ITEM 124-101-R0904  Attachment

 

The membership of the committee was approved at the January 2004 meeting of the Board of Regents, and the committee began its work shortly thereafter.  A list of the committee members is included at the end of this explanation.

 

The committee held five (5) “formal” meetings, in February, March, April, June and July.  Those meetings typically lasted 4 – 6 hours.  The committee members also completed some of its work electronically, especially as it fine-tuned the definition and considered the most appropriate benchmarks.

 

In its first meeting, the Quality Committee divided itself into two workgroups: a shareholders group and a benchmarks group.

--       The members of the shareholders subcommittee tried to identify all of the important stakeholders who might be interested in a quality Montana University System.  Using the committee charge as a guide, and accepting the idea that any quality definition could not satisfy the interests of all those constituencies,  the shareholders group decided that the most important stakeholders were: students and parents, policymakers and System partners.  The subcommittee also discussed the aspects of a quality university system that would be most appealing or compelling to those constituencies.  For informational purposes, the committee charge is set out at the end of this explanation.

--       The members of the benchmarks subcommittee tried to identify all of the important measures that are currently being collected by the institutional research offices at The University of Montana-Missoula and Montana State University-Bozeman.  That subcommittee paid particular attention to benchmarks that can be compared to some kind of national or peer data; and it also discussed the benchmarks from the perspective of “what they might say about a quality Montana University System.”  While the subcommittee focused on the data collection activities at the two largest campuses, it worked hard to maintain a system-wide approach and to understand the perspectives and the difficulties that might be encountered on the smaller campuses with less-sophisticated data operations.

 

At its second meeting, and especially at its third meeting, the two subcommittees compared notes.  The members attempted to identify any overlapping or complementary ideas about quality that might have evolved in the separate subcommittee conversations.  It also began to focus on benchmarks that might be important to the three important constituency groups.  The Quality Committee members also asked anyone and everyone on the committee to take a stab at coming up with a quality definition in time for the fourth meeting.

 

Three brave souls accepted the challenge, using the overlapping or complementary ideas about quality as a guide.  Those suggested definitions were rewritten, challenged, discarded, combined, argued over, voted on and finally accepted.  The members demonstrated surprising unanimity on the ideas that should finally be included in the definition; agreement on the exact words was usually a compromise.

 

The same can be said for the benchmarks.  A handful of committee members felt that the list of benchmarks should be long and comprehensive.  Most committee members argued for a narrower set of benchmarks, recognizing that in limiting the list a bit, some of the ideas in the definition might not be evaluated.  Hopefully, that shorter list is more understandable and relevant to the constituency groups identified by the Quality Committee members.

 

In presenting this definition, and the attendant benchmarks, to the Montana Board of Regents, the Quality Committee makes the following suggestions and admissions:

 

1)       a system-wide report should be prepared, using the benchmarks suggested by the Committee;

2)       each campus should also be encouraged to prepare a report, based on the suggested benchmarks;  there is an inherent danger in that suggestion, since the missions of the campuses are different and some of the benchmarks are more relevant to some institutions than to others; a campus-by-campus comparison could also be problematic, because of the different student populations served; nevertheless, the benchmarks could serve as important monitoring tools for each campus, as long as they are kept in some context;

3)       some of the benchmarks can be compared to national or peer data; that should be done, whenever possible, especially with the institutional reports;

4)       many of the benchmarks will improve with age, as trends emerge and performance can be discussed based on that longitudinal data;  one inherent difficulty with that trend data, however, especially if it is not supplemented by peer or national data, is whether the performance is “good enough;”

5)       some of the benchmarks are new, even for the campuses that have sophisticated institutional research programs; the entire benchmarking process will also be easier for some campuses than for others, because of the personnel and resources devoted to data collection; therefore, it will take some time to develop processes for collection of the benchmark data;

6)       a small sub-group of the Quality Committee should continue to meet to work out the details, definitions and logistics of data collection, particularly as it impacts the smaller campuses;

7)       the benchmarks. . .and perhaps even the definition. . .may change over time, as the Montana University System uses this definition, the stakeholders have an opportunity to react to the definition and its measures, and data collection is refined and analyzed;  the experience of other states, that have embarked on this project, is that a quality definition and especially its measures are a “work in progress.”

8)       it may also be appropriate, when campuses prepare their individual reports, to include supplemental material for that institution that builds on the ideas in the quality definition and describes the campus more completely; examples might include additional, more detailed information on the research effort at the two largest campuses, or benchmark information about the institution’s commitment to community service; the Board may want to provide some guidance on that possibility.

 

Like all projects, the success of the effort often depends on the energy and commitment of particular individuals.  Almost all of the 23 committee members provided valuable insight, important suggestions and a system-wide perspective to the conversation.  Three people stand out, however, because of their special expertise, their willingness to assume a leadership role in the committee’s work, and their immediate commitment to the project and its purposes.  Those three people need to be singled out for their work, and they are:

 

--       Christopher Harris, state representative from Bozeman;

--       Stefani Gray Hicswa, a recent doctoral recipient from the Texas University System with special expertise in higher education quality issues; and

--       Jim Rimpau, director of planning and analysis at Montana State University-Bozeman

 

The quality definition, and its benchmarks, are submitted for your review.

 

The explanation was prepared by Roger Barber, deputy commissioner for academic and student affairs.

 

Quality Committee Members

 

Carla Amerson,  president, Associated Students of Montana State University-Billings

Greg Barkus, senator, Montana Senate District 39

George Dennison, president, The University of Montana-Missoula

Carol Donaldson, general counsel and corporate secretary, First Interstate BancSystem, Inc.

David Dooley, provost & vice president for academic affairs, Montana State University-Bozeman

Andrea Easter-Pilcher, associate professor of biology, The University of Montana-Western

James Gallea, honor student in biology, The University of Montana-Missoula

Kris Goss, deputy communications director and education policy advisor, Office of the Governor

Christopher Harris, representative, House District 30

Stefani Gray Hicswa, ranch manager, Muddy Creek Ranch

Chuck Jensen, vice chancellor for finance & administration/student affairs, Montana State University-Northern

Pamela Joehler, senior fiscal analyst, Legislative Fiscal Division

Warren Jones, associate professor of environmental engineering, Montana State University-Bozeman

C.J. Law, dean of instructional services, Dawson Community College

Richard Owen, executive vice president, Montana Grain Growers

Susan Patton, vice chancellor for academic affairs & research, Montana Tech of The University of Montana

Vernon Pedersen, associate dean for academic & student affairs, Montana State University College of Technology in Great Falls

Kate Shaley, associate professor and chair of Native American studies, The University of Montana-Missoula

Steve Snezek, chief advisor to the Lieutenant Governor

Tim Urbaniak, instructor of drafting, Montana State University College of Technology in Billings

Cris Valdez, assistant dean for student affairs, The University of Montana College of Technology in Helena

Linda Wham, institutional research analyst, Montana State University-Billings

Bud Williams, deputy superintendent, Office of Public Instruction

 

Designated representatives, when a committee member could not attend:

 

David Beck, associate professor, Native American studies, The University of Montana-Missoula

Rich Howard, adult & higher education graduate program coordinator and professor of education, Montana State University-Bozeman

Susan Selig Wallwork, senior research and assessment officer, The University of Montana-Missoula

 

Staff:

 

Jim Rimpau, director of planning and analysis, Montana State University-Bozeman

Bill Muse, executive director, office of planning, budgeting & analysis, The University of Montana-Missoula

Mary Craigle, system information & research officer, Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education

Roger Barber, deputy commissioner for academic & student affairs, Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education

 

(Please note: Since their appointment in January 2004, some committee and staff members have changed jobs or careers.  Therefore, some of the information in this list is no longer accurate.)

 

Charge to the Quality Committee

 

The Quality Committee is asked to complete the following tasks:

 

--       develop a clear definition of a quality Montana University System in language that citizens understand; and

--       identify benchmarks that measure the Montana University System in terms of that definition.

 

In undertaking this work, the Committee should

**       consider the variety of activities undertaken by a college or university, including teaching, research, public service, student support and the physical plant;

**       design a definition of quality in context with the mission of each institution within the System; and

**       suggest benchmarks that are valued by students and citizens, the consumers of higher education, taking into account the accountability benchmarks identified by the Joint Subcommittee on Postsecondary Education Policy and Budget.

 

The Committee should present a preliminary definition of quality to the Board of Regents at its July 2004 meeting.  A final definition, and appropriate benchmarks, should be reviewed and approved by the Board in September 2004.