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Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Academics & Research

UH is implementing new Quality Enhancement Program


Learning abroad is a large part of the co-curricular options currently offered on campus. | Trevor Nolley/The Cougar

After years of planning, the University’s Quality Enhancement Plan is being put in motion, to offer students more nontraditional learning opportunities.

The new QEP is called the Cougar Initiative to Engage, or CITE, and is intended to expand access to community and co-curricular engagement activities.

“It’s the ways that students learn outside of the classroom,” said CITE Director Anne Dayton. “It’s not just extracurricular activities but co-curricular activities, activities that are perhaps part of a class but take the students outside of the classroom. For example, a service learning project.”

Every 10 years, universities across the southern United States have to submit ideas that aim to improve student learning on their campus in order to receive reaccreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. In 2016, the Provost asked students, faculty and staff to submit their ideas for the upcoming QEP, dubbed the “Next Big Thing.”

“Selecting a relevant focus for the next five years of student learning was a challenging process,” said Provost Paula Short. “The results of these efforts will become embedded within our teaching methods at the University, so we set out to enhance undergraduate student learning with that goal in mind. We were lucky to have a committee of faculty, administrators, staff and students to submit proposals and provide input on this process.”

The most visible way students will see the implementation of CITE is through an expansion of research opportunities, a push toward learning abroad and more internship opportunities.

“CITE embraces the idea that co-curricular activities — such as learning abroad, work study programs, undergraduate research, internships and service learning — help students to learn key skills to have successful careers and become strong contributors to the workforce and to their communities,” Short said.

Learning abroad not only gives students the opportunity to complete their language credits, but also allows them to complete their normal courses in a different setting. Accounting senior Richard Thawng said his semester at sea changed the course of his life.

“It allowed us to have a global perspective of the world,” Thawng said. “We got to travel to three continents: North America, Africa and Asia. Within those three continents we were able to travel to 12 different countries, and at the end of the day we circumnavigate around the world.”

Any faculty or staff member can submit a proposal for a CITE grant. Students can also make suggestions for for new and expanded co-curricular activities by contacting Dayton. Submissions must explain how their project will help the University, how it has the possibility to fund itself going forward, must be closely related to academic programs and other technical intricacies specific to their individual projects.

“These might be a program that already exists. For example, the Smithsonian Institution program is an internship that’s been around since 2015. Our funding will allow them to involve more students this year and to provide a larger scholarship to students so it will be more accessible to students who are in higher financial need,” Dayton said. 

The University’s previous QEP, the Learning Through Discovery Initiative, focused predominantly on research.

It takes approximately two years to create and implement a new QEP. CITE is currently in the execution stage and will continue on for five years until the next call for QEP submissions, Dayton said.

“This particular plan, while it will not be here in five years, parts of it, the best parts, will live on and will help to transform the experience forever,” Dayton said.

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