Sauk Valley Community College demonstrates that acquisition of a breadth of knowledge and skills and the exercise of intellectual inquiry are integral to its educational programs.
One of the strengths of higher education in the United States is that it is designed to provide a wide breadth of knowledge to its students. Historically, higher education has required liberal arts graduates to attain a breadth of education in many subjects, thereby broadening their knowledge of culture, religion, art, science, and human nature. In addition, there are certain behaviors and habits of mind that are presumed to differentiate the degree holder from a person without a degree. These skills and habits of mind in combination allow students to better function in society and understand their roles as citizens of this country.
In its 2003 Statement on General Education, the HLC sets out a specific expectation that “quality undergraduate higher education involves breadth as well as depth of study.” This portion of the self-study addresses this particular priority for depth and breadth of education as it applies to degree-seeking and transfer students. In doing so, the college recognizes that certificate programs differ from our degree programs in the underlying assumptions about general education. According to the Sauk catalog,
Certificate programs consist of a series of prescribed courses (in a specialized field) which prepare the student for entry level occupations. . . . Certificate programs require few general education requirements and thus are designed to develop the technical competence of the student.
Sauk understands that students should be exposed to a multitude of ideas, cultures, ways of learning, and knowledge so that they can better function in society; however, the Illinois community college system is designed so that students may attend college for diverse purposes. For instance, 65% of completions are by students who attain a career certificate, which provides evidence of skills that can be applied in their jobs. Sauk offers 47 certificates, 71% of which require fewer than 25 credit hours to complete. When possible, certificates are laddered to encourage students to develop higher expectations for themselves and eventually to desire a degree and the breadth of coursework that accompanies it. On the other hand, a recent high school graduate may attend Sauk with the goal to transfer the general education core curriculum requirements to a university. The college’s challenge is to help students value the attainment of an associate degree and to place general education requirements in context.
4B.1: General Education
Sauk’s faculty have articulated general education requirements for its graduates as two separate components, which are documented in the catalog statements to students and in the design of the system for Assessment of Academic Achievement:
1) General Education Core Curriculum (GECC)
Sauk offers 40 transfer degree programs and 19 terminal career degree programs. All of the degree programs require students to take general education courses as part of a core curriculum requirement, in addition to subject-specific courses. GECC requirements adhere to ICCB requirements and have been locally approved by faculty and the Sauk Curriculum Committee prior to requesting ICCB approval and being published in the college catalog (see Figure 4iii).
Figure 4iii: GECC Requirements
Gen Ed courses
A.A. or A.S. degrees (# of credit hours)
A.A.S degrees (# of credit hours)
Variations in the requirements reflect varying academic considerations for the type of degree. Source: 2010-2012 Catalog
Under provisions of the Illinois Articulation Initiative (IAI), approximately 25% (89 of 362) of Sauk’s courses are directly transferable to other IAI institutions as GECC credits. To assure that students can accurately identify these qualifying courses, a 900 identification number and code appears on each course description in the catalog and the class schedule students use to register for classes.
The college has two additional categories of GECC requirements that address distinctive local priorities for Sauk graduates:
Orientation: Degree-seeking students are required to take Orientation (PSY 100), a one-credit-hour course. The course outcomes require students to explore a number of skills to enhance their learning (such as study skills and strategies), diversity, and their own role in establishing academic goals. Students are encouraged to complete the class early in their college careers, and about 73% of in-coming students complete it within their first two semesters.
Personal Health and Development: A.A. and A.S. degree-seeking students are required to take up to four credit hours of personal-interest coursework, selected from a list of courses approved by the Curriculum Committee. In general, these courses address such interests as choir or music lessons, computer applications, and physical fitness. A complete list is provided in the Sauk catalog.
2) General Education Competencies:
In keeping with the intent of the community and various regulatory agencies, the faculty has articulated a set of outcomes, which are published in the catalog, that reflect institutional priorities for graduates: Students should live “responsible, productive, and joyful lives” and be prepared “for the increasing demands of the workplace and the expanding responsibilities of the diverse local and global communities in which they will live and work.” These competencies are achieved primarily through the curricular framework of the GECC, but are taught, reinforced, or confirmed in many of the major program and discipline-specific courses:
Ethics: Students will be able to:
Identify ethical issues in a variety of contexts and academic disciplines and explain their significance.
Reason about ethical principles and consequences.
Mathematics and Quantitative Reasoning: Students will be able to:
Interpret and apply appropriate mathematical formulas and relationships in the appropriate context.
Perform mathematical computations.
Demonstrate the ability to analyze and interpret the mathematical results of computations.
Problem Solving: Students will be able to:
Identify problems and the desired outcomes.
Recognize and evaluate available resources.
Adapt, organize, and implement solutions or plans of action.
Communications: Students will be able to:
Create and revise formal and informal writing assignments that are clear, coherent, and exhibit a command of Standard English.
Develop, organize, rehearse, and deliver formal and informal oral presentations that are audience appropriate and either informative or persuasive.
Demonstrate collaboration in completion of projects and assignments.
Demonstrate the ability to read college-level texts by providing appropriate and critical responses in discussions, tests, presentations, critiques, and reviews.
Demonstrate their ability to listen by providing appropriate and critical response after a listening experience.
Technology: Students will be able to:
Demonstrate general computer literacy.
Demonstrate the selection and use of appropriate technologies for the specific discipline.
Research: Students will be able to:
Identify, evaluate, analyze, and synthesize information to generate ideas and concepts.
Assess the value of a source.
Identify, describe, and utilize appropriate research tools, methods, and processes.
4B.2: Relationship of Strategic Directions to General Education
The Strategic Directions (Appendix) establish the clear principle for Sauk to pursue quality improvement. The first Strategic Goal specifically links this mandate for continuous quality improvement to Sauk's educational Mission: "The College will . . . improve the quality of programs and services." This Strategic Goal‘s first objective is particularly pertinent to Sauk's commitment to improving the quality of its general education component: “Identify and implement quality improvements in instructional courses and programs (especially those resulting from program review and assessment activities).”
Sauk’s planning system ensures that the tie between this objective and both the general education competencies and the GECC are regularly and systematically maintained and improved:
Assessment: The Assessment Plan, implemented in 2005, establishes a dependable system of general education assessment activities that coordinate with the planning cycle (Appendix):
GECC areas conduct annual projects, with the expectation that all objectives will be covered in the five-year program review cycle;
General education competencies are annually assessed and are brought forward for discussion and action on a three-year cycle. At this time, the full-time faculty also confirms the continued relevance of the competency. In 2009, for example, the faculty considered a proposal to eliminate Ethics as a competency; after discussion and reflection, the majority voted to retain it.
ACT’s CAAP test is given every three years to a sample of graduating students as an external confirmatory assessment of the achievement of selected general education outcomes.
The annual evaluation of the assessment system conducted by the faculty Core Team and approved by the Assessment of Academic Achievement Committee provides regular opportunity for Sauk's general education program to be kept in line with the Strategic Directions.
Operational planning: Results of full-faculty and area-level discussions of assessment data from the general education competencies as well as area-level discussion of the GECC areas are related to the appropriate objective whenever the analysis of data results in planned activities placed on the Operational Plan. This flow of data from assessment is identified in the source field on the Operational Plan (Appendix).
Program review: The five-year program review schedule established by ICCB includes periodic cross-institutional review of the General Education curriculum. A cross-institutional review team reviews and evaluates the effectiveness of the general education curriculum against ICCB expectations and makes recommendations for improvement. In the 2008 Program Review Report to the ICCB, the team reported that based on a review of assessment data and policy documents, it believed the college’s “compliance with IBHE expectations is exemplary, particularly as it pertains to IBHE guidelines for providing and assessing general education courses and outcomes . . . .”
4B.3: Commitment to Underprepared Learners
The fourth goal of the Sauk System of Assessment of Academic Achievement addresses the needs of a diverse population of underprepared learners within the college community: “Students will demonstrate the skills necessary to succeed in college-level studies.” Assessment objectives related to developmental programming include a combination of academic knowledge and learning attitudes and skills:
Basic study skills: an attitude of engagement in learning, application of problem-solving strategies, and use of available college resources.
Academic prerequisite skills: reading, composition, and math
Although these outcomes do not apply to the general education curriculum or degree programs per se, they originate with the faculty’s commitment to the rigor of achieving a college degree. Full-time faculty in the developmental area play a key role in establishing and maintaining exit testing standards for selected courses and oversee the curricula, which is primarily taught by adjunct faculty. A cross-institutional Developmental Education Committee shares the responsibility for operational planning and program review for the developmental programs, with coordination by the Director of Academic Development.
4B.4: Curricular and Co-Curricular Activities
Sauk recognizes co-curricular activities as those which are not merely recreational, but which provide students with additional outcomes-related learning opportunities outside of the classroom. Some of these activities occur as the result of instructor initiatives to extend their students’ learning experiences and practice opportunities outside of the classroom:
Faculty-sponsored enrichment activities: Sauk faculty are supported in their efforts to enrich their GECC courses by linking to appropriate activities of various sorts, both on and off campus. Co-curricular experiences expand the traditional lecture/lab format and allow students to make connections from the classroom into that experience. The college provides faculty access to travel procedures to organize off-campus student activities in support of course outcomes. When surveyed in fall 2009, 41% of the faculty have taken at least one group of students on an educational field trip in the last five years. Examples of faculty-sponsored enrichment activities include the following:
Introductory biology labs are taken on field trips to the local waste water treatment facilities to show students how microorganisms are key to breaking down harmful waste materials.
Music Appreciation students are required to attend at least one concert each semester and write a report that details the concert.
Radiology Technology students attend the Illinois State Society of Radiologic Technologists (ISSRT) Conference each year, where they compete in a poster contest and an academic bowl.
Performing arts: Performing arts students benefit from the number and quality of activities found at Sauk. For instance, the music faculty requires students within the music program to participate in three performances each semester. These concerts, which are also attended by community members, provide valuable experiential learning to those music students. Theatre faculty also provide practice and growth opportunities for students. Events include plays and performances, academic field trips, and conferences. Each of the 2-6 performance events per year involves approximately 15 students.
The primary initiators of regular and varied co-curricular options for students are the offices within the Student Services Department:
Counseling: Various initiatives from the Counseling Office provide information and opportunity across the spectrum of study skills, wellness, and diversity topics:
Wellness Fair – In October 2009 and October 2010, Counseling coordinated a 2-hour Healthy Living Resource Fair, in which 12 to 16 agencies provided information and resources to an estimated 150 to 200 students and interested community attendees.
Tunnel of Oppression - In April 2011, Student Services sponsored this interactive event, which highlights contemporary issues of oppression, with an estimated participation of 250.
Student Government (SGA): SGA is a frequent sponsor of campus-wide co-curricular activities, including informational presentations and community service projects. In addition, SGA allocates programming money to other student organizations, which helps to enable their co-curricular activities. In 2009, Student Government organized a free one-day leadership conference with about 100 students attending.
Sauk organizations: Most of the college’s student clubs conduct some degree of co-curricular activities for their own membership. The quality and depth of scholarship will vary from year to year, but overall, Sauk student groups supply the whole campus community with an array of thought-provoking discussions, events, and activities. Here is a sampling:
Phi Theta Kappa (PTK), the academic honor society for two-year colleges, inducts between 50-80 new members annually. On average, Sauk’s Beta Alpha Gamma chapter conducts 3-5 scholarly activities each year that are open to students, employees of the college, and community members. For instance, in 2010, the chapter organized a game of charades that was centered on the honors study topic “Paradox of Affluence.” The chapter also regularly invites faculty to discuss the annual Phi Theta Kappa honors study topic. In 2008, Dr. Brandon Warmke, Adjunct Instructor of Philosophy, gave a presentation on The God Delusion, the controversial book by Richard Dawkins.
Association of Latin American Students (A.L.A.S.), averaging 19 members annually, celebrates and participates in many Hispanic cultural events on campus (for example, Hispanic Heritage Day, “Day of the Dead”) and off-site academic activities (trips to the Mexican Arts Museum and the Collegiate Leadership Development Program), in which the campus community is invited to participate.
Criminal Justice Club, which was founded in the fall of 2009, currently has 68 members. During the FY10, the club arranged on-campus public presentations by a current U.S. Secret Service agent, a Federal Air Marshal, and an undercover Rockford police officer.
4B.5: Preparation for Continued Learning or Occupational Skills
Sauk guarantees the quality of its transfer and career programs. This guarantee, publicized in the college catalog, ensures that the education Sauk students receive has prepared them to transfer to another institution or to meet their career goals. In the last ten years, only two students have received reparation through the guarantee, in both cases by repeating, at no charge, an electrical course in which a former adjunct had failed to deliver the outcomes specified in the course outline.
The systematic assessment of career and transfer areas required by the Assessment Plan provides a snapshot of what graduates can do in ways that guide curricular and budgetary actions toward improvements in student performance.
Transfer degrees: The 2003 Assessment Plan establishes a system of goals and objectives designed to assess whether transfer degree completers have mastered discipline- and program-specific outcomes. After several years of experience with the system, it became clear that without a capstone course requirement, many of the disciplines had no required course path, so classroom assessment results being obtained were formative rather than summative. As a result of this finding, the 2010 plan adjusts the focus of the assessment for transfer students to the General Education Core Curriculum areas. Some specific discipline-level assessment may continue in areas where faculty determine that need exists; however, external data is currently the primary summative assessment source for transfer students at the discipline level.
Career programs: As the result of a revision to the Assessment Plan, effective fall 2010, two common objectives have been established in all of the career programs, with a common rubric to allow cross-institutional aggregation of assessment data and the ability to discuss findings both at the program level as well as across the institution:
Graduates will demonstrate knowledge and skills consistent with entry-level employment:
Graduates will demonstrate professional behaviors consistent with entry-level employment standards.
The common rubrics for this objective were developed by the faculty during fall 2010 in time to be used in the spring when internships, clinicals, and other “hands on” projects were assessed. Appropriate action plans should reach the Operational Plans for FY13. The Assessment Core Team recommended the change in response to HLC Peer Review Team concerns at the 2006 Focused Visit that more standard rubrics be developed, but it is also a natural development in the organic growth of the Sauk assessment system.
Additional evidence of students’ attainment of the stated learning goals comes from a variety of external measures that feed into various planning systems of the college. Additional evidence that Sauk graduates are ready and able to continue their life of learning may be seen in the following:
Graduate Follow-up Study: For over 20 years, Sauk annually surveyed degree graduates. Respondents consistently reported a high level of satisfaction with the institution and success in obtaining employment or pursuing continuing education. In 2008, the survey was discontinued because the findings were so consistently positive that the cost to continue was not justified.
GPAs of Sauk transfer students: Sauk monitors the grade point averages (GPA) of students at the universities with the most Sauk transfers. Sauk students usually achieve GPAs higher than other community college transfers and higher than most native students, as illustrated with recent data in Figure 4iv below.
Figure 4iv: Transfer Student GPAs
Average GPAs of Sauk Transfers
Average GPAs of Transfers from all Community Colleges
Average GPAs of Native Students
Illinois State (2009 – 10)
Northern Illinois (Fall 2010)
University of Illinois (Fall 2010)
Western Illinois (2009 – 10)
Source: GPA reports from transfer universities
During FY11, faculty identified and requested external data to be used for operational planning. Beginning in FY12, faculty will be provided the GPAs of former Sauk students by major at the transfer institutions noted in Figure 4iv above. Additional requested internal and external data will be refined and provided beginning in FY13. These changes, a result of a revision to the Assessment System, are designed to expand the data sources available to inform curricular aspects of operational planning by each department and academic area.
Career and Technical Education Follow-up Survey: Sauk surveys career program completers every spring, in compliance with ICCB directives. The ICCB provides institutional and statewide data to each college. Sauk provides this data to the program review teams for consideration in their program review. Unfortunately, Sauk has not gained much benefit because the number of respondents for each program is fairly low.
Pass rates of Sauk health career students on license and certification exams: For Sauk’s highly reputed health career programs, certification and licensure exams provide an example of their rigor. From FY06 through FY10, Sauk students have exceeded the state and national pass rates on the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) for all tests nearly every year (see Figure 4v).
Figure 4v: First Time Licensure Pass Rates
LPN Pass Rates
RN Pass Rates
Radiology Pass Rates
EMT B Pass Rates
Paramedic Pass Rates
Source: Health Careers Office
Employer follow-up surveys in the health careers programs: Annual surveys ask questions which focus on additional skills of employability related to social skills, maturity, and communication. Employers have evaluated RN (ADN) and LPN program graduates since 1999 and RAD graduates since 2005:
Solve problems within expected level of performance: 100% of ADN and LPN employers rated this as average to outstanding. None rated it below average
Communication skills: 100% of ADN and 94% of LPN employers rated these skills as average to outstanding.
Relationship skills: 100% of ADN employers rated these as average to outstanding. 97% of LPN employers rated these as above average or outstanding. 100% of RAD employers rated these as good or excellent.
Accept responsibility willingly: 97% of ADN and 100% of LPN employers rated this as average to outstanding.