Texas Wesleyan University is the best kept secret in North America. Or at least, that’s what people who visit tell us.About 3 years ago, we were looking to outsource our Help desk and Network Services functions in IT. During the proposal and bidding process, companies brought people to our campus. Towards the end of the bidding process, one of the managers said, in parting, “this university is extraordinary. If only people knew what you have going on here, you would have to beat them back with a stick.” We knew he was being honest, since there was nothing to gain. He had just found out that his company had lost the bid. So we started to listen closely in informal settings to what our students, faculty, staff, alumni and those who visited were saying. Some themes began to emerge. Texas Wesleyan is extraordinary and the things that other institutions seem to struggle with, seem to come to us naturally.So we decided to trust but verify. What we would like to do is share our journey toward developing what is now called the “Wesleyan Signature Experience.”
nGenera, experts in talent management and originators of the “signature experience” concept, joined us to help inform and guide our discovery process. Student, faculty and staff groups were brought together to formalize the information gathering process and provide context and meaning to what we were learning about ourselves.
The Signature Experience initiative is comprised of three phases. The first phase focuses on our undergraduate students. The second phase focuses on the experience we provide our employees. The third and final phase looks at the experiences we provide to our students in graduate and professional programs. We are currently in the middle of phase one.
In late august, we organized to begin phase one, designing the undergraduate student experience. Led from the top, sponsors for this initiative are Pati Alexander, Bill Bleibdrey, Joan Canty, and Allen Henderson. Faculty and Staff also have a voice in the design of the Signature Experience. Appointed representatives sit on a direction setting body. These individuals were tasked with the responsibility with: (1) helping to bring the initiative to life; (2) acting as ambassadors within their functional area; and (3) acting as advocates by helping to identify actionable ways in which we can improve the undergraduate student experience.
Using student, faculty and staff feedback, the Executive team and SELT identified a set of priorities for enhancing the undergraduate experience. Specifically it included the following:Align the UniversityAlign “Signature Experiences” with Strategic Plan Communicate …communicate…communicateRecognize extraordinary commitmentRemove Barriers to Student SuccessIncrease services for transfer Students Increase support for international studentsIncrease support for Career ServicesMake our Spaces Count Neutralize student “dissatisfiers”Enhance sense of communityPlan for the future
You may remember that we called the University community together in August of 2010 to : Share the strategic plan; and Introduce the signature student experience, Identify the SELT members And identify what you, as a member of this community, can do now to impact the student experience. In October, we followed-up with a broader introduction of the signature experience at a campus “barbeque.” Quickly following those events, we launched a Signature Experience Blog and a feature article in the Wesleyan Flame. The purpose of all of these was to: Communicate what the “signature student experience” is and why it is important Reinforce that it is part of our strategic plan, Share that we have organized to work on specific projects and have made progress, And to reinforce that even if you are not formally associated with the projects, you have an important role to play on a day to day basis.
As part of our work on the Signature Experience, we realized that we needed to involve the broader university community and leverage their passion to deliver a set of “quick hit” projects. So we invited a small set of faculty and staff to join the SELT in December to identify a set of “quick hit” projects that could have a significant impact on the student experience. These projects were designed to be developed and delivered within a semester’s time. Five projects were identified: Address campus spirit with renewed efforts at homecoming Address visibility with “lighting up” the roofline of the library Address campus beautification with a dedicated campus event Address need for informal learning spaces across campus Increase communication about Signature ExperienceYou may have already noticed an increase in the spirit related activities surrounding a very successful homecoming. We are in process with the development of the other three initiatives.
As part of work we realized that we needed to increase the support to the International Student program, including:Adding cooking facilities, enabling cuisine options Providing transportation off-campus during holidays Adding staff to International Office
We knew that there were a number of issues that were dissatisfies for students, and one of those was our physical space. For example, every year, we conduct a Student Satisfaction Survey. Even though our statistics rank us as one of the safest campus in north Texas, security is often perceived as an issue. This year we added 40 new lamp posts and hired an all-new security team with bike patrols. We also installed “way-finders” throughout the campus to help new students and visitors navigate our campus.
We also knew that we needed to increase our investments in technology. You may have already noticed some of these changes on campus.
We realized that we had “space” but that those spaces were not doing what we needed them to do … act as enablers to the development of a sense of community. The lobbies of our residence halls were uninviting and therefore, underutilized. It was time for an extreme makeover. This picture doesn’t do justice to the new color scheme, the new furniture, and lighting. But the smiles on the students’ faces…and the fact that students now USE the lobbies as a social gathering spot, illustrates that focusing on the student really works. You may have also noticed changes in other spaces as well. And the brand new $3-million dollar fitness center gives students another place to get together on campus--outside of class and after hours.
Finally, we have just started the development of the Facilities Master Plan. It is our expectation that we will use insight provided from the Signature Student Experience to guide the development and deployment of the Master Plan. As you can see from all of the activity to date, we realize that we need to make our spaces count.
In a very short period of time, we’ve been able to accomplish quite a bit but we’ve got a number of initiatives that will require more substantive work. So we’ve taken this opportunity to organize for a more sustained effort. Going forward …
Near term, the Executive Sponsors will take up a more active role in stewarding, with the help of volunteers, (4) chartered Signature Experience projects.While the Signature Experience Leadership Team (SELT) will focus on Helping to bring the initiative to life and institutionalizing the approachActing as ambassadors within their functional areasActing as advocates by identifying actionable ways in which we can improve the undergraduate student experienceSponsoring the “quick hit” lighthouse projects
This means there are two coordinated streams of work that will be running concurrently: The first stream of work are chartered projects that are being stewarded by the Executive team. These activities are project based … have a longer time line … and required budgeted investments. They are populated by volunteers who will be asked to set aside specific time to work on them for a sustained period of time. If you are interested in volunteering, speak to the executive sponsor of the project. The second stream of work is populated by “quick hit” projects sponsored by the SELT. These projects are activity based projects … aligned to the focus areas within the signature experience … but are time and material type of investments. These projects are populated by passionate volunteers who are only able to give “short bursts” of committed time. These projects will be refreshed on a semester basis. If you are interested in volunteering, speak to a SELT member.
Our first formally chartered project is “Enhancing Transfer Student Engagement.” (Read details)
The second project is “Organizing to deliver on the Career Promise.” (read detail)
The third chartered project is “Making Our Spaces Count.” (read detail)
The fourth chartered project is “Enhancing Campus Communications.” (Read detail)
Lighthouse faculty and staff are those people who have a commitment and passion around this topic. Membership is not limited … and we invite you to self-identify yourself to a SELT member if you would like to get involved in these projects. We have a number of projects which are still on tap for this spring that you may want to get involved in, including: Address campus beautification with a dedicated campus event Address need for informal learning spaces across campus Increase communication about “Signature Experience”
As you can see, our two streams of work align very nicely … allowing us to address long and short term opportunities.
By creating a compelling signature student experience, we firmly believe we will enhance our ability to recruit our target student population as well as engage and retain them through graduation. Furthermore, we believe that if we can engage them through graduation via our signature experience, we will increase the probability that our students will recognize the valuable role the University has played in their personal and professional success and actively participate as alumni, committing personal time and resources to the mission of the University.
TXWes Signature experience_update_2_11
Report on Progress And Next Steps<br />2/14/2011<br />
Setting the StageOwning Our Signature Experience<br />We know who we are …<br />Our mission at Texas Wesleyan University is to develop students to their full potentialas individuals and as members of the world community. <br />We are committed to the principles that each student deservespersonal attention<br />We seek and employ faculty and staff with commitment and dedication to teaching, inspiring, and serving students. <br />What we do more of than anyone else …” enable student performance by eliminating barriers to performance”<br />We understand our target students (current and future)…<br />We serve two distinct undergraduate populations ….those that enter as freshman and those who enter as transfers… <br />We provide a personalized learning environment and unique services that helpsstudents who are challenged by life circumstances to graduate from college and to find success in a career or graduate school<br />
Setting the Stage Owning Our Signature Experience<br />We want to communicate who we are vividly, with “stories” of actual practices or events – “signature experiences” …<br />TXWESSignature Stories aboundfrom students, faculty, parents but …<br />Our challenge is to “unlock our secrets” and share them <br />We need to align all elements of the student experience …<br />We have developed core signature processes around freshman … yet we have opportunities to reinforce and deepen the experience <br />Ourtransfersneed similar support structures but are currentlyunderserved<br />We need to embed everyone deeply into the fabric of execution<br />We have not formalized and aligned the university community around the student “signature experience” … members engage because they are personally committed<br />
DeAwna Wood</li></li></ul><li>Phase 1: UndergraduatesProgress to Date<br />Using student, faculty and staff feedback, the Executive Team and the SELT identified the our priorities for enhancing the undergraduate experience …<br />Align the University<br />Align “Signature Experiences” with Strategic Plan <br />Communicate …communicate…communicate<br />Recognize extraordinary commitment<br />Remove Barriers to Student Success<br />Increase services for transfer Students <br />Increase support for international students<br />Increase support for Career Services<br />Make our Spaces Count <br />Neutralize student “dissatisfiers”<br />Enhance sense of community<br />Plan for the future<br />
Align the UniversityOur areas of focus… Align to Strategy and Communicate<br />
Align the UniversityOur areas of focus… Recognize Commitment<br />Lighthouse faculty and staff invited to join the SELT for identification of quick hit projects which could have a significant impact on the student signature experience …<br /><ul><li>Address campus spirit with renewed efforts at homecoming
Address visibility with “lighting up” the roofline of the library
Address campus beautification with a dedicated campus event
Address need for informal learning spaces across campus
Increase communication about Signature Experience</li></li></ul><li>Remove Barriers to SuccessOur areas of focus… Increase Support for International Students<br />Increased support for International Students, including:<br /><ul><li> Added cooking facilities, enabling cuisine options
Provided transportation off-campus during holidays
Added staff to International Office</li></li></ul><li>Making our Spaces Countour areas of focus … Neutralize dissatisfiers<br />New Wayfinders<br />Enhanced Security<br />Improved Lighting<br />
Making Our Spaces CountOur areas of focus … Neutralize dissatisfiers<br /><ul><li>Campus-wide wireless networking
Multimedia Center renovation & Experimental Media Labs </li></li></ul><li>Making Our Spaces CountOur Areas of Focus … Increase sense of community<br />Increasing the number of attractive & meaningful community gathering spaces<br />
Making Our Spaces CountOur Areas of Focus… Plan for the future<br />Developing a Facilities Master Plan<br />
Role of the Executive Team & SELTGoing forward…<br />Near term, the Executive Sponsors will take an active role in stewarding, with the help of volunteers, (4) chartered Signature Experience projects<br />The Signature Experience Leadership Team (SELT) is formally charged with:<br /> Helping to bring the initiative to life and institutionalizing the approach<br />Acting as ambassadors within their functional areas<br />Acting as advocates by identifying actionable ways in which we can improve the undergraduate student experience<br />Sponsoring the “quick hit” lighthouse projects<br />
Understanding Our Streams of WorkOur Areas of Focus <br />
Enhancing Transfer Student EngagementArea of Focus<br />Scope<br /> Develop an intentional community driven process by which transfer students become engaged and successful members of the Wesleyan community. This process begins at the students time of acceptance and continues through the time at which the student identifies sufficient campus resources and engenders a sense of shared belonging to the Wesleyan campus.<br />Deliverables<br />Use existing student engagement related data, identify what attracts and engages transfer students to the Wesleyan campus<br />Understand the current process for engaging transfer students and identify lessons learned from the current Freshman engagement process <br />Benchmark process from a select number of similarly positioned universities; coordinate potential targets and activities with other streams of work<br />Recommend opportunities for improvement … identify both “quick hits” and long term needs for program or process developments <br />Integrate insights and recommendations with on-going work in the career services and facilities areas<br />Project Steward:Pati Alexander<br />
Organizing to Deliver on the Career PromiseArea of Focus<br />Scope<br />Develop an integrated approach to career preparation that includes academic programming, career counseling, with opportunities for meaningful career-related experiences and career placement services that support placement in a preferred profession. <br />Deliverables<br />Short Term<br />Assess the value and recommend action on the Manpower, Inc. opportunity<br />Longer term<br />Using 3-4 pathfinder undergraduate majors… understand the current process for career preparation from point of admission to professional placement <br />Benchmark the process from a select number of similarly positioned universities; coordinate potential targets and activities with other streams of work <br />Recommend opportunities for improvement … identify both “quick hits” and long term needs for program, process, and/or structure of services<br />Integrate insights and recommendations with on-going work on transfer student engagement and facilities areas<br />Project Stewards: Allen Henderson <br />
Making Our Spaces CountArea of Focus<br />Scope<br /> Using student input, make our physical and virtual spaces positively contribute to the overall student experience. This would could include:<br />Examining the location, layout, and design of physical spaces; <br />Addressing/improving facilities maintenance, furnishing, fixtures, and displays<br />Development of virtual spaces <br />Deliverables<br />Using survey and usage data, identify what elements attract and engages students <br />Benchmark from a select number of similarly positioned universities; coordinate potential targets and activities with other streams of work<br />Recommend opportunities for improvement … identify both “quick hits” and long term needs<br />Integrate insights and recommendations with on-going work and Master Plan <br />Project Steward: Bill Bleibdrey<br />
Enhancing Campus CommunicationsArea of Focus<br />Scope<br />Develop process that coordinates and facilitates the scheduling and communication of “events based “ information to the campus community. <br />Communicating about the “Signature Experience” to all constituencies<br />Deliverables<br /> With regard to events based communications:<br />Using existing student and alumni data, identify what types of information attracts and engages them along with their preferred methods of communication<br />Understand the current process for scheduling and communicating events based information <br />Benchmark process from a select number of similarly positioned universities; coordinate potential targets and activities with other streams of work<br />Recommend opportunities for improvement. <br /> With regard to Signature Experience communications:<br />Develop communication strategy and tools that can be used with all stakeholder groups (e.g., students, employees, alumni, board, community partners, and donors)<br />Make recommendations about content and context for messaging across multiple medium, including advertising, signage, promotions, collateral, and other structured communication<br />Develop a sustainable model for developing communication materials long term<br />Project Steward: Joan Canty<br />
Lighthouse ProjectsSpring 2011 … Quick Hits to Enhance Student Experience <br />Upcoming projects include:<br /><ul><li> Address visibility with “lighting up” the roofline of the library
Address campus beautification with a dedicated campus event
Address need for informal learning spaces across campus
Increase communication about“Signature Experience”</li></li></ul><li>Connecting Streams of WorkOur Areas of Focus <br />
The Payoff …What we’re looking for in the end<br />Put Wesleyan at the top-of-mind for prospective students<br />Provide current students with a great college experience<br />Develop loyal alumni who support Wesleyan …for life<br />Having a well developed Signature Experience serves to…. <br />
Phase 1: UndergraduatesProgress-to-Date Timeline<br />Lighthouse employees celebrated for their efforts and asked for their input on SE opportunities … identify opportunities for spring <br />T. Erickson presentation of “Next Generation Learners” on Campus<br />SE initiative (phase 1) commissioned by Executive Team<br />Findings presented to Sr. Staff and key Faculty & Staff<br />Additional data on key themes collected from “touch point” employees<br />Signature Experience introduced to University at all employee meeting<br />Oct-Dec 2009 I Jan-Mar 2010 I April –June 2010 I July- Sept 2010 I Oct –Dec 2010 I Jan- Mar 2011 <br />Moxie collects experience data from students and presents findings to Sr. Staff<br />Signature Experience introduced to President Slabach and commitment to SE confirmed in University event <br />Data collected from undergraduate students and key staff<br />SELT formed to establish grass roots ownership and act as advisory team for sponsors<br />SELT and Sponsors identify key initiatives for next 12 months<br />Signature Experience introduced to students at kick-off event<br />
Address campus beautification with dedicated campus event
Address the new for informal learning spaces across campus
Continued ongoing campus wide communication on Signature Experience Phase 1 Activities </li></ul>Jan – Mar 2011 I April – May 2011 I <br />Staffing & Launch of Chartered Signature Experience Projects:<br /><ul><li>Enhancing Transfer Student Engagement