SVCC HLC Self-Study Document

Sauk Valley Community College
HLC Self-Study Document

September 19-21, 2011

4A: Values a Life of Learning

Sauk Valley Community College demonstrates, though the actions of its board, administrators, students, faculty, and staff, that it values a life of learning.

By definition, as a place of higher learning, a community college should enable and encourage the academic and professional growth not only of students and members of the surrounding community, but also of all its employees. The Sauk Board of Trustees has enacted policies that promote academic progress and inventiveness of its students, faculty, and staff.

4A.1: Freedom of Inquiry

In order for a college to be most effective in valuing a life of learning, the college must have clear guidelines that outline the rights of students, faculty, and staff members when dealing with freedom of inquiry or, as it is more commonly known, academic freedom. The Board has approved and disseminated statements supporting freedom of inquiry for Sauk’s students and faculty, honoring those statements in its practices:

  • Faculty: In Board Policy 402.01 (link to digital resource room support), the academic freedom policy is established for teaching faculty and is published in the Sauk faculty and adjunct handbooks:
    . . . The College believes that creative scholarship can thrive only in an atmosphere where there is freedom for examination of ideas. Such freedom includes the right to investigate problems, and to evaluate and question accepted theories. It carries with it the responsibility to offer alternative solutions in an unbiased manner and to develop in students the habit of independent investigation. . . .

    When surveyed in fall 2009, 91% of Sauk faculty indicated that Sauk creates and encourages an atmosphere of academic freedom to a moderate or high degree. When the Sauk administration was asked this same question, 86% of administrators responded that Sauk supports academic freedom to a moderate or high degree (see Figure 4i).

  • Students: Board policy 601.01 (link to digital resource room support) gives academic rights to all students: “Sauk is committed to a philosophy which ensures the basic rights of students, such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right to assemble, and the right of inquiry.” This support of student academic freedom is implemented in the following practices:
    • Students are allowed to form student organizations: Board policies provide students “…the right to assemble” and define the governing principles for student organizations. This right is in evidence at Sauk in two forms of student assemblies:
      • Student Government Association (SGA) consists of elected representatives from the student population at large and from each student organization. It has the authority to allocate funds to student organizations, present student opinions to the administration, and to place representatives on various institutional committees.
      • Student organizations provide a forum for students to express their opinions and thoughts. Students may form college-sanctioned clubs according to the guidelines published in the Student Organization Manual. Such student-initiated clubs come and go with student interest and volunteer advisor availability. Other types of organizations, such as Phi Theta Kappa, have a long tradition at Sauk.
    • Students elect a student trustee: One way that students become involved and institute their rights of inquiry is by electing a student trustee to the Board of Trustees. Although the student trustee cannot vote, he or she is allowed to participate as a full Board member in every other way and acts as a liaison to SGA for student concerns.
    • Students are allowed to have a student magazine with a student editorial board: Sauk publishes an annual arts magazine entitled The Works, which showcases student creativity. The student editorial board is guided by an unpaid faculty advisor. The magazine is distributed free to students and employees, with the cost of publication covered by Student Activities funds and campus fundraising activities.
    • Students were allowed to have a student newspaper with a student editorial board: Although Board policy shows Sauk’s continued commitment to “...freedom of the press...,” the student newspaper, The Voyager, was discontinued in 2007. The policies that provided guidelines for a student paper were eliminated in 2010. The paper had been published on a tri-weekly basis as per the Illinois Community College Journalism Association (ICCJA) guidelines; and over the years, student reporters had won numerous awards from the ICCJA.

4A.2: Life of Learning

Sauk supports the professional development of all employees in an effort to achieve the FY11 Strategic Goal to “expand and improve the quality of programs and services” (Link to another section of Self-Study 2B.8). Another important motivation for providing continuing education opportunities is expressed in the Shared Ethical Value of Responsibility: “We value and advocate that all take responsibility for themselves, their learning, and the environment.” The value that Sauk places on a life of learning is evidenced by a number of policies and practices that target specific segments of the campus community:

Board of Trustees

Board policy does not directly address professional development for trustees; however, Board policy authorizes reimbursement for “reasonable expenses” (link to digital resource room support) and requires that trustees share information from workshops with the entire Board (link to digital resource room support). Trustees regularly attend Illinois Community College Trustees Association (ICCTA) monthly meetings, annual conference, state lobby day, and national legislative summit; and the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) conference. The Board has spent an annual average of $8,650 on professional development for its membership during the last five years (print copy in resource room).

Full-time Faculty

Sauk supports continuing education for its faculty in several ways (Link to another section of Self-Study3B.2):

  • Professional development funds: Each year the college budgets $20,000 for faculty development. Funds are allocated in response to faculty requests by a faculty committee in accordance with the Professional Development Procedure Manual (link to restricted resource room support). Individuals may make one or more requests, limited to an annual maximum of $1,500. In the fall 2009 employee survey, 68% of faculty indicated that they “attended conferences or workshops related to [their] work.”

    During the past five years, an average of 40% of faculty has accessed these funds and spent 50% of the budgeted funds (see Figure 4i). There appear to be adequate funds made available for faculty development; however, fewer than half of eligible faculty request faculty development funds.

    Figure 4i: Professional Development Funds Used
     Number and % of faculty using fundsAmount of $20,000 budget used
    FY05 18 of 52 faculty (35%) $17,003
    FY06 12 of 49 faculty (25%) $8,200
    FY07 16 of 47 faculty (34%) $7,975
    FY08 24 of 43 faculty (56%) $17,304
    FY09 14 of 44 faculty (32%) $14,366
    FY10 12 of 48 faculty (25%) $3,911**
    FY11 22 of 45 faculty (49%) $6,675**
    Average for 5 years preceding travel cuts (FY05 – FY09) 36% $12,970
    Average for 5 years including travel cuts (FY07 – FY11) 40% $10,046
    Source: Information Services
    ** Travel restricted due to budget

    However, the faculty appears to be content with the current availability of funds: In the fall 2009 faculty survey, almost all the respondents indicated that their professional development was supported, either “highly” (49%) or “moderately” (47%). In addition, 68% of faculty indicated that they had “never” been refused professional development opportunities within the last five years. In a few cases, faculty have indicated that they pay for conference and meeting attendance themselves, as accounting faculty reported in their FY09 Accounting Program Review.

  • Graduate credit: Full-time faculty may be reimbursed for taking pre-approved graduate courses related to their work, at a rate of $115 per credit hour and a maximum $1,380 per year, according to the Full-time Faculty Contract. The number of credit hours earned by Sauk faculty dropped in FY08 and then leveled off in the following years (see Figure 4ii).
    Figure 4ii: Graduate Credit Reimbursement
     Number of Faculty ReimbursedAmount of Tuition ReimbursementGraduate Credit Hours Earned
    FY07 3 $3,450 30
    FY08 1 $690 6
    FY09 1 $1,380 12
    FY10 3 $1,380 12
    FY11 3 $1,725 15
    Average 2 $1,725 15
    Source:Information Services

    In the fall 2009 survey, only about one-third of all full-time faculty indicated that they had enrolled in at least one graduate class related to their field of study within the last five years. In a 2010 follow-up survey, faculty were asked why they did not pursue more graduate level credit:

    • Tuition reimbursement rate has not kept up with the rising cost of college tuition (72%). The $115 reimbursement rate has not changed since 1992, so it has not kept pace with expenses. For example, graduate costs at nearby Northern Illinois University ($300 per credit hour plus fees) and at Western Illinois ($265.40 per credit hour plus fees) are significantly higher than the reimbursement rate. 65% of respondents also indicated that the promotional salary increase does not justify the time and expense of earning additional graduate credits.
    • I am too busy with work and personal activities to take classes (72%). As Sauk has increased its reliance on part-time personnel at all levels in the past ten years, and the number of full-time faculty has decreased by 18%, many have taken on additional duties.
    • I am satisfied with my faculty rank and am not seeking promotion (67%). Approximately two-thirds of faculty are satisfied with their current rank and would not be expected to be pursuing additional graduate credit for promotional purposes.
  • In-house activities: Sauk regularly offers in-house professional development opportunities to its full-time and adjunct faculty:
    • A variety of topics are presented at the in-service and workshop days held each year. Some recent examples include student behavior concerns (2008); gang awareness (2009); and classroom legal issues (2011).
    • The Assessment Core Team proposes development activities related to general education competencies, which are most often scheduled during the Wednesday activity hour. Examples include a refresher course on statistics (2005), a brown-bag session on listening skills (2008), an e-conference on teaching the millennial student (2009), and training on using Sauk's online databases for research (2011).
  • Technology training: The Information Technology Department (IT) regularly provides a wide range of activities to help keep faculty up-to-date on new resources:
    • IT presents nearly two dozen workshops on a variety of topics including the use of technology and internet resources in the classroom, instructional design, and effective teaching practices. A schedule of workshops is provided in print and digitally to the faculty and staff of the college each semester. Many of these sessions can also be attended via webinar.
    • IT has developed a free online course called the Innovative Internet Instruction (i3) Workshop for which faculty may receive two promotional hour educational credits. i3 covers online teaching strategies and course design concepts. Although it is available to anyone who is interested, the course is now required for faculty who are preparing to teach an online course for the first time.
    • Online tutorials, many developed by the IT staff, are maintained to assist faculty with the various tools that are used in learning management software and revised as the systems are upgraded or changed: WebCT until 2007, then Blackboard, and as of 2011, Moodle.

Adjunct Faculty

Adjunct faculty are eligible for “approved travel and expenses to professional meetings as per current Board Policy,” according to the adjunct faculty contract (link to restricted resource room support). Approval for adjuncts to use faculty development funds is made on a case-by-case basis, and college support has averaged less than $400 a year. However, when surveyed at the end of 2009, 70% of adjuncts reported having attended conferences or workshops related to their work and 43% reported enrolling in at least one graduate course within the last five years.

Administrative, Support and Professional/Technical Staff

Each non-instructional department’s annual budget includes funds for professional development, based on departmental needs, the annual employee evaluation process, or program review. The employee evaluation allows individuals to plan for their own professional growth by providing prompts that encourage discussion about such plans between the employee and supervisor. During program review, offices and academic areas are asked to examine the extent to which the full-time staff has engaged in professional development in the past five years and to take action where necessary to provide opportunities. When surveyed in fall 2009 about how supportive Sauk is to their professional development, the support staff and professional/technical staff responded favorably: 92% of support staff and 88% of professional/technical staff thought that Sauk was “highly” or “moderately” supportive of their professional development. Several other opportunities for professional development also exist:

  • Tuition reimbursement: Full-time administrators, professional/technical, and support staff may be reimbursed for taking pre-approved courses related to their work, at a rate of $115 per credit hour and a maximum $1,380 per year. Classes may be taken for graduate or bachelor level credit and have been used by employees from all job classifications.  In the period FY07 to FY11, an average of four employees received an average total reimbursement of $4,698.
  • Staff Development Committee: Comprised of professional/technical and support staff, committee members meet regularly to plan professional development activities for Sauk staff. The college budgets $2,000 for staff development and provides paid time for approved activities. In addition, committee members voluntarily pop and sell popcorn one day every week of the academic year to supplement its budget and to enable a staff reception at the year-end holidays. The committee coordinates the following two activities:
    • Staff retreat: For more than 15 years, Sauk has held a day-long retreat for full-time and part-time staff during spring break. Examples of workshop topics include stress management and conflict control, diversity, meditation and breathing, and team building. Participation is voluntary and attendees are paid for the day, with 30% to 50% of eligible employees in attendance.
    • Staff exchange: Sauk belongs to the Northern Illinois Network of Staff Developers. This group of 13 community colleges has provided opportunities for employees to attend annual staff exchanges. Participation is a paid workday. During fall 2010, for example, a group of Sauk representatives of various departments spent a workday at Highland Community College, where they interacted with their counterparts.

Campus-Wide Development Opportunities

Several of the professional development opportunities and services provided by the college are available to the whole campus community:

  • Sauk tuition waivers: One of the ways that the college promotes a life of learning is to provide free Sauk tuition to all of its full-time faculty and employees, their spouses, and dependents under the age of 23 years old, based on Board policy (link to digital resource room support) and various contract provisions. These benefits are also extended to part-time employees on a pro-rated basis:
    • Employees working at least 20 hours a week receive a tuition reduction that is equal to the percentage of work hours scheduled. Therefore, a part-time employee who works half-time will receive a 50% reduction in Sauk tuition.
    • Adjunct faculty receive free tuition that is equivalent to the number of credit hours they teach at Sauk. For instance, if an adjunct faculty member teaches a three-credit course, then three credit hours of free tuition can be used by the adjunct, the spouse, or the dependent children within two semesters of earning it. The amount of free Sauk tuition awarded to its employees and family members annually is impressive, averaging $61,487 in the past five years and maxing at $68,643 in FY09.
  • Library services: The Learning Resource Center (LRC) provides a wide range of services free of charge to the entire college community: circulation services; interlibrary loans; access to print and digital newspapers, magazines and journals; audio and video resources; as well as extensive children’s and adolescent selections. Thus, it serves not only the academic needs of instructors and students, but the professional and personal growth needs of Sauk employees. In FY10, the LRC had 192 faculty and staff library accounts, and these patrons borrowed 3,156 books and audiovisual materials from the LRC.
  • Access to technology: Besides being entitled to use computer technology on campus under the same terms as external constituents, staff and faculty can check out laptops; digital cameras and digital video cameras; projection equipment; microphones, webcams, and other accessories. In addition, the Business Office provides loans to allow employees to purchase a computer or laptop at no interest through payroll deduction over one year.

4A.3: Scholarship

Sauk provides its faculty and students a variety of opportunities to produce scholarship and create knowledge through basic and applied research:

Faculty Research Opportunities

Although the primary function of a community college faculty is to teach students, some of the faculty conduct their own scholarship by publishing papers, presenting at professional conventions, and writing grants. Within the last five years, 64% of Sauk faculty have given at least one professional presentation, 19% have published academic papers, and 11% have written and been awarded grants. To encourage full-time faculty to undertake such efforts to stay current in their fields of study and to provide for reporting of research and publication efforts, a prompt in the annual self-evaluation asks each faculty member to respond to the question, “How have you contributed to your specific professional area?” The response becomes part of the conversation between faculty and the Academic Vice President during the annual evaluation interview.

Full-time faculty members who have worked at Sauk for at least six consecutive years may be eligible to request a sabbatical leave, the guidelines for which are in the full-time faculty contract. A sabbatical of one semester or one full academic year may be used to engage in advanced study, intended to expand the faculty member's capability to serve students or the college. Requests are reviewed by a committee before being approved by the President and the Board of Trustees. Upon completion of the sabbatical, the faculty member submits a written report to the President and presents an oral report to the Board. The faculty member must remain at Sauk for two additional years or else repay the sabbatical salary. Since the year 2000, Sauk has had five members of the faculty apply for and receive a sabbatical. Furthermore, no sabbaticals were denied over that same time period. Adjunct faculty are not eligible for sabbatical leave.

Student Research Opportunities

The faculty promotes scholarship and research among students in ways that are appropriate to the level of their courses. For many courses, acquisition of terms and concepts is the critical outcome so that further study at a transfer institution can build on that foundation. That said, students are provided a number of opportunities to experience scholarship through application of research principles:

  • Course-based research: Because research is one of the basic general education competencies expected of Sauk graduates, students encounter projects requiring them to use research to produce scholarship in various courses through their individual educational paths. Direct instruction in research methodology is provided by the Communications core curriculum area, but the other general education core curriculum options offer reinforcement and practice. Students in introductory-level courses are commonly evaluated using exams and quizzes, where mastery of terminology and basic processes often depend primarily on memorization of facts. Additionally, 20% of faculty indicated that their “content does not lend itself to research papers or projects,” in the fall 2010 faculty survey. An analysis of 541 course outlines illustrates the range of assessment tools in use (See Figure 4v):
    • More than one-third (36%) of the courses call for evaluation of student learning by exams/quizzes only.
    • More than half (56%) of courses also require that students must conduct and be evaluated on “scholarly projects.” These projects may include research papers, presentations, performances, portfolios, case studies, and creative works.
    • The remaining 8% are left to be determined by the individual instructor and reported in the syllabus.

    The following are some examples of scholarly activities that students are required to conduct:

    • Introductory Biology (BIO 103) students are given a question. Each student must create a hypothesis, design and conduct an experiment, write a scientific paper, and present the findings to the class.
    • Introduction to Philosophy (PHL 102) students are asked to do a "Radical Honesty" social experiment, where they are completely honest for five hours, document what they said and how they acted, as well as the responses they receive as a result. A short paper details their experiences.
    • Juvenile Delinquency (CJS 208) students discuss several case studies involving juvenile acts. Students write papers on the crime theories pertinent to these acts.
  • Honors Program: Sauk has maintained an Honors Program since the late 1960’s. Students are invited to participate if they have an ACT score of 27 or higher, were within the top 10% of their high school graduating class, have a 3.5 GPA at Sauk, or have been recommended by a Sauk faculty member. Once invited, students may seek instructor approval to conduct a course-related honors project, designed to take about 16 extra hours of work. Within the last five years, Sauk has averaged 37 student honors projects each year. Students who complete projects may be selected to receive scholarship money from the Sauk Valley College Foundation. About 8-10 scholarships are awarded each year, resulting in $4,000 annually distributed to students. For example, the 2009 Foundation Scholarship winners included the following students, among others, each of whom received a $450 scholarship:
    • A Business-International Law major wrote a research paper describing Charles Ponzi and Bernard Madoff’s “Ponzi Scheme.”
    • An Engineering Sciences major explored physics calculations in the field of rocketry and presented his findings in a research paper.
    • A Nursing student researched and wrote a 25-page persuasive / informative essay on the importance of adult stem cell research.

4A.4 Student Accomplishment

Recognition of student achievement is of the highest importance at Sauk, which recognizes student achievement in a number of ways:

  • Public Relations Department: The Coordinator of Public Relations is responsible for posting student achievements on the Sauk website and releasing them to the local news media. Students are also featured in various marketing efforts, including posters, brochures and website videos. For the past couple of years, a series of commercials featuring students sharing their positive Sauk experiences have been taped and aired on local television cable stations.
  • Dean’s and President’s Lists: Each semester, full-time and part-time students who attain high grade point averages are recognized by being placed on the Dean’s List (3.5 to 3.74 GPA) or the President’s List (3.75 or higher). These lists are published on the Sauk webpage and released to the local newspapers.
  • Leadership event: Every year at the end of each spring semester, a student leadership event celebrates student accomplishments with a buffet meal, a slide-show highlighting SGA and club activities, inspirational speeches given by graduating Student Support Services students, and an award ceremony. The 2011 reception was attended by 250 students, family, and staff.
  • Honors luncheon: The Honors Committee hosts an Honors Banquet each spring, to which it invites all honors project students and their faculty mentors. During the luncheon, scholarship awards are presented to students whose projects were selected as being exemplary by the Honors Committee. About $4,000 in scholarships are presented annually.
  • Athletes: Each athletic team acknowledges its athletes at an annual banquet where students are recognized in a variety of sports categories. Sauk also uses Banner night to recognize successful individuals and teams:
    • Individual athletes are recognized for a variety of awards. In FY10, three athletes were recognized as Academic All-Americans (3.6 GPA with at least 45 hours), and 26 were recognized as Academic All-Conference Athletes (3.0 GPA and two full-time semesters completed).
    • Teams are recognized as conference or regional champions and national qualifiers.
  • Pinning Ceremony: Graduates of each of the health career programs are honored at a Pinning Ceremony, which attracts approximately 65 students and their families each year. Graduates select a student speaker from each program, to recount their personal triumphs and challenges while in school. Students also select a graduate for recognition based on leadership, service, perseverance, patient advocacy, professionalism, and enthusiasm.
  • Commencement: Graduates are honored at the annual spring commencement ceremony. Family, friends and the Sauk community recognize students’ completion of degrees and certificates. In 2006, the college began live streaming and storing video of the ceremony on the Sauk website to make the ceremony more accessible to family and friends. Some students receive special recognition:
    • Graduates who have completed 12 credits of honors projects, and Phi Theta Kappa members receive a special demarcation on the commencement program.
    • Phi Theta Kappa members wear gold stoles and tassels.
    • A student speaker is selected, based on academic achievement, involvement in campus activities, speaking ability, and often for having overcome some form of adversity.
    Participation in the commencement ceremony is generally low with only about 20% of graduates participating each year. In 2007, Sauk implemented suggested changes obtained from a student survey. For example, commencement was rescheduled from the Thursday evening after finals week to the Friday evening of finals week.

4A.5: Employee Accomplishment

Sauk appreciates the importance of recognizing employee accomplishment, to maintaining morale and a community spirit in the workplace. To that end, the Employee Recognition Committee, chaired by the Human Resources Director, assures that employee recognition occurs regularly and systematically through the following initiatives:

  • Winner’s Card: Any employee may confer a Winner’s Card to a colleague who has gone “above and beyond,” by completing a certificate in the HR office. The nominated individual is sent the certificate along with a gift card for a snack in the cafeteria. At the monthly Winner’s/Birthday Party, the name of one “winner” is drawn to receive an additional prize. The fall 2010 survey suggests that the award is more highly valued by those who send them than by those who receive them.
  • Retirement recognition: Late each spring, the Recognition Committee hosts a ceremony and reception for retiring employees. Each retiree is honored with a plaque and by a tribute by a co-worker.
  • Years-of-service recognition: A ceremony is held during the January in-service to honor employees who have reached milestones of 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, or more years of service. Honored employees each receive a gift of appreciation for their committed service.
  • Service awards: During the Spring workshop, a ceremony is held to recognize and honor outstanding employees with awards based on work quality, service to the college, and adherence to Sauk’s Shared Ethical Values. All employees may submit award nominations, which are considered by the Recognition Committee to determine the winners of the following awards:
    • Distinguished Service Award (full-time Support and Professional/Technical employees)
    • Distinguished Service Award (part-time Support and Professional/Technical employees)
    • Distinguished Service Award (Administrators and Faculty)
    • Distinguished Service Award (Adjunct Faculty)
    • Rookie of the Year (Support and Professional/Technical employees)
    • Rookie of the Year (Administrators and Faculty)
    • STAR Award – given to the best department
  • The Student Leadership Banquet (described above) includes awards to employees from two groups involved in that banquet:
    • Student Support Services (SSS) recognizes a faculty member, an administrator, and a department for their support for SSS students.
    • Student Services presents the Organizational Leader of the Year award in recognition of the leadership provided by a faculty or staff member to a club.

Employee accomplishments and honors appeared in the weekly Sauk Scout, until it was temporarily discontinued in 2011 for redesign. According to the fall 2009 survey, the Scout was read regularly by about two-thirds of employees. However, a review of news releases indicated that information regarding retiree or faculty awards were not released to the local news media.