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Executive Summary of the Self-Study Report: Introduction

Lake Superior State University (LSSU) has renewed its accreditation with the North Central Association (NCA) from 1968 to 2000 and is again requesting re-accreditation for another ten-year period. Through the Self-Study Report, the University believes that it has presented strong patterns of evidence indicating that it meets all NCA accreditation criteria and requirements.

Overview and Historical Perspective

Lake Superior State University is situated at the northeastern tip of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, overlooking the City of Sault Ste. Marie (population 16,000). One of the state's 15 public universities, it is primarily a baccalaureate degree-granting institution. By design the smallest of the state-supported institutions of higher learning, LSSU affords its 3,717 annually-enrolled students an opportunity to study in a unique international environment rich in beauty and historical significance.

Lake Superior State University was established in 1946 as a branch campus of the Michigan College of Mining and Technology (now Michigan Technological University) and was accredited by the NCA from 1946 to 1968 as part of the parent institution. The University was established on the site of Fort Brady, a decommissioned Army post, to address the educational needs of returning World War II veterans. The remaining Fort structures with their unique architecture are registered today as national historic buildings. During the past 54 years, enrollment has grown from 227 to over 3,000.

Significant Developments Since 1991

The self-study has provided the University with a valuable opportunity to appreciate the changes made since 1991. The following is a sample of those developments.

Strategic Planning. In 1992, President Robert Arbuckle initiated a major strategic planning effort. This effort resulted in the 1994 Strategic Plan document and the institutionalization of a yearly process to keep the plan updated and implemented.

Mission. In the ongoing task of assessing and defining its goals, the University, through the strategic planning process which involved the input of over 300 persons, revised the Mission Statement to more clearly express and reflect these goals. The Board of Trustees adopted the present Mission Statement on May 13, 1994.

Academic. (1) Various programs have received accreditation from the following external bodies: National League for Nursing, the Council on Medical Education and Hospitals of the American Medical Association, Technology Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, and the International Fire Service Accreditation Congress. (2) A $1.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education was received to improve the academic success of the University's at-risk students. (3) The Great Lakes Academy was established to help the University meet its state-mandated community college role. (4) Ten faculty positions have been added in response to enrollment growth in selected disciplines. (5) The implementation of the Severance Incentive Plan in 2000 and 2001 will provide the University with an opportunity for academic revitalization and the ability to better match faculty with student enrollment preferences. (6) In 1997, based on input from faculty, the president, vice presidents, and approved by the Board of Trustees, four colleges were established-College of Arts, Letters, and Social Sciences; College of Engineering, Mathematics, and Business; College of Natural and Health Sciences; and the University College (now the Great Lakes Academy). In 1999, to provide a more prominent focus on the University's business programs, Business was separated from the College of Engineering and Mathematics to form its own College of Business and Economics. (7) A formalization of the program review process was initiated in the fall of 1999. It is designed to facilitate continuous improvement and is an opportunity to gather data that documents program accomplishments, to reflect on those accomplishments, and to plan for the future.

Facilities Additions and Renovations. The University engaged in a massive remodeling and building program in the 1990s that included: (1) A $6 million addition to the Cisler Student and Conference Center, providing a larger and more modern food service facility. (2) A $6.1 million renovation to the existing Norris Center Ice Arena. (3) A $12 million renovation and addition to the Kenneth J. Shouldice Library. (4) A $3 million new Student Activity Center. (5) A $23 million renovation and addition to the Crawford Hall of Science. (6) State approval for a $15.3 million Arts Classroom Building. Design work is underway for an anticipated opening in 2002.

Response to 1991 Concerns

The 1991 NCA site team identified seven areas of concern in addition to concerns associated with the Master of Business Administration program. (Response to concerns resulting from the MBA program focused visits of 1994 and 1998 are highlighted at the end of this section.) The University addressed all of these concerns during the past decade and made substantial progress in all areas.

  • Concern: A downturn in the Michigan economy would affect a small institution such as LSSU.

    Progress: Since 1991, the University has made a number of changes which provide for a margin of protection against changing economic conditions. (1) A debt reduction plan was implemented in 1992-93 that had a minimal impact on the academic mission of the University. (2) A new budgeting process was implemented that allows for better use of resources. (3) Foundation and grant activities have increased. (4) Tuition and fees have increased. (5) An enrollment management process was established and involves the entire University community. (6) State support for LSSU has been significant in the 1990s.

  • Concern: The University needs to be more diligent in its planning, in the communication of that planning, and in involving students, faculty, and administrative unit heads in those efforts.

    Progress: Since 1991, the University has developed a variety of procedures to enhance planning and to improve communications, both internally and externally. (1) In 1993 and 1994, constituents of the University and community members (over 300 persons) developed a Strategic Plan for the University. Extensive meetings held over the two-year period resulted in the development of a vision statement, a mission statement, and goals. Each goal was supported by specific objectives and action plans to implement the objectives. Every year the implementation of the Strategic Plan is evaluated relative to the achievement of the goals. (2) A new budgeting process was implemented that allows for better use of resources as well as better communication and participation. The budget is linked directly to the Strategic Plan. (3) All units of the University are now engaged in assessment. (4) The University has renewed its commitment to its state-mandated community college role with the creation of the Great Lakes Academy.

  • Concern: There are significant space problems in the library.

    Progress: In the fall of 1997, a newly renovated and expanded Kenneth J. Shouldice Library was formally opened. The $12 million project increased space by 35,000 square feet.

  • Concern: Several of the educational programs are dependent on a single faculty member.

    Progress: The University has added 10 faculty positions since 1992. These positions have been added in response to enrollment growth in selected disciplines. One- and two-person departments such as Geology, Computer Science, and Spanish have been augmented. Within the College of Business and Economics, several positions at regional centers were moved from part-time to full-time status.

  • Concern: A broad range of programs is offered by a small faculty. As a result, there is little faculty depth in any disciplinary area.

    Progress: Additional faculty have been added since 1992, and program revisions have occurred to address this issue.

  • Concern: The engineering technology enrollment is declining and its programs have long been an important part of the educational tradition of the University.

    Progress: In 1994, the College of Engineering and Mathematics began an extensive self-study of the technical and curricular needs with respect to the changing environment for engineering and engineering technology on statewide, national, and global scales. The final self-study report contained three recommendations for restructuring the program and involved the implementation of certificate and associate programs in technology and baccalaureate programs in engineering technology and engineering. In addition, potential minority and female students have been sought by instituting special summer programs for Native American and female students. Engineering has received National Science Foundation funding for the implementation of introductory courses designed to attract students to engineering.

  • Concern: There are a number of areas where the institution has made moves to improve its situation, yet there is a concern that these initiatives may lack sufficient staff and financial support to continue their implementation. A plan with a timetable and a projected budget would help to alleviate many of the communication problems and criticism currently being leveled.

    Progress: Since 1991, the University has greatly expanded its system of budgetary and academic planning and implementation. The University has used these processes to creatively respond to the needs of its students and the community by developing new, appropriate programs such as Teacher Education and by modifying existing programs to meet current needs. The University has greatly improved the physical plant for student residences, classrooms, and library resources, and at the same time, improved the educational and social resources represented by teaching, counseling, financial access, and other support services. Again, strategic planning and budget processes address this issue.

  • Response to the 1994 and 1998 Focus Visits Regarding the Master of Business Administration and Master of Public Administration Programs

    The NCA teams in 1991, 1994, and 1998 identified areas of concern with the University's Master of Business Administration program. One of the concerns was that the faculty in the Department of Business did not have oversight of the program. Another concern was the lack of doctorally-qualified business faculty teaching in the program. In response, the University conducted an extensive self-evaluation in which future roles of the University as a graduate and undergraduate institution were reconsidered. A task force was appointed, and it delivered its final report in April 1999. The University believed it would be detrimental to the undergraduate programs to provide additional resources to correct the remaining deficiencies. The faculty in Business and Economics and the Board of Trustees voted to discontinue the program and to not accept new students after the fall 1999 semester.

    The 1998 focused visit report also indicated that reviewers thought that the Master of Public Administration program suffered from some of the same shortcomings as the MBA program-overloads for faculty, lack of doctorally-qualified faculty, and lack of an assessment plan. In compliance with the recommendations of the report, the University began a teach-out in May 1998 for the 72 MPA program students.

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