SVCC HLC Self-Study Document

Sauk Valley Community College
HLC Self-Study Document

September 19-21, 2011

Criterion 4: Acquisition, Discovery, and Application of Knowledge

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.

Photo of students working on class workA 1965 editorial in the Sterling Gazette, promoting the upcoming referendum to approve the establishment of a junior college, underlines the value placed on these skill and habits of mind that motivated the founding of Sauk Valley Community College: “It is too well known to need any emphasis here that education is one of the most essential qualities and the greatest need that a young man or young woman can possess.” (Out of the Prairie, p. 14)

This criterion asks us to articulate the “essential qualities” of a general education and provide evidence of the ways we implement them in our programs of study. It also calls for us to extend learning beyond the classroom, to recognize that learning occurs in a variety of academic and experiential contexts on campus and off campus. In addition, the criterion asks us to extend the definition of what a learner is to include not only our enrolled students, but to all of our internal constituents.

Sauk Valley Community College asserts that it fulfills the expectation of the Higher Learning Commission that the institution is consistent with its Mission in promoting a life of learning for the entire campus community: students, faculty, staff, and Board members alike.

Responses to HLC Concerns

In an earlier section, we have addressed the concerns of and responded to suggestions made by prior review teams at the 2002 Reaffirmation of Accreditation visit and the 2006 Focused Visit under the previous criteria. Three of these relate directly to evidence addressed in this criterion and are summarized here:

  • “The college’s Strategic Plan speaks directly and indirectly to the need for employee development. However, as indicated in the budget and as discussed with employee groups, sufficient resources to support this endeavor have been removed” (2002, p. 12).

    Shortly after the visit, the $300 budgeted for each faculty member became a single pool of $20,000. A Faculty Development Committee was formed to oversee and approve use of the funds. In the 2009 employee survey, most employees indicated that the college is moderately to highly supportive of professional development: 96% of faculty, 93% of administration, 92% of support staff, and 88% of professional/technical staff (Link to another section of Self-Study 4A.2).

  • “In a review of the documents, and in interviews with the faculty and administration, there exists no clearly defined philosophy statement regarding general education requirements as agreed upon by the faculty, no identification and articulation of expected competencies to be attained by students within each area, no method of assessment and measurement of those areas of importance, generally no stated career program outcomes, and no current process for including the results in instructional improvement and the annual budgeting of the institution. Faculty generally does not demonstrate a shared understanding of the potential or goals of academic assessment and they demonstrate only minimum buy-in to the overall program. Necessary professional developmental funds are not allocated to support consultants and travel of employees required to develop an understanding of an effective program of student academic assessment. The college should ensure that the faculty are fully understanding of their role in the ownership and direction of the curriculum, as well as provide for clarity in student’s progression through coursework to a degree” (2002, p. 10).

    By the Focused Visit Team in 2006, the lack noted by the 2002 team had been remedied and the faculty was in its second cycle of using a new assessment system to assess student outcomes related to general education competencies as well as the general education core curriculum. The faculty has continued to own and direct the curriculum as well as the assessment system. The assessment system itself continues to evolve as faculty improve their understanding of how the general education competencies may best be measured.

    • The Focused Visit Team noted that "the faculty has not yet come to full consensus on a common rubric for assessing the achievement of the [gen ed] competencies taught at the college" ( 2006, p. 8). Some increases in standardization have been gained as gen ed data collection has moved into a standardized database form. Other efforts to reach the required consensus have also been made:
      • Career program faculty have created a combined set of program outcomes that they value highly for employment readiness and are assessing them for the first time in the spring 2011 semester.
      • Academic areas that address the General Education Core Curriculum (GECC) requirements have created the standardized rubrics called for by the team as they begin to assess objectives they have developed for those areas: Humanities/Fine Arts; Communications; Mathematics; Social Science; Physical Science.
      • Periodic administration of the CAAP test provides statistically reliable results and external benchmarks against which the ongoing classroom findings can be evaluated.

Link to another section of Self-Study See Core Component 3A for evaluation of the system in general and Core Component 4B for more about assessment of the general education curriculum.

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.

4B: Breadth of Knowledge and Skills

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 coursesA.A. or A.S. degrees (# of credit hours)A.A.S degrees (# of credit hours)
Communications 9 6
Mathematics 3-4 3
Humanities/Fine Arts 9 3
Physical/Behavioral Sciences 7-8 7-8
Social/Behavioral Sciences 9 3
Total hours 37-39 22-23
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 (link to an appendixAppendix) 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 (link to an appendixAppendix):
    • 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 (link to an appendixAppendix).
  • 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.

Internal Measures:

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.

External Measures:

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 TransfersAverage GPAs of Transfers from all Community CollegesAverage GPAs of Native Students
    Illinois State (2009 – 10) 3.34 3.22 3.16
    Northern Illinois (Fall 2010) 3.07 2.91 2.76
    University of Illinois (Fall 2010) 3.21 3.47 3.20
    Western Illinois (2009 – 10) 3.37 2.89 2.89
    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
     FY06FY07FY08FY09FY10Average Rate
    LPN Pass Rates
    Sauk 100% 93% 95% 100% 79% 93%
    State 93% 91% 90% 91% na 91%
    National 88% 87% 86% 86% 87% 87%
    RN Pass Rates
    Sauk 100% 87% 100% 93% 94% 95%
    State 89% 86% 90% 91% na 89%
    National 88% 85% 87% 88% 86% 87%
    Radiology Pass Rates
    Sauk 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
    National 91% 91% 91% 91% 92% 91%
    EMT B Pass Rates
    Sauk 66% 70% 93% 93% 100% 84%
    National 77% 79% 78% 77% 77% 78%
    Paramedic Pass Rates
    Sauk na na 75% na 100% 88%
    National - - 83% - 83% 83%
    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.

4C: Assesses Usefulness of its Curricula

Sauk Valley Community College assesses the usefulness of its curricula to students who will live and work in a global, diverse, and technological society.

In order to maintain and provide for the currency and relevance of its courses and programs, Sauk has systems in place that provide the college community an opportunity to regularly evaluate its efficacy and to benefit from the input of the stakeholders of its Mission, both the students themselves and the communities in which they will study, live, and work. Sauk is committed to providing students with an education which prepares them not only to acquire content knowledge, but to bring appropriate life and work skills into modern society where workplace demands are in constant change. This emphasis is apparent through the Strategic Directions and general education curriculum described above. Specifically, this focus is detailed in the general education competencies: “General Education at Sauk Valley Community College prepares its graduates 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. Required courses . . . provide students with knowledge, competencies, and habits of mind conducive to living responsible, productive, and joyful lives.”

4C.1: Relevance of Courses and Programs

In accordance with ICCB regulations, Sauk has developed a program review process to "promote continuous improvement and to link those improvements to other internal processes, including curriculum development." This process ensures that a comprehensive evaluation of the college operations and programs occurs on an established 5-year schedule. The process is overseen by the Program Review Committee, which has developed standard guidelines and templates to guide the process (link to an appendixAppendix). Among these templates are three which specifically address the currency and relevance of courses and programs:

  • FY10 Academic Disciplines Five Year Program Review covers the A.S. degrees that are considered “transfer” degrees, discipline by discipline (link to an appendixAppendix).
  • FY10 Career and Technical Education (CTE) Five Year Program Review covers the A.A.S. and certificate programs.
  • FY10 Cross-Disciplinary Five Year Program Review covers ICCB mandated cross-institutional areas, including developmental education and general education.

The instructions provided recommend that each program review team be constituted in such a way as to provide broad-based participation, not only of department staff and administration, but including employees from outside the unit, students, and community members when possible. In addition, the Program Review Template asks specific questions regarding stakeholder input and current need for the program. These questions include the following:

  • Student input, including formal and informal efforts aimed at obtaining student opinions and suggestions for improving the program.
  • Non-Student input, including efforts aimed at obtaining information regarding program content and improvement from informed sources other than students, for the purpose of keeping the program current and relevant.
  • Need and Growth Potential, including projected status and priorities for strengthening the program during the next five years.

Drawing as it does from various streams of external and internal, direct and indirect data; the program review process has been fine-tuned by the Program Review Committee over the last ten years to make it a useful tool that serves continuous improvement efforts. Feeding as it does into operational planning, the program review process also allows what is learned from stakeholders about the need for revisions and improvements in college programs to move forward into the annual planning process.

4C.2: External Confirmation of Efficacy

In addition to the program review process, Sauk routinely seeks input from alumni, employers, and other external constituents in a variety of contexts to ensure that coursework meets the needs of the workforce.

  • Work Force Council: The Work Force Councils, consisting of representatives from local employers who meet regularly with career program faculty and administrators, provide input relevant to current practice in the workplace. All career programs are included in the Councils, but break out as necessary to address discipline-specific issues (Link to another section of Self-Study 5B.2).
    • A new course for Safety and Troubleshooting in the Technology area is directly due to workplace concerns expressed by the community members of the Business and Technology Work Force Council, which were directed to a subcommittee and ultimately resulted in a Curriculum proposal.
    • The Nursing Work Force Council includes employers from acute and long term care facilities, clinics, and county health departments as well as graduates. The agenda for each meeting includes program developments, program improvements, and employer needs. These meetings allow the members to make needs known, but also provide feedback to them regarding modifications to the curriculum based on previous suggestions. Recent graduates who are members of the council share their experiences of transition from student to employee.
  • Internship programs in the areas of business, accounting, computer information systems, and office and administrative services provide students learning experiences which prepare them for employment. The allied health programs each have a strong clinical component that provides similar opportunities. At the end of the internship or clinical, both students and participating employers are given the opportunity to communicate about the experience in ways that inform faculty about the student’s preparedness for the workplace setting encountered. Information from this contact may be directed into the operational planning process or course outlines may then be updated with changes designed to improve students' abilities to be successful in the workplace.
  • College representation on the IAI committees (currently four faculty and one administrator) provides a link from Sauk into the statewide system for assuring relevance of the general education core curriculum. All transferrable course outlines that are submitted for any revisions are evaluated against IAI standards in the approval process in order to make sure outcomes and expectations are in line with those current at other institutions.

4C.3: Graduate Success Outside the Institution

The Assessment Plan establishes the institution-wide learning goals upon which the outcomes for graduates are based. Goal 2 speaks directly to the faculty expectation of graduates for the habits of mind expected of a college graduate: “ Students will develop and apply various general education competencies through the study of the discipline.” Although each competency has relevance to developing students as life-long learners, two in particular address the preparation for life in a global and fast-changing technical society:

1) Technology

The objectives related to technology ask that students be able to “demonstrate general computer literacy” and to “demonstrate the selection and use of appropriate technologies for the specific discipline.” Sauk has provided extensive access to technology-supported learning: 38 of 44 (86%) lecture rooms are technology-enhanced; three computer labs (averaging 20 computers each) and ten classrooms with a total of 375 computers are available for student use. This support enables the wide use of technology in teaching and a curricular imperative for computer skills: A.A.S. degrees require a computer course; all composition classes are taught in computer labs; and about 150 courses per semester use course management software for on-campus sections.

The computer literacy objective was the subject of an institution-wide assessment project in fall 2009, which sought to determine the skill level of the incoming student population for basic file management and in Microsoft Word™. A computer skill exercise was voluntarily administered by faculty in classes taught in computer classrooms. The results indicated that of 799 students sampled, 16% of students could not perform the set of tasks at the expected level; of the 169 developmental students in the sample, 40% failed the assessment. The results were presented to the full-time faculty at a Faculty Forum, with several results:

  • The Developmental Education Committee arranged a comprehensive assessment event in all developmental-level reading, composition, and math sections in spring 2010, the results of which were presented to full-time faculty at a subsequent meeting.
  • The faculty discussed the possibility of establishing the assessment as a placement tool for incoming students, with various ramifications on course enrollment as a result. The issue was delegated to individual areas to be included as action items on Operational Plans as the needs of the area dictated.
  • Introduction to Microsoft Windows (CIS 105) was revised based on the findings and reactivated to be available as an alternative for students.

2) Problem-Solving

The faculty has chosen to value problem-solving as a competency which expresses critical thinking skills in a practical application. The competency stems from the faculty’s efforts to reflect career as well as transfer degree priorities as it developed the competencies. Faculty professional development related to this competency is sometimes directed toward critical thinking. The Problem Solving objectives expect that students will be able to “Identify problems and the desired outcomes”; “Recognize and evaluate available resources”; and “Adapt, organize, and implement solutions or plans of action.” Students, particularly those in career programs at Sauk, demonstrate mastery of independent problem-solving skills in a variety of ways:

  • Assessment data: Classroom projects from a variety of college-level courses assess student mastery of faculty-selected objectives. These data are aggregated over a three-year cycle and then used as the basis for discussion and action by the faculty. Figure 4vi below shows the aggregation for the period 2008-2010, which will form the basis for faculty discussions in FY12.  The following outcomes were assessed:
    • Outcome 1: Identify the problem and desired outcome(s).
    • Outcome 2: Recognize and evaluate available resources.
    • Outcome 3: Establish a process or plan of action by which the outcome may be achieved.
    • Outcome 4: Implement solution(s) and apply knowledge.
    Figure 4vi: General Education Competency Aggregation Report
     Outcome 1
    Outcome 2
    Outcome 3
    Outcome 4
    Number 401 384 170 22 141 25 174 18 277 27
    Percentage   95.76% 88.54% 11.46% 84.94% 15.06% 90.63% 9.38% 91.12% 8.88%
    Term: Fall 2008 - Spring 2011
    Source: Assessment System database
  • Clinicals: Students in the health careers programs are evaluated twice during their required clinical experiences, once at mid-term and once at the end of the semester. The evaluations, completed by the supervising faculty, address the objectives stated in both the course outlines and course syllabi.
  • Internships: Accounting, Business, and Office and Administrative Services use comprehensive questionnaires to evaluate student internships.
  • Case studies: "Hands on" projects are a significant component in selected 200-level career program courses. Projects like the examples below require the student to demonstrate independent problem-solving skills and the application of a variety of program-specific and academic knowledge:
    • In ECE 275, for example, students create a multicultural lesson plan unit for implementing social studies in the early childhood classroom.
    • In ELT 262, students construct and connect an assigned circuit in a lab setting.
    • In HRS 220, students assemble and disassemble a washer and dryer.

4C.4: Service to a Diverse Community

Although the faculty has not articulated diversity as a general education competency, Sauk's Strategic Directions provide a clear mandate that the college community address diversity issues and suggests how this may be done in its statement of Shared Ethical Values. This directive is carried out in the curriculum in several ways:

  • Humanities core curriculum outcomes: One specific outcome articulated by the humanities assessment objectives is that “Students will demonstrate a familiarity with and appreciation of our diverse human heritage.” This outcome is carried out across the array of courses in humanities, literature, philosophy, and foreign language that qualify as meeting the humanities GECC requirement.
  • Education diversity requirements: Almost a dozen GECC courses are available that are specifically designed to expose students to non-Western culture and which have been approved to satisfy the University of Illinois’ diversity requirement for education majors.
  • Classroom activities: Most Sauk faculty (91% of respondents) strongly or moderately promote or discuss diversity within their classrooms, according to the fall 2009 survey. Cultural diversity is interjected into classroom activities in a number of ways. Faculty provided the following examples:
    • Students in Cultural Diversity in Criminal Justice (CJS 225) discuss racial profiling and its implications, importance of diversification of the police department, and the link with race and crime and poverty.
    • In Human Growth and Development (PSY 200) and Child Psychology (PSY 214), in-utero developmental problems are discussed along with their link to different racial/ethnic groups. Also, the connections with alcoholism and SES and different racial and ethnic groups are discussed.
    • A variety of Nursing classes present to students how different religions/cultures view medical interventions and treatment and how certain ethnic and cultural groups run an increased risk for diseases based on their dietary habits or genetics.

In addition to the general education competencies, which comprise the curriculum-delivered preparation for graduates to take their place in a global society as workers and citizens, Sauk has a long history of providing students an opportunity to serve others. This particular facet of social responsibility is modeled for students by the behaviors of the institution and its employees:

  • Institution-level participation in local public service: Sauk itself is a contributor to the district it serves (link to another section of the report5D.2):
    • The college has been a United Way participant for more than 25 years. In 2010, 23 employees gave a total of almost $3,000 to Whiteside County, Lee County, or Community Health Charities of Illinois.
    • The college promotes selected community projects. Opportunities for campus involvement in off-campus events are directed through the Director of Foundation and Grants to the President’s Cabinet for approval. For example, Sauk has annually provided a pie for the American Cancer Society pie auction, supported breast cancer research through Jeans Days, and the local Relay for Life event through sales of daffodils.
    • In addition to their site assignments, AmeriCorps members volunteer to assist at an estimated 80 community activities and events each year. Beginning in FY11, these opportunities have also been promoted to other students as well.
  • Modeled by faculty and staff: In the fall 2009 survey, Sauk employees listed about 280 separate community organizations in which they volunteer.
  • Clubs and organizations: One way that the college encourages public service by students in its co-curricular activities is by establishing a “Gold Wing” award that clubs and organization may earn. Under the terms of the program, Gold-wing status specifically requires a community service activity, thereby creating an incentive for clubs who do not otherwise have service or social responsibility built into a mission statement. Here is a sampling of service activities and projects undertaken by student clubs and organizations in recent years:
    • A.L.A.S. founded a Bilingual 4-H club in Rock Falls and hosted a Women’s Health Workshop
    • Campus Women’s Club held a “Walk a Mile in her Shoes” fundraiser for breast cancer research
    • Allied Health and Student Government cooperate to run regular blood drives
    • Student Government sponsored a Habitat for Humanity Trip to Texas in 2008
    • Phi Theta Kappa has regularly collected used textbooks to be sent to schools in foreign countries.

4D: Provides Support

Sauk Valley Community College provides support to ensure that faculty, students, and staff acquire, discover, and apply knowledge responsibly.

Sauk has traditionally recognized the link between knowledge acquisition and the need to make responsible and ethical use of that knowledge. This recognition is explicit in two of the Shared Ethical Values statements:

  • Responsibility . . . We value and advocate that all take responsibility for themselves, their learning, and the environment.
  • Integrity . . . We expect and constantly stand for integrity, honesty, and ethical treatment of all people.

These core values about knowledge are also manifested academically in the two general education competencies which address this relationship: ethics and research. The adoption of these general education competencies highlights Sauk’s commitment to a life of academic learning which values multiple perspectives, teaches the codes of ethical conduct of the larger academic community, and protects the rights of individuals. This ideal permeates many of the college’s procedural policies, disciplinary codes, and staff development opportunities.

4D.1: Academic Integrity

SVCC is committed to integrity in the acquisition and dissemination of knowledge as evidenced by policies and practices which ensure academic integrity in the discovery and use of knowledge, including the many ways students are introduced to ethics in instruction and the commitment of the faculty to include ethics and research in the general education competencies.

Student Integrity

A Student Code of Conduct, authorized in Board Policy 616.01 (link to digital resource room support), states that “Students at Sauk Valley Community College are expected to demonstrate qualities of morality, honesty, civility, honor, and respect.” It further describes Sauk's academic integrity policy and defines violations, including definitions of cheating and plagiarism. The document also details for faculty and students the procedures for filing a formal complaint, parties responsible for investigation, and the hearing and appeals process. The Code of Conduct is introduced in Orientation (PSY 100), included in the college catalog, and appears under the “College Policies” section of the homepage. It was also in the student handbook until it was discontinued in FY09.

Although the definition of academic integrity and the procedures for enforcement of the code are clear in the Student Code of Conduct, the policy does not define specific consequences. An informal survey of ten randomly-selected spring 2010 syllabi revealed inconsistency in disciplinary consequences. Three made no mention of academic integrity. Of the seven which contained statements concerning academic integrity,

  • three offered students definitions and examples of what constituted cheating in the course,
  • five referred to the Student Code of Conduct,
  • three defined the consequences “in accordance with school policy,”
  • three included an “F” in the course as a possible consequence,
  • two included “a zero on the assignment,” as a possible consequence, and
  • two alluded generally to “other” possible consequences, including expulsion.

Although latitude in disciplinary action is necessary to ensure fairness, the wide range of definitions and inconsistent consequences make it difficult for students to understand and comply with the college’s expectations for their behavior.

Sauk has adopted two general education competencies which specifically address the integrity of student scholarship and which are subject to assessment efforts:

  • Ethics: Instructional outcomes related to ethics ask students to “identify ethical issues, explain their significance, and analyze the consequences of ethical and unethical behavior.” Systematic collection of data about student skills, as well as faculty-wide discussion of these findings, has shown about 90% of students are capable of identifying ethical issues, and about 70% can explain their significance. This outcome supports the ideal of ensuring that students apply knowledge responsibly and can reason about the consequences of actions.
  • Research: The research outcomes ask students to “identify and evaluate research tools, methods and processes” as well as “identify and evaluate information and sources.” About 88% of students were capable of identifying and evaluating information, according to assessment data, a percentage which suggests that student-conducted research is meeting standards set by the faculty.

Faculty are supported in their efforts by services offered to students and have many opportunities for professional development.

  • The IT Office takes a major role in assisting faculty and staff in understanding and identifying the changing face of academic dishonesty by offering professional development activities like the following examples:
    • A seminar called “Cheating and Plagiarism in the Electronic Age,” which was presented to faculty during 2006 professional development sessions, is currently housed on the IT resources page and focuses on ways faculty can identify and combat cheating.
    • A 45-minute workshop presented to the full-time faculty in spring 2010 explored the use of technology in cheating on classroom tests; reviewed the connection between the Internet and plagiarized writing assignments; and clarified the distinctions between print and digital image permissions.
  • Sauk supports several programs that proactively deter academic dishonesty by offering highly individualized services which promote self-sufficiency and offer students a way to access help and materials without resorting to dishonesty:
    • To provide support for students to control their own learning, the LAC trains its tutors to recognize the boundaries of assistance. The training guidelines direct tutors to be “a partner in solving problems” and not “do the problem” but “help the student do the problem.” Guidelines for writing tutors are even more specific, indicating that tutors must not “write the paper or generate any text for the student.”
    • A grant-funded TRIO program, SSS assists its at-risk participants to face the challenges of joining the academic community by offering individualized services which promote self-sufficiency and promote academic honesty, including personal, academic, and career counseling; free personal tutoring; and resource materials.

4D.2: Responsible Use of Technology

Sauk maintains guidelines for the responsible use of technology in gaining, sharing, and disseminating information (link to digital resource room support). The Acceptable Use Policy (AUP), authorized by Board Policy 429.01 (link to digital resource room support), outlines for all college employees, students, and stakeholders which activities conducted using school technology violate ethical standards, as well as privacy, intellectual, and copyright laws. The policy includes clear examples of the types of actions or behaviors which violate these laws, as well as consequences.

The AUP clearly states that the technological services of the college are closely monitored and that users should expect no right to privacy when using resources provided by the college. Several specific areas of concern are addressed by the AUP:

  • Limitations on use of technology: To maintain an ethical and safe learning environment for all stakeholders, “members are prohibited from accessing, submitting, publishing, displaying, or posting any defamatory, inaccurate, abusive, obscene, profane, sexually oriented or explicit, threatening, racially offensive, harassing, or illegal material.”
  • Dissemination of the policy: A brief statement alerting computer users to their AUP accountability is posted on the login screen on all desktop computers. Users of the wireless network were required to authenticate, and accept the conditions of the AUP, to access the Sauk wireless network. The authentication protocol has been suspended as technology issues are addressed and resolved. In a sampling of course syllabi there was no mention of the AUP.
  • Copyright: One major focus of the AUP is on published materials, indicating that "in the event of notification of alleged copyright infringement by any user,” Sauk will comply with the appropriate laws. The IS/IT Department has created web-based training material for faculty on the subject of copyright and fair use to clarify the unique copyright rules for academic institutions. In their web training “Introduction to Search Engines,” IS/IT outlines the four tests for educational fair use as described by Federal Copyright Law and provides examples that give faculty and staff a sense of the limitations of educational fair use.

Privacy Rights

Responsible use of technology relates to the privacy of individuals and the access which staff has to records and information. Several distinct policies address this area of concern:

  • AUP: The AUP states as violation "breaching confidentiality provisions for institutional or individual information.” It also lists the responsibility of each staff member “to comply with College, federal, state, and local regulations regarding access and use of information resources.”
  • FERPA: Federal regulations establish strict rules for maintaining privacy. Human Resources orients all new employees to FERPA. The college has also presented professional development sessions to faculty and staff which explained common situations in which technology can create privacy violations for educational records. In the past few years, training has been replaced by periodic emails which remind employees of specific technology issues pertaining to confidentiality. A very detailed explanation of the responsibility of faculty in maintaining privacy in information gathering and dissemination is given in the Faculty Handbook. This section defines educational records, explains what can and cannot be shared, gives tests for privacy, and houses a large frequently-asked-questions section which gives very concrete examples of violations and consequences. An electronic FERPA training program is being investigated with the goal of conducting campus-wide FERPA training and requiring all employees to pass a FERPA test, beginning in the fall 2011 semester.
  • Identity theft prevention: After a Red Flagg analysis was conducted, Board Policy 430.01, Identity Theft Prevention (link to digital resource room support), was approved in 2009. The policy attempts to reduce the risk of college data loss and prevent student and employee identity theft.

4D.3: Integrity of Research and Practice

For faculty, ethical responsibility in the classroom is defined in Board Policy 402.01 (link to digital resource room support), which identifies academic freedom as integral to inquiry and exploration, as well as producing habits of responsible inquiry in students. The policy also tempers the potential pitfalls of academic freedom by elaborating:

The protection of the prerogative of academic freedom requires a conscientious, responsible staff. Professional staff members should uphold the dignity of the College in all their activities; set an example of integrity, tolerance and decency for their students; and maintain high standards of scholarship and personal conduct.

Sauk provides oversight and support services to ensure the integrity of research and practice conducted by faculty in a variety of contexts:

  • Assessment: Much of the research conducted on campus is related to assessment of student learning. Board Policy 602.02 (link to digital resource room support) identifies the parameters of this system: “The College shall maintain an academic assessment program, that provides evidence of student learning that is faculty driven, supported by the administration and allows for college-wide, data-driven decision making.” In order to provide transparency to students about the collection process, the following statement is printed on each course syllabus:
    Sauk Valley Community College is an institution dedicated to continuous instructional improvement. As part of our assessment efforts, it is necessary for us to collect and analyze course-level data. Data drawn from students’ work for the purposes of institutional assessment will be collected and posted in aggregate, and will not identify individual students. Your continued support in our on-going effort to provide quality instructional services at Sauk is appreciated.
    A sampling of syllabi conducted for spring 2010 showed that ten of ten syllabi were in compliance in having incorporated the assessment statement.

    As a direct result of general education competency assessment discussions, the faculty has also engaged in several projects which have created resources for faculty to use in the classroom. For example, a cross-discipline discussion of the changing face of electronic research resulted in the English faculty creating a concise guide for faculty who wish to employ research-based writing in the classroom, describing how the standards of citation have recently changed to include emerging electronic content.

  • Human subject research: During the self-study it was identified that Sauk did not have a policy or procedures pertaining to research using human subjects. The Dean of Institutional Research and Planning, along with a committee of faculty and administrators, drafted and proposed a policy which the Board of Trustees approved at its June 2010 meeting as Policy 519.01 (link to digital resource room support). The group completed its work and developed a set of procedures for submitting research proposals and for reviewing and monitoring of all human subject research, conducted by Sauk students, staff, and outside researchers. The procedures are available on the Sauk website.
  • Intellectual property: Another area of responsibility in research is the use of college resources in research which results in intellectual property. Board Policy 428.01 (link to digital resource room support)clearly outlines intellectual property rights. The policy defines intellectual property and gives examples of types of property that may be created under the headings of inventions, written/graphic materials, and recordings. In broad application, determination of rights is expressed as a proportion of Sauk's support, including division of duties, use of college resources, and framework in which the property originated.



  • We demonstrate commendable openness to student expression: The content in The Works is not censored by its editorial board or by administration. The theatre department’s commitment to allowing students to work on challenging and provocative pieces is supported. Although the student newspaper is no longer in existence, there is no record of administrative control or censorship of its contents.
  • We encourage a “life of learning” for the Board, employees, and our students, the threads of which weave throughout the college. Particularly, Sauk supports a life of learning financially by giving Sauk tuition between $60,000-$70,000 to Sauk employees and their family members annually.
  • Our Information Services/ Instructional Technology Department provides an exemplary number and variety of professional development opportunities: All employees have access to varied professional development activities hosted on campus, which address a wide array of college systems and newly developing technologies.
  • Sauk promotes student scholarship. Our students can conduct scholarly activities by conducting honors projects in their classes, participating in scholarly presentations on campus, joining academically oriented clubs (Phi Theta Kappa, Math Club), or submitting unique written works to the literary magazine, The Works. Athletes are recognized for achieving Academic All-American status.
  • Sauk conducts a number of activities that recognize our students' accomplishments. Honors students are invited to the honors banquet and may receive monetary scholarship awards. Members of student clubs are invited to the Student Leadership banquet that recognizes exemplary student achievement in leadership.
  • Sauk's student population has many unique challenges. We attempt to help as many of these students as possible by utilizing a diverse curriculum, a variety of scheduling options, and through an open, helpful, and caring faculty.
  • Students have the essential tools to be successful after attending Sauk. Our graduates are regularly above average in health career licensure and certification exams. Also, Sauk transfer students outperform “in-house” students at every surveyed Illinois university.


  • A vibrant student newspaper is integral to the student’s right of inquiry. The self-study committee recommends that administration re-establish a student newspaper in digital form.
  • Board policies concerning student rights and freedoms are not made easily accessible to students. The self-study committee recommends that the website be revised to include clear statements of student rights and freedoms.
  • In the generally small, rural communities in the Sauk district, honoring an employee brings recognition to that community as well as to the college. Although student accomplishments are routinely released to the press, those of employees are not. The self-study committee recommends that news releases on employee accomplishments should be more systematically released, especially to the employee’s community newspaper.
  • Because students gain co-curricular value from academically oriented clubs and because of the recent loss of clubs like the Culture Club and Campus Women’s Organization, the self-study committee recommends that ways to secure advisors in order to sustain co-curricular clubs should be explored.

Opportunities for Growth

  • Although a community college traditionally values teaching quality more highly than academic credentials for its faculty, there is room for improvement in encouraging faculty to continuously improve themselves as scholars:
    • In order to encourage faculty to pursue additional graduate level coursework, the self-study committee recommends that the college consider adjusting the salary steps to advance pay rates after multiples of 15 graduate hours instead of multiples of 30.
    • The graduate tuition reimbursement rate has not kept up with the rising cost of college tuition. The self-study committee recommends that Sauk should update its reimbursement rate for taking college-level courses to reflect current tuition costs.
    • Nearly one-third of budgeted professional development funds go unused each year. The self-study committee recommends that Sauk should explore ways to encourage greater use of the budgeted professional development funds or to direct unused funds to in-house training opportunities for faculty.
    • In order to provide faculty with additional training opportunities, the self-study committee recommends that significant on-campus professional development opportunities be offered that may be counted toward promotion (similar to the i3 course).
  • Although most of those surveyed have positive impressions of academic freedom, the disparity in the perceptions of high and moderate support presents an opportunity to further align faculty and administration perceptions of the issue. The self-study committee recommends further discussions and professional development on this topic.
  • In order to be more transparent about the academic rights of the employees and students, the self-study committee recommends that the college articulate these rights:
    • Begin cross-institutional discussions to develop a recommendation to the Board for updating the existing policy in a way that clarifies Sauk’s distinctive values for academic freedom.
    • Publicize the resulting statement to students and faculty and staff in the appropriate web-based handbooks.
  • As the proportion of courses taught by adjunct faculty increases, the importance of developing them as teachers and scholars should not be overlooked. The self-study committee recommends that Sauk develop a system to provide, encourage, and track use of professional development for adjunct faculty.
  • A financial commitment by the college shows support to the student rights of “freedom of the press” and “freedom of inquiry.” Having paid advisors would make it possible to sustain a student newspaper and literary magazine. The self-study committee recommends that Sauk provide appropriate financial support for leadership and production costs of the literary magazine “The Works” and a student newspaper.
  • Given the importance of diversity to HLC and other regulatory agencies and the findings that the concept is valued in general by the faculty, the self-study committee recommends that the faculty revisit its original decision not to establish diversity as a general education competency and more clearly define how and where diversity is appropriately an outcome in both transfer and career program coursework.
  • While much has been done to introduce students to the ethical standards of the intellectual community, there is room to improve the consistency in dissemination and enforcement. The self-study committee recommends that faculty work together to develop a required standard syllabus statement that serves to communicate its importance and establish a clear expectation for student behavior. As the result of assessment discussions on research and ethics that resulted in Operational Plan commitments to develop such a statement, the Academic VP convened a taskforce which met for the first time at the end of the spring 2011 semester to begin development of the statement.
  • Although the Acceptable Use Policy is available on computer terminals and housed on the website, no specific expectation is communicated to students enrolled in particular courses that use computers to deliver instruction. The self-study committee recommends that an institutional AUP syllabus statement be developed.
  • Given the Strategic Goal related to creating connections into the community, the self-study committee recommends that the employee evaluation form for staff and administration be appropriately revised to encourage reporting of public service activities.