AQIP Category Three



Context for Analysis

Category Three Contents

The University of Saint Mary identified several groups of key stakeholders.  USM’s primary stakeholders are its students. Students’ needs are assessed according to site or delivery method: main campus undergraduates (MC), Overland Park adult site (OPC) and online (OL). The process for assessing and responding to the needs of the OPC students is the most mature of the three. The same survey has been used for several years giving consistent data. The OL student needs assessment is gathered by USM’s online partner and shared with the Director of the OL program. This process is quickly maturing as all pieces are in place. The MC assessment of student needs has made considerable progress since we submitted our last portfolio. The processes surrounding retention are developed with action steps and measures built into the Strategic Plan. USM has just instituted the National Student Survey of Engagement (NSSE) as part of its ongoing improvement measuring student needs and satisfaction.

Faculty and staff are key internal stakeholders as are USM’s sponsors, the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, the Board of Trustees and MC parents. Faculty and staff needs assessments are addressed in Category 4 and 9. The process of assessing the needs of the SCLs is dialogue by their choice. The processes for assessing needs of the trustees are a combination of dialogue and surveys.

USM identifies the following as key internal stakeholders:

  • Students:

    • Main campus (traditional undergraduates)

    • Overland Park adult students (adult undergraduate and graduate)

    • Online Students (adult undergraduate and graduate)

    • Main campus doctoral students

    • (The doctorate in physical therapy began in June of 2012. Assessment of student needs will be conducted and analyzed by the department.)

  • Parents of MC students

  • Sponsors

  • Board of Trustees

  • Faculty/Staff

USM classifies the following as Collaborative Partners and addresses them in Category 9.

  • Donors and contributors

  • Governmental and Regulatory Bodies (i.e., USDE, CHEA, NCA HLC [AQIP], KSDE, NCATE, IACBE, CAHIIM, KSBN, CCNE, CAPTE, BSRB, KPTA)

  • Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health System

  • Community Partners: Clinical and Internship, service learning, campus ministry

  • Transfer institutions

  • Deltak – distance learning partner


3P1 Identifying, analyzing, and responding to the changing needs of students

Key to the educational mission of the university is understanding students and their changing needs. Information is gathered both formally and informally on a regular basis. The analysis of this information informs changes in policies, procedures and practices. The formal data allows for analysis of trends. However, consistent open communication with students allows many issues to be addressed immediately. USM’s processes for identifying student needs vary by student population and delivery method. USM’s traditional undergraduates present the most diverse needs and thus various processes to identify, analyze, and respond to these needs.

Main Campus Undergraduates

All USM students are encouraged to participate in midterm and final course evaluations. The midterms are reviewed only by the professor who then is encouraged to dialogue with the students about the results. The final course evaluations are first reviewed by the Academic Vice President, the academic chair and then the professor. The Academic Vice President looks for trends, while the chair reviews for opportunities for coaching and improvement of the individual professor.

USM attempts to identify student needs before the students begin classes through ACT and GPA’s, Compass math testing, and the ACT Engagement Survey. Once students are enrolled, USM’s processes are designed to identify at risk students early in the semester through 20th day grades, and electronic class attendance. Students identified as at risk are given priority by the Student Success staff (2 ½ FTE’s). The CARE team reviews data and 20th day grades. The Athletic Director also reviews 20th day grades and tracks attendance for athletes. Faculty members are in regular communication with the CARE team regarding at risk students.

The CARE team is USM’s newest tool for identifying, tracking and responding to student needs (see Category 1). It aims to integrate student information from various sources (coaches, student life staff, faculty and other students) and formulate holistic responses that have scheduled follow ups. The CARE team, composed of the Campus Counselor, the Vice President for Student Life (VPSL), Athletic Director, Director of Housing, Campus Minister, and Campus SafetyEngineer, meets weekly to share information and “red flag” a student potentially at risk who has been referred by faculty, coaches, or other students either in person or through the anonymous reporting of the online Maxient system. Together they create an appropriate plan of action.   All reports and follow up are tracked. The VPSL reviews these reports quarterly to see if there are trends. To date no trends have been identified.

Student life has also implemented a scanning system for student activities. Students who attend any event (lectures, recitals, plays, games, hall activities) have their ID cards scanned. Various prizes are awarded. The data is tracked and analyzed by the student life staff. Data reveals who attends and what they attend. The data also identifies students who are not yet integrated into campus life and which events the students like. USM implemented this last year and thus has only baseline data.

Further, USM uses external methods to identify student needs. While USM regularly reviews its own policies and procedures regarding students, it also reviews its policies and procedures in light of new legislation (Title IX expansion) or an incident on another campus. USM student safety is a priority for USM.  Since USM has very few serious incidences as tracked and reported on the website, emphasis is placed on prevention and readiness. USM has had a loud speaker system in the residence halls, but with a growing number of commuter students found that method of mass communication incomplete. USM now uses TEXTCASTER to provide instantaneous emergency and weather alerts through text messaging and emails. The system also allows students and parents to sign up for academic deadline alerts, student activity alerts, and results of sporting events.

When the issue of student loans began to appear regularly in the press, USM undertook a study of its student loans over the past three years. USM found that freshman students borrowed more than they needed to settle their account much more often than senior students. As a result, USM revamped its loan education for incoming students. Since this change was implemented in 2012, USM does not yet have data to evaluate the effect of the increased education. USM is aware that many other factors will impact this data and it will not have a clear cause and effect result.

While USM uses and values these formal assessment tools, it still fosters and relies heavily on personal interaction with our various student populations to assess and address their needs.  An essential component of our culture is face-to-face communication. For example, Town Hall meetings are held twice a semester. The meetings are organized by the Student Government Association and open to all students. The President, Vice President of Finance and Administration, and the Vice President for Academic Affairs, as well as the student life staff attend all meetings. Notes are taken and the administration reports back on each item at the next meeting. The meetings have led to changes in the dining service, increase in T1 lines, printers in the residence halls, new sidewalks, etc.

Overland Park Campus

USM’s Overland Park Campus (OPC) serves working adults. Classes are held in the evening. At this site USM offers degree completion and three masters degrees. USM identifies student needs through an annual survey, course evaluations and personal interactions. The survey data is analyzed by the Vice President of Marketing. The analysis is then turned over to department heads (business office, financial aid, registrar and information services) so they can respond as appropriate. The course evaluations are reviewed first by the academic chair for trends, and then by the program director, who uses the data to mentor and provide feedback to the individual professors.


USM offers three online degrees: RN-BSN, MBA and MAT. USM identifies student needs through course evaluations and a log of student questions or concerns.  Online course evaluations are analyzed using the same process as OPC course evaluations. The log of questions and concerns is reviewed by USM’s Deltak partner and the Director of Online Programs. The log allows USM and its partner to identify trends and respond accordingly.

The University of Saint Mary is committed to educational improvement through ongoing attention to retention, persistence, and completion rates. USM has defined goals for main campus student retention, persistence, and completion that are ambitious, but attainable and appropriate to its mission, student population and educational offerings. USM’s retention for its degree completion and masters programs is consistently above 83%. USM struggles with the retention of its traditional age undergraduate students. USM is aware that this is due in part to our student population: over 40% of USM’s students are first generation and Pell grant eligible.

USM is dedicated to increasing student persistence, retention, and graduation rates with data informed decision making, learning from the analysis of outcomes, making adjustments to existing programs, and developing new programs based on those analyses. USM’s retention rate for fall to fall freshman to sophomore (F10) was 55%. For Fall 2012 the retention rate was 64%. The average for the most recent five years is 61%. USM uses the other independent colleges in Kansas as its comparative group. The current Kanas Independent College Association (KICA) rate is 64%. The university’s goal is to increase fall to fall, freshman to sophomore retention to 70% by the end of academic year 2016.

USM’s most recent 6-year graduation rate (Spring 2010) was 37%; the average for the most recent five years was 39%. The most recent KICA average is 46%. The university’s goal is to improve its 6 year graduate rate for first time, full time undergraduates to 50% by the end of Academic Year 2017. USM is aware that because it starts with small freshman classes (average of 105), any loss has major impact on the percentage measurement, thus its use of multiyear averages.

The Improving Academic Success Action Plan in USM’s Strategic Plan was separated into three action plans to implement and measure best practices.  These are: improving academic success, specifically retention and graduation rates; improving a sense of student belonging; and improving student-athlete success and retention. USM also established the CARE team (see 3P1 above) and the Office of Student Success (2 ½ FTE) to address the issue of retention. USM’s at risk matrix accurately identified those at risk; however, USM did not succeed in helping those students succeed.  USM has moved to the use of the Engagement Survey for more informative data. The Office of Student Success has begun working with the students identified as at risk immediately upon enrollment.

The athletic department has instituted a multi-faceted plan including an educational component, supervised study halls, and denial of playing time for poor academic performance or non-attendance of classes.  It has also implemented Individual Success Plans (ISP) for students who are struggling academically. These are written in coordination with the Academic Resource Center.  USM athletes reached the strategic plan goals set for the 2011-12 academic year by increasing their GPAs. Ninety percent of the student athletes had GPAs above 2.0 and 60% were above 3.0. The football team GPA was 2.89, a new high for the team.

Table 3P1-1 GPAs of Athletes Spring 2011


GPA Range

F 2010

SP 2011

F 2011

SP 2012

2011-12 Goals

3.0 - above






2.0 - 2.9






1.9 - below






The initial results for retention are encouraging. The retention of athletes is improving. Freshman athletic retention improved from 38% in 2010-2011 to 65% in 2011-2012. Overall athletic retention increased from 54% to 67%. (See Link 3P1-1 Athletic Retention 2011-2012).  Addressing the retention of the athletes is easier than addressing the retention of other students that have no identifiable trends or traits. Hence, they are harder to target. USM will continue to implement best practices. For full details of USM’s retention plan for these students goals, see the Strategic Plan at

USM’s retention and graduation data is gathered and compiled by the registrar’s office. The data is the same data that is submitted for the IPEDS.  This data is read in light of information gathered from exit interviews of students who withdraw. Analysis of the data is done by the Director of Enrollment Management under the supervision of the Academic Vice President. When trends or patterns are identified, action plans are targeted to that student population group. When no trends or patterns can be discerned, best practices are applied.

The evidence presented in 3P1 demonstrates that we meet Core Component 4C: the institution demonstrates a commitment to educational improvement through ongoing attention to retention, persistence, and completion rates in its degree and certificate programs. USM defines, measures, and sets goals for student persistence – freshmen fall to fall retention, and four and six year graduation rates, in particular.  We have been collecting persistence data for years, reported data to IPEDS, and continually compared that data to our peer institutions in the Kansas Independent Colleges Association.  We use that data to set benchmarks and measure success in implementing the various “student success” initiatives.  Above, we explain the various ways we monitor student success among our “traditional” students on the main campus, our “non-traditional” students (e.g. adult degree completion) at our Overland Park campus, our graduate students at our Overland Park campus, and our online students. We also have reported our improved freshmen fall to fall retention rate (measured in the fall of 2012) at 64%, up from 55% two years earlier.  We are yet to see any change in our graduation rate resulting from our most recent efforts, as we need four or six years to measure any such changes that might result from our recent initiatives. We also indicate our goals of 70% retention and 50% six-year graduation rates by the end of Academic Year 2016 and 2017, respectively.

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3P2 Building and maintaining a relationship with students

USM builds and maintains relationships with its students according to their delivery site. USM builds its relationship with online students primarily through the close interaction with individual faculty in small classes and with the director of their academic program. All students go through an online orientation that includes how to learn online and the history, mission and values of USM.  

USM builds and maintains relationships with its Overland Park Students.  All students go through an orientation session. Students meet individually with their advisors, who work with them until they graduate. The advisor/program director maps out the student’s course of studies so the student can calculate how long it will take and how much it will cost to finish his/her education. Faculty also build lasting relationships with students as classes are small and the pedagogy aims to be interactive and collaborative as is fitting for adult learners. The site director serves as the ombudsman for student concerns if they have issues navigating the university’s systems.

USM’s processes for building and maintaining relationships with traditional age students on the main campus are multi-faceted. Students first form a relationship with their admissions counselor. The counselor continues to communicate with the student through the first semester to ensure a smooth transition and provide a familiar face.  New students attend a three day orientation where they are guided by orientation leaders. The orientation leaders continue to follow the students through the first year. Orientation leader activities are tracked by the Office of Student Success, which supervises them. All freshmen are enrolled in First Year Experience, two three-hour courses taught by core faculty to help them adjust to college level academics. Once students have declared a major, they then relate with that group of students and faculty. Academic departments have social clubs and events for their majors to help build community within the departments. New transfer students attend an orientation tailored to experienced students. All transfer students are enrolled in Transfer Core, a three hour course that focuses on the transition to Saint Mary and the liberal arts.

Student Life, including resident life, campus activities, campus ministry and athletics, provides activities and programs to foster community and a sense of belonging. USM’s scanning program, where student ID cards are scanned at each event, allows the staff to track students’ attendance and act when a student is not attending any events.  It also allows the staff to assess events and modify as needed. Athletic teams provide close knit communities for the student athletes. Over half of USM’s traditional student body participates in athletics.

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3P3 Analyzing the changing needs of key stakeholder groups and selecting courses of action regarding these needs

Parents of MC Undergraduates

USM surveys parents every year regarding its parent orientation process. The data allow us to continually improve our processes and service to the students and their parents. USM’s parent orientation provides an opportunity for parents to meet all administrators and senior department heads. USM also follows current trends through publications, conferences and scholarly articles to stay abreast of current nationally identified changing needs of parents.  Parents are intervening more and more on behalf of their students rather than letting their students’ problem solve with USM staff and faculty. USM seeks insights into how to better understand parent needs without inadvertently encouraging them to intervene more. Currently, USM explains this in parent orientation and reinforces it with a parent handbook.


The University of Saint Mary is owned and sponsored by the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth (SCL). USM identifies the sponsor’s needs in a variety of ways. Three of the elected leaders of the SCLs serve on the Board of Trustees. This participation ensures that the leadership of the SCLs, the Board of Trustees and the President are on the same page regarding mission, finances, and strategic direction. USM and the SCLs share the same campus as well as many services including security, food service, employees, utilities, and T-1 lines. The CFO meets monthly with the SCL treasurer to ensure a consistent communication loop. Practical working issues are resolved at this level. The President also meets regularly with the elected leaders of the community. One of the identified needs of the community at large is for regular information. USM’s President provides an update at the Mother House for the sisters twice a year.  A newsletter tailored to the SCLs is sent out monthly. 

Faculty and Staff are essential internal stakeholders. USM tried for three years to identify faculty/staff needs through a cultural survey. The results did not provide specific concerns to which administration could respond. Hence, USM relies on regular, systematic face to face discussions with faculty and staff both at the director level and those under the directors. The results have been specific and fruitful and demonstrate the practice of collaboration and shared wisdom. See Categories 4 and 9.

USM’s Board of Trustees provides feedback to the President on a regular basis and more formally through an annual evaluation. Trustees also participate in a survey that assesses their level of understanding of the mission, willingness to participate in various events, quality of the board materials, quality of the board meetings, etc.

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3P4 Building and maintaining relationships with key stakeholders 

USM administrators are available to meet visiting parents and students when they come to campus. USM administrators welcome the new parents and run the parent orientation. In an effort to provide ongoing communication, USM has built a webpage on its site tailored to parents.  USM fosters its relationship with the sponsors as explained in 3P3. USM builds its relationship with its Board of Trustees through socials and board dinners before each board meeting, invitations and special seating at all university events, and personal interaction with the administration.  

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3P5 Targeting stakeholder groups with education offerings and services

USM’s purpose is to educate students to realize their God-given potential and prepare them for value-centered lives and careers so that they might better our global society. To fulfill this mission USM must be attuned to the needs of the society and its employers.  Regular engagement with the future employers of our students ensures that USM graduates are prepared for the workplace. These relationships are formalized through advisory councils with employers from the business, nursing, education, and health information management fields. Other programs interact with future employers through internships and practica including pastoral ministry, psychology, and criminology. The Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health System is a key stakeholder on many levels as detailed in Category 9. As a future employer, the system provides scholarships, feedback on graduates and consultation on the future of health care for the administration.

USM follows national job market trends as well as local trends. A thorough study of national trends informed USM’s decision to focus on healthcare so that it could help meet society’s growing need for healthcare professionals. A combination of local and national trend data led USM to start a doctorate in physical therapy rather than a degree in occupational therapy. The local job market demands informed USM to establish a criminology degree. Leavenworth houses a federal prison, a federal prison camp, a military disciplinary barracks, the state correctional facility, a for-profit transfer facility and a men’s minimum security prison.

Deltak, USM’s online partner, also provides data and insights into the changing needs of online students. Deltak provides national research that informs USM’s decisions about creating new degrees or altering a curriculum to better meet the needs of students.  For example as a result of one study, USM and Deltak agreed that it was appropriate to place the MBA on line. The results have demonstrated that this was a good decision. See Figure 5 in Category 9.

USM’s collaborative relationships, service learning partners, practica and clinical providers, regulatory and accrediting bodies, ministry partners, service partners, business partners, alumni and friends are explained in detail in Category 9.

The evidence presented in 3P3 and 3P5 demonstrates that we meet Core Component 1D: the institution’s mission demonstrates commitment to the public good. As demonstrated here and in Category Two, USM’s actions reflect an understanding of our educational role in the community.  This is consistent with the mission of our sponsors, the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, for whom service and social justice are central – and have been since their arrival in Leavenworth in 1858.  This is seen in our relationship with several community organizations, the results of which clearly benefit the university and the community.  See Category Two for an explanation of USM’s relationship to community groups not directly tied to education.  In this section, we addressed those more closely tied to our educational mission.  As we have noted, USM considers these relationships essential for the formation of our students to live informed, value-centered lives and better our global society.   See also Category 9 for collaborative relationships providing service and service learning partners; practica, internships and clinical opportunities; advisory boards for our professional programs, etc.

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3P6 Collecting, analyzing, and acting on complaint information from students and other stakeholders

USM collects and tracks complaints in two primary ways. Formal academic complaints and appeals are logged, tracked and analyzed in the office of the Academic Vice President.  The course of action in each case is determined by the university’s academic catalogue that details academic policy. If a trend is identified, the Academic Vice President presents the trend to the Academic Leadership Council and together they develop a response.

All other complaints can be sent via the web to the online Maxient System. The system is confidential, but accessible on several pages from the USM website. The campus counselor accesses the system regularly so that responses are timely. A log of all concerns or complaints is kept in the student life office. These are reviewed each semester by the Vice President of Student Life who watches for trends. Most concerns or complaints regard an individual student. Most communal concerns or complaints come through regularly scheduled Town Hall meetings with the administration. Administration communicates back to the students at the next meeting on what will be changed or completed and when.

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3R1 Determining the satisfaction of students and other stakeholders

Academic student satisfaction is determined through course evaluations. Parents’ satisfaction with our initial processes is determined through a survey. Board satisfaction is determined through the annual Board of Trustee survey administered through the Trustee Committee of the Board. The sponsor’s satisfaction is determined through ongoing dialogue between the SCL leadership team and the President. OPC and Online student satisfaction is determined through course evaluations and surveys. Main Campus student satisfaction is determined through personal interaction and formally through Town Hall meetings. There is currently no written tool for assessing student satisfaction, other than NSSE.

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3R2 Performance results for student satisfaction

Satisfaction rates for nonacademic services for OPC have remained high with challenges regarding technology. (See Table 4R2-1 in Category 4).  Satisfaction results for online students in regard to their overall experience are consistently satisfactory or above. For example, see results of students’ assessment of the general education courses for Spring B 2012. (See Link 3R2-1: USM Online Programs Student Course Evaluation Report – General Education Spring B 2012).  USM’s main campus base results from NSSE confirm what USM knows through personal interaction and the Town Hall meetings.  Ninety-two percent of first year students reported that their overall experience at USM was either good or excellent.  Ninety percent of seniors reported that their overall experience at USM was either good or excellent. (See Link 1R2-3: USM NSSE Results). These positive results are also confirmed by the Princeton Review.  It ranked USM as a “Best Midwestern College” for the past seven years (See Link 3R2-3: Princeton Review “Best Midwestern Colleges”). The Maxient system where student complaints are logged shows no student dissatisfaction. Concerns logged generally deal with other students.

A log of online student concerns is kept by Deltak and shared with USM. Analysis of the data shows that most contacts are not complaints, but students in need of assistance logging in, registering for class, etc. (See Link 3R2-2: Deltak Log of USM Online Student Concerns).

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3R3 Performance results for building relationships with students

Seventy-six percent of MC students report that they find administrative personnel and office helpful, considerate and flexible.  Eighty-two percent report that faculty members are accessible and supportive.  (See  Link 1R2-3: USM NSSE Results).

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3R4 Performance results for stakeholder satisfaction

Parents consistently appreciate the personal attention they receive when they bring their son or daughter to USM. (See Table 4R2-2 in Category 4). The SCLs continue to support USM with both human and financial resources. They would not continue to invest if they were not satisfied with the manner in which the mission is being carried out. At this time the sponsors do not feel the need for nor do they want a formal survey of their relationship with USM. They are satisfied with the current communication loops.

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3R5 Performance results for building relationships with key stakeholders

USM measures this in stakeholder satisfaction. If the stakeholders are satisfied, the relationship is most likely healthy.

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3R6 Results for the performance of processes for understanding students’ and other stakeholders’ needs compared with the performance results of other higher education institutions

USM has no comparative data that addresses processes for understanding students’ or stakeholders’ needs.

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3I1 Recent improvements made in this category. How systematic and comprehensive are processes and performance results for understanding students’ and other stakeholders’ needs

USM’s recent improvements in this category have been with the online and off campus student populations. The processes for gathering data in a systematic and consistent manner are in place and have provided valuable information that USM has used to make process improvements. Town Hall meetings and focus groups have proven to provide consistent input from the main campus student body. The addition of the National Student Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) is another important step in gathering data from individual students as they enter and leave USM.  NSSE was administered in spring 2012 and one important benchmark item assessed is the student perception of the supportive campus environment. Based on this benchmark, USM is addressing areas of increased programming and services to students in an attempt to further increase the level of student satisfaction and involvement in campus life. NSSE is scheduled to be administered again in spring 2013 at which time, the data will be used to identify improvements made. In addition, to address possible gaps that may still exist, the Student Satisfaction Inventory (SSI) will also be administered in spring 2013.

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3I2 How culture and infrastructure help to select specific processes to improve and to set targets for improved performance results in understanding students’ and other stakeholders’ needs

The culture of Student Life is highly relational and developmental in nature. Given the size of the university, much of the information we need to select processes and set targets for improved performances is gathered through informal conversations with students and other stakeholders. We realize, however, that such an informal process is not sufficient. Therefore we have implemented the use of specific measurement tools such as NSSE and SSI in order to identify areas of needed improvement. We began the use of NSSE in spring 2012 and will utilize it again in spring 2013. The SSI will also be administered in spring 2013. In addition, USM will continue to utilize regularly scheduled Town Hall meetings and focus groups to gain insight into improvements needed for performance results.

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