As a comprehensive institution of the University System of Georgia, Valdosta State University is a welcoming, aware, and vibrant community founded on and dedicated to serving our communities’ rich and diverse heritages. Through excellence in teaching, basic and applied research, and service, VSU provides rigorous programs and opportunities that enrich our students, our university, and our region. The VSU mission consists of three interrelated parts: Student Mission, University Mission, and Regional Mission. VSU awards associate, bachelor's, master's, educational specialist, and doctoral degrees. [See full VSU Mission Statement.]
As a comprehensive university, VSU is charged with meeting the general and professional educational needs of its South Georgia service area, which stretches from the Atlantic Coast to Alabama, encompassing forty-one counties and 31 percent of the land area of the state.
In Fall 2020, VSU served 12,304 students (headcount) with FTE of 10,632 of which:
As you can see from the sections that follow, the Divisions of Academic Affairs, Student Affairs, and Student Success have worked cooperatively to lessen the structural and motivational obstacles to student success. We continue to improve the pathway from acceptance to new student orientation to enrollment. As our next first-year seminar class evolves, we hope to even further launch students successfully into their first year and beyond. The system office has assisted by the virtual gatherings from those involved in this work around the system, so faculty and staff can share resources and strategies.
Additionally, our Division of Information Technology has worked extensively with the other divisions to onboard Slate, a new customer relationship management tool (CRM), and Civitas, a new data analytics platform. Slate will provide enhanced communication pathways from admissions through graduation. Civitas will provide "signals" to inform our advising, help us understand the persistence lift of our retention activities, and provide real-time insights on students who are most at risk of leaving the institution. Our IT division has partnered with these vendors, and we have worked with USG-ITS to implement both products on our campus.
Our overarching Big Idea is the alignment of a number of critical initiatives (QEP – experiential learning, Gateways to Completion, First Year Seminar pilot, Concierge Coaching) under the umbrella of Momentum Approach. Students have benefitted from the aspects of this that we have already implemented and are already excited about our expansion of experiential learning.
With the launch of the QEP, there has been a definite and purposeful connection of the QEP to the First Year Seminar pilot. The QEP Advisory Committee endorsed the First-Year Seminar as an approved experiential learning activity. By the end of the Fall 2021 semester, we will have one semester of data to analyze and ascertain the impact on first-year students.
Thus, directly and indirectly, these major initiatives at VSU work together to create an interconnected system in which students are able to experience the “Momentum Approach” at VSU.
Starting in 2020 with new faculty and continuing campus-wide in 2021, VSU has devoted efforts to further help faculty understand the importance of a productive academic mindset and increase practices to encourage this mindset in our students. During the past two academic years, our Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) New Faculty Learning Community has covered the concept of growth mindset and teaching strategies for growth during a session of this new faculty learning community that meets every three weeks each semester. In addition, for VSU’s opening weeks this fall, CELT developed and delivered a new one-hour workshop/webinar entitled, “Teaching for Growth and Adopting an Academic Growth Mindset as Faculty.” Any faculty member could register for this training that was offered both in person and online, with an abbreviated version offered during this year’s general education meeting. The recording of the webinar is stored in our Learning Management System (BlazeVIEW), making it accessible asynchronously to all VSU faculty at any time. Finally, CELT is rolling out another growth mindset-related training for faculty and administrators that focuses on writing reflections about teaching and approaching the annual faculty evaluation as formative career growth. Entitled “Writing Your Reflection about Teaching for the Formative Faculty Annual evaluation and Tenure & Promotion,” it runs 1.5 hours long and is currently being offered this fall to deans, department heads, and faculty leaders on campus such as the executive committee of the Faculty Senate, with the plan to deliver it both in person and online as a workshop/webinar this winter for which any faculty can register. Thus, VSU has been encouraging productive academic mindsets for faculty both in their teaching and in their own self-evaluations.
In support of VSU’s Strategic Plan Goal #2 and the Quality Enhancement Plan submitted to SACSCOC, in Summer 2021, VSU rolled out “Trailblazing: Shaping the Undergraduate Experience through Experiential Learning” to the VSU Community.
During summer and fall, the following accomplishments occurred:
In academic year 2021, we were able to combine our Pre-Enrollment Survey inside the MyMajors platform. In doing so, we were able to provide one location for advisors to review the MyMajors assessment results and the necessary information from the Pre-Enrollment Survey. As a result of this enhancement, we were able to get our new students enrolled more efficiently.
During 2021, we identified three new ways to deepen our use of the results of the MyMajors Assessment. One of the largest concerns noted by our students was the concern of paying for college. We connected students with the "Know More. Borrow Less." campaign on campus provided by Financial Aid. During orientation this summer, we developed a new workshop provided by our Career Opportunities Office. In this workshop, our Career Opportunities staff discussed how to seek employment on, and off campus, in the first year. This workshop was consistently our most attended workshop over the summer.
Another opportunity presented as we looked at the large numbers of students who marked concerns around lack of motivation, goal setting, and poor study habits. In partnership with the Academic Support Center, three new academic coaching modules were developed to address the concerns noted above. These coaching modules are delivered by our peer tutors and available throughout the semester.
Finally, we have numerous students on our campus who experience food insecurity. As a result of the data, we connected these students to our VSU Food Pantry and shared local resources with them as well. In addition, we highlighted that students who work for VSU Campus Dining Service are eligible for a meal during their shift.
In Student Affairs, the framework for the following 3 competencies are in place: Leadership Development, Career Preparation, and Volunteer Services. We are finalizing the marketing component in late fall and plan to do a soft launch at the end of the fall 2021 semester. A full-scale marketing effort begins in Spring 2022.
During the summer of 2020 the following general education activities were conducted:
During the fall of 2021, the following general education activities were conducted:
Forthcoming – November 2021:
This year, VSU adopted a more deliberate approach in sharing the defining areas of the momentum year/momentum approach with faculty, students, and staff. In orientation for both new students and new faculty, concepts from the momentum year/momentum approach were introduced, and they were also discussed during the annual retreats for Deans, Directors, and Department Heads and the Academic Advisors.
During Summer 2021 Orientation, we focused on sharing the momentum approach with students and parents. Parents received an overview of the importance of a fuller schedule during a parents only session in the afternoon. A discussion about the belief that the minimal level of full-time credits is best for students was debunked and we utilized both USG and VSU data to reinforce the critical importance of a fuller schedule.
New students had student-only sessions with advisors in the afternoons. While the majority of our students already had a schedule prior to coming to orientation, the discussion centered around how fuller schedules help students to achieve a better semester GPA, as well as a more on-time pathway to graduation.
Communication efforts this past year centered around pandemic updates including vaccine information, campus safety, mental health resources, and commencement updates. Development of the momentum student success website will move to the current academic year with a completion date of summer 2022.
In spring of 2021, one professional development session focused entirely on the momentum approach. Advisors were reminded of the importance of the momentum approach through the discussion of the key pillars. Additionally, advising center directors now have access to a dashboard to track how their centers are doing in relation to total credits by semester and academic year. This dashboard also provides statistics on the students, by College, showing their enrollment into, and completion of, math and English in the first year. We revisited the importance of the momentum approach leading into Fall registration and prior to summer orientations.
Finally, Jonathan Watts Hull, Director of Student Success in the Office of Academic Affairs and Policy at the Board of Regents University System of Georgia (USG), provided a virtual meeting to highlight the importance of fuller schedules to the advising teams in Spring 2021. In this meeting, data from all USG institutions, along with VSU-specific data was shared.
As mentioned in earlier sections of this update, momentum approach information and emphases have been shared extensively with our academic affairs leadership team, with our faculty, and with staff, particularly our professional academic advisors.
All academic administrators and staff have access to data provided by Institutional Research and labeled as “Blazer Insights.” Dashboards are available on student enrollment; student admissions; grade distribution, student credit hour generation; retention, progress, and graduation; course availability, and degrees conferred. This data can be explored for the entire institution or by college or department.
The Associate Deans in each college have taken on the responsibility of pressure testing schedules within their respective colleges, considering also the courses they share in common across colleges.
Programs maps will be updated annually when the chair of the Academic Committee sends approved updated curriculum items to department heads.