts are frequently quoted in major news outlets, asked to testify before Congress, and invited to speak at public forums and conferences worldwide. Recently, FIU faculty members from a breadth of disciplines have shared their knowledge and expertise with the media on complex national and international topics including the current U.S. economic crisis, health care and immigration reform, and analysis of the vice presidential debate.

Among the FIU academics who have generously donated their time to explain the Bailout crisis are Dr. Jose Gabilondo, Associate Professor, College of Law, who participated in interviews conducted in English and Spanish; and Dr. Krishnan Dandapani, Professor, College of Business Administration, who served as a media expert and volunteered to work a phone hotline at CBS4 News answering viewers’ questions. Dr. George Philippidis, Associate Director, Applied Research Center, recently co-authored a Miami Herald op-ed piece about the gas crisis with FIU President Modesto A. Maidique.

The benefits of working with the media are many, and vital to the university. Through the media, the university gains access to new, large, and important audiences. Enhanced media visibility allows the community to see the wealth of expertise at FIU.

"I want to express my appreciation to faculty members who made themselves available on short notice as media experts," said Executive Vice President and Provost Ronald Berkman. "Sharing knowledge with the media is a tangible example of FIU's commitment to return knowledge and value to the community."

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FIU Honors Students Present at National Collegiate Honors Council Conference

Three talented students at FIU Honors College made presentations about the role of contemporary art in higher education at the National Collegiate Honors Council Conference in San Antonio, Texas. The prestigious annual conference, which took place from October 22-26, brought together Honors students from around the country.

The FIU presenters were Serena Bahad and Andrea Lahoz, both students in the Aesthetics and Values class at the Honors College, and Meliza Frias, president of GEP (Gamma Epsilon Phi), the Honors College Honor Society.

Frias and Lahoz spoke about how the FIU Honors College incorporated a curricular focus on contemporary art and fostered community among the Honors students. Frias expounded on the various artistic initiatives undertaken by Honors College students, including creating films, paintings, and musical compositions. Lahoz described her experience working with controversial artists and arranging for their work to be shown in an art exhibition organized by the Aesthetics and Values class. In particular, the sculpture "Man Down" by artist Guerra de La Paz, which focuses on the theme of war, generated a lively discussion and evoked a strong emotional response from the students and the university community.

Bahad's presentation centered on how her class students researched, organized, and curated a contemporary art exhibition from the ground up. Administrators from Daemen College and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock asked for copies of her remarks and expressed their interest in implementing similar projects at their institutions.

"These presentations show that FIU students are excelling at the most demanding and competitive academic level," said Dr. John Bailly, Fellow at the Honors College, who teaches the Aesthetics and Values class. "This reflects the growth and stature of the university, and is a great source of pride for all of us."

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