Bennett announces new QEP

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The University of Southern Mississippi President Rodney Bennett announced on Nov. 19 the development of a new Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) for the university.

The QEP is part of the reaffirmation of accreditation process that Southern Miss must undergo every 10 years to retain its membership in the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

In an email sent by the university, Bennett explained the QEP is a multi-year university-wide effort intended to refine a selected area of student learning. The announced QEP would be USM’s second QEP following 2006’s “Finding A Voice: Improving Oral and Written Competencies,” which focused on improving students’ speaking and writing skills.

According to Julie Howdeshell, director of Quality Enhancement at USM, “Finding A Voice” “resulted in the expansion of the Writing Center, the establishment of the first Speaking Center in the state and faculty development programs to strengthen students’ speaking and writing skills across the disciplines.”

Howdeshell said “Finding A Voice” was quite successful, pointing toward improved performance on standardized tests and in English 102, and “statistically significant increases in graduating seniors’ ratings of degree of improvement… in all three related areas: writing effectively, speaking effectively and making a professional presentation effectively.”

Faculty and students also reported positive experiences with the results of “Finding A Voice.”

Andrew Haley of the USM Department of History said the USM Speaking and Writing Centers are vital to his teaching, allowing him to put more energy into teaching while his students can be helped with a consultant from one of the centers. He said while going to the Writing or Speaking Centers isn’t a guarantee to become a master wordsmith or orator.

“Everyone can learn to be a better communicator,” Haley said.

He also said that his students who put forth the effort to go to the Speaking or Writing Centers typically performed better than their peers.
Sophomore Allison Edwards also spoke to the benefits of the Writing Center. “I’ll never forget the first time I went to the Writing Center freshman year and listened to my mentor read my paper out loud,” Edwards said. “It was really eye opening for me, and now that’s something I do for every paper before I turn it in.”

Results like these are what the Quality Enhancement Program aims for, and Bennett and Howdeshell hope students and members of the university community will provide input for the direction of the new QEP. The QEP can focus on any area of student learning or the student learning environment.

The Quality Enhancement Plan Topic Selection Task Force will take suggestions for topic ideas through Dec. 13. All members of the university community are encouraged to take part, and those interested in sharing their ideas can visit usm.edu/qep.