AQIP Category Nine



Context for Analysis

Category Nine Contents

The University of Saint Mary is a Catholic university founded and sponsored by the Sisters of Charity. This foundation marks and shapes the way USM engages in all its relationships. All relationships are grounded in integrity and practiced in mutual respect. With these ideals, USM acknowledges that creating and sustaining collaborative relationships takes time and resources. Hence, USM has learned to pick and choose which relationships best serve the mission and the strategic plan. In short, the ultimate effect or benefit for USM’s students, as well as for potential community partners, is the measure of which collaborative relationships the university builds and maintains.

9P1 Creating, prioritizing, and building relationships within the educational institutions and other organizations from which the institution receives students

USM creates, prioritizes and builds all relations in light of its mission and strategic plan. USM cultivates relationships with educational institutions that serve as “feeder” organizations through traditional admissions and recruiting efforts with emphasis on schools that have high yields for USM. USM builds strong ties with local high schools by partnering with them for advanced placement classes, teacher education placement, and the Lawrence D. Starr Global Studies Annual Human Rights Conference.  The USM athletic department also works closely with feeder schools bringing potential student athletes to campus on a regular basis.  USM has a special relationship with Cristo Rey Kanas City, an inner city high school serving the economically disadvantaged that is owned and operated by USM’s sponsor, the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth. This is a mission based relationship.

USM develops and cultivates relationships with community colleges, in general, and specifically through articulation agreements in nursing and health information management.

USM also creates and develops relationships with potential students and educational institutions through the use of marketing and social media. Web activity is tracked and analyzed through Google analytics so that its effectiveness can be measured.  This method is particularly important for non-traditional and graduate students who are no longer associated with a particular educational institution.

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9P2 Creating, prioritizing, and building relationships with the educational institutions and employers that depend on the supply of students and graduates that meet those organizations’ requirements

USM creates, prioritizes and builds relationships with educational institutions and employers in light of mission and the Strategic Plan through personal interactions. USM’s long standing education department has well established relationships with the various school districts throughout the greater Kansas City area for student teacher placement as well as placement of graduates.

Flowing from its Strategic Plan, USM has prioritized healthcare related relationships with potential employers, clinical site providers and the healthcare community at large. In particular, healthcare professionals serve on advisory boards that meet at least twice annually for nursing, health information management and physical therapy. The healthcare institutions provide clinical and internship sites.

Nursing, Education, Health Information Management, and Business also have professional advisory boards. The purpose of these advisory boards is to provide industry feedback to the academic departments to insure that USM graduates have the appropriate skills and knowledge needed in their given fields.

USM works to provide opportunities for seniors to engage with employers. Alumni come to campus for Senior Success Day to network with students The Annual Teacher Interview Day has been held at USM and attended by approximately 30 districts. The nursing department holds an annual career fair for its graduating class to connect with employers and set up interviews. The Student Success Office also works with students individually on resumes, interview skills and job placement.  

Any person in the university can identify a potential partnership, explore it and try it. If it holds promise, the partnership is brought to the appropriate vice president who communicates with the administrative council and assures that all appropriate approvals and processes are secured. The vice president is then responsible for monitoring the relationship.

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9P3 Creating, prioritizing, and building relationships that provide services to students

USM begins by identifying student needs that USM cannot fully address and where an additional partnership might enhance what USM provides.  USM then seeks to create mutually beneficial partnerships to assist the students. These partnerships currently include services for the physical, mental, social, and spiritual well-being of the university’s students. These relationships are cultivated and assessed by the appropriate staff or faculty responsible for that area according to their ability to meet students’ needs.

USM also cultivates relationships with the military. Leavenworth is the home of both USM and Fort Leavenworth, which houses the Command and General Staff College of the Army. It is “where the army does its thinking” and where NATO officers are educated. Sustaining relationships is a challenge since the personnel change every 18 to 24 months. USM’s Starr Global Studies Institute partners with the NATO officers who come to campus monthly to offer insights into their various cultures.  USM has also established an Office of Veteran Affairs to help veterans navigate both the VA system and USM processes. Currently, USM has 67 veterans and dependents enrolled. USM has provided training to faculty and staff to better serve veterans returning from war with PTSD.

USM also cultivates relationships with organizations and institutions that provide internships, practica and clinicals as well as service learning opportunities for students. The chairs and directors of academic programs facilitate these relationships, provide for written agreements that are approved by the appropriate level of governance, evaluate the sites, and assess the experiences. Currently, USM has over 130 formal agreements with various organizations for educational experiences for the students as well as many collaborative relationships with local organizations such as the Alliance Against Family Violence, local food kitchen and Catholic Charities.

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9P4 Creating, prioritizing, and building relationships with the organizations that supply materials and services to our institution

USM creates, prioritizes, and maintains relationships with partners who provide services or goods to the university according to student/university needs and as prioritized by the mission and Strategic Plan. Currently, the university has several significant partnerships including Deltak, USM’s online partner, the SCL Health System, and Noel-Levitz. USM works closely with Deltak to insure that USM’s brand identity and marketing guidelines are followed. While Deltak is responsible for marketing and recruiting, USM retains complete academic authority and control. The partnership operates under the office of the Academic Vice President and directly under the Director of Online Programs. USM partners with Noel-Levitz to most effectively use institutional aid dollars to further the mission. Noel-Levitz’s Enrollment and Revenue Management System (ERMS) allows USM to allocate dollars according to academic ability and financial need. The SCL Health System partnership is multi-faceted. The system provides nursing scholarships, equipment, clinical space, professional advisors to the university’s advisory boards, financial gifts, and makes other system resources, including insurance and a purchasing program, available to USM as appropriate.

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9P5 Creating, prioritizing, and building relationships with the educational associations, external agencies, consortia partners, and the general community

USM places a high priority on upholding and demonstrating the integrity of its educational standards through creating and maintaining productive relationships with professional and regulatory agencies. USM administration and department chairs make it a priority to stay current with accreditation developments both nationally and regionally. As an AQIP institution within the accrediting organization of the Higher Learning Commission, USM views the accreditation process as part of its regular ongoing improvement philosophy. USM also maintains accreditation with the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), Kanas State Board of Education (KSBE), Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), Kanas State Board of Nursing (KSBN), the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE) and has candidacy for accreditation with the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). USM is in the process of seeking candidacy status with the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM). These organizations provide external verification and objective feedback that assist USM in achieving its educational mission.

USM also maintains relationships with various educational associations, such as the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC), Kanas Independent College Association (KICA), National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU), and American Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities (AACCU). These, and other similar relationships, are cultivated and evaluated on their ability to aid USM administrators in their ability to stay current and provide new insights.  Individual administrators and faculty build relationships within area specific associations. Again, membership in these associations is evaluated on their ability to enhance administration, faculty and staff ability to carry out the mission. Personnel are encouraged to participate and can apply for professional development funds to further their participation in these organizations.

USM also cultivates relationships in the local community through membership in various organizations such as the Leavenworth-Lansing Chamber of Commerce, Leavenworth County Development Corporation, and Main Street Association. Campus ministry and student athletes relate to the local community through various service projects. USM also hosts community events on a regular basis.

USM strives to build and maintain relationships with its alumni through written communication, social media, alumni events (regionally and across the nation, such as Homecoming and Alumni Reunion) and personal visits.

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9P6 Insuring that partnership relationships are meeting the varying needs of those involved

USM values its various partners and works to maintain healthy productive relationships through regular assessment on the part of the university and ongoing conversations with partners. Most partnerships are evaluated annually, some more frequently. Service Learning, practica, internship, and clincial partners are evaluated formally at the end of each semester or academic year, as appropriate. If USM finds that a relationship is not beneficial to USM, it will be further evaluated, and then either modified or dropped. If a partner finds that its relationship with USM is not functioning well, the relationship facilitator will engage in dialogue to address the partner’s concerns and modify the relationship or decide with the partner to terminate the relationship. All partnerships are assessed in light of mission and the Strategic Plan.

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9P7 Creating and building relationships between and among departments and units within the institution, assuring integration and communication across these relationships

Community is one of USM’s four core values. USM consciously works to build community by providing a variety of opportunities for the community to gather. The Mission Council schedules monthly gatherings for the university community focusing on USM’s heritage, one of the university’s core values, or a religious feast. The gatherings are social and celebratory, and always involve food, as hospitality is one of the basic characteristics of USM’s sponsors, the Sisters of Charity.. The community also gathers for convocations, commencement, holiday parties, socials to welcome and say farewell, end of the year parties, etc. Twice a year the entire university gathers for “University Day.” These days are used for strategic planning, addressing common concerns, and serve as time for people across the campus to dialogue. Planning and task forces for specific projects involve people from various departments across the university whenever possible, as working together is one of the best ways to get to know people and build relationships. The cross disciplinary process improvement team that meets weekly demonstrates this as they not only solve issues and improve processes, but have developed an understanding of each other’s departments as well as built sustainable relationships. All new faculty and staff have an extensive orientation process and are assigned a “buddy” to help them navigate the university both professionally and socially.

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9R1 Collecting and analyzing measures of building collaborative relationships, external and internal

The measures used to assess relationships vary by the type of relationship.  Relationships with feeder institutions are assessed by the number of students coming from these institutions. Admissions strategy is adjusted according to the results. The measure with accrediting bodies is sustained accreditation.  Relationships with educational associations are evaluated on a more subjective basis of their ability to add value. Memberships are added or dropped accordingly. 

USM has been designated a “military friendly school” each year since the military created this designation three years ago. USM also tracks the growing enrollment of veterans and their dependents. Currently, USM has 67 veterans or dependents enrolled.

Currently, USM has no clear measure other than subjective feedback on its relationship with the local community. USM measures its relationship with alumni in terms of attendance at events, gifts received, and the amount of the gifts received. Relationships with partners who provide service to USM students are evaluated formally for practica, internships and clinics through the respective academic departments for responsiveness to students and faculty, ease of working relationships, mentoring atmosphere, and feedback loop for the students.  Relationships that provide mental and physical services are assessed primarily on quality of service provided to the students with data provided by the students. Relationships for students’ spiritual needs are measured through mutual conversation and feedback with those providing the service and from the students.

Relationships with key service partners are measured in various ways. USM’s relationship with Deltak is evaluated both objectively through student evaluations and enrollment numbers and more subjectively in terms of ease of the working relationship. Noel-Levitz’s partnership is assessed on the added value of the ERMS data received on a weekly basis as well as the value of the ERMS tool for planning financial aid from year to year. The SCL Health System relationship is tilted toward USM, so USM is always asking how it can be of assistance to the health system. Thus far, their major articulated need is mission educated healthcare professionals.  USM is responding through the traditional BSN program, the accelerated BSN program, the RN-BSN program, the Health Information Management program and the Doctorate in Physical Therapy program.

In assessing internal communication and relationships, USM has tried various methods including surveying and has concluded that given the small number of faculty and staff, accurate insightful information on the quality of communication and community life is best gathered directly from directors and academic chairs. Information and advice gathered from these groups that meet regularly has proven to be more valuable and fruitful. The measure is feedback given and changes made in everything from scheduling of faculty institutes to equipment needed to maintenance issues. The focus on the personal approach has proven effective.

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9R2 Performance results in building key collaborative relationships, externally and internally

USM’s most data driven department is admissions. Admissions cultivates relationships with feeder schools and measures the result as noted in Link 9R2-1: Three Year High School Trend and Link 9R2-2: Traffic By High School which show the three year trends for high school inquiry activity and this year’s results for the top 25 feeder schools. The highest scores are generally from schools geographically close to USM and those that share its religious affiliation. The admissions staff also track the enrollment funnel on a weekly basis noting not just the funnel numbers, but where students are coming from, their ACTs and GPAs, whether the students are athletes or not and whether they are freshman or transfers, as well as all their financial aid and the university’s overall discount rate. Much of this information is provided through ERMS of Noel-Levitz. Link 9R2-3: Noel-Levitz Report 3/20/2012 is an example of the weekly report.

The final measure of admissions is the enrollment of full time main campus students. USM has seen steady growth using this data informed method of recruiting. Undergraduate full time main campus enrollment has increased 46% since 1998. (See Link 9R2-4: USM Full Time Main Campus Enrollment.)

USM uses various media to recruit adult students. All advertising is designed to drive potential students to the website.  USM launched two new websites since the last systems portfolio: the main site and Overland Park Campus site, seeking input on information architecture, navigation, and content from prospective students, prospective parents, current students, focus groups, surveys, faculty, and staff. One month after the new main campus site launched in June 2012, the Google Analytics reports showed that the bounce rate (measures rate at which people explore site; a low bounce rate means people are exploring the site) decreased from 72% to 56%; the pages viewed per visit increased from 1.70 to 2.83 pages; and time on the site increased from 1.37 min to 2:56 min. Total pages viewed increased from 51,000 to 81,000 for the same 30 day period. This data shows that the site is functioning well and people are finding what they need.

USM measures the impact of its advertising for non-traditional students through Google analytics.  The marketing department tracks the difference between average traffic and traffic during media advertising to judge how effective it is. Finally, traffic is compared to enrollment data to close the loop.

USM’s relationship with its online partner Deltak has been productive as evidenced in Link 9R2-5 Google Analytics Report, by steadily increasing student enrollment in the RN-BSN and the MBA programs as shown in Link 9R2-6 USM Online Enrollment by Headcount. The Master of Arts in Teaching program has not grown and is currently under study by the department.

USM measures its alumni efforts by tracking participation and dollars donated. Adjustments are made given the results of yearly “after action” analyses.

Table 9R2-1 Yearly Alumni Donations


Number of Participants

Number of Donors

Total Amount Donated













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9R3 Results for the performance of processes for building collaborative relationships compared with the performance results of other higher education institutions, and if appropriate, of organizations outside of higher education

USM uses comparative data from the CIC Tool Kit for regional and national comparisons, the Kanas Independent College Association’s data, CLA and NSSE. None of these offer comparative data for relationships as USM has chosen to measure them.

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9I1 Recent improvements in this category; how systematic and comprehensive are your processes and performance results for building collaborative relationships?

USM’s greatest improvement in building comprehensive processes in which results can be measured is in the area of alumni development. USM has been investing resources, both financial and personal, in cleaning the data base, finding lost alumni and then qualifying their ability and propensity to give. This is all tracked in the database and can be sorted multiple ways to provide the needed information for strategic visits and alumni gatherings. USM has baseline data and will measure the results in terms of dollars raised moving forward. With a small staff, strategic use of resources is key.

Numerous accreditation visits and reports in the past several years have pushed the university to develop templates and share core institutional data across the university, resulting in more consistent data, cross fertilization across the disciplines, and in some cases, a greater appreciation and understanding of colleagues’ work. This past year and into the next, USM will have participated in, or prepared for, accreditation visits from the Higher Learning Commission, Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education, National Council for Advancement of Teacher Education, International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education, Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, and Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education.

Other academic relationships that serve as internship, practicum and clinical sites have grown to the point that they are now maintained in databases by the specific academic departments. The most collaborative is that in the nursing department. There is one common database for nursing clinicals used by all the nursing programs across the greater Kansas City area. This simplifies a very complex process that involves multiple parties. A similar database is being developed by the Doctorate in Physical Therapy program.

Processes for evaluating and building collaborative relationships are most developed with two external partners: Deltak, USM’s online partner, and Noel-Levitz, USM’s partner for enrollment services. Both relationships are mutually beneficial business relationships. As such there are clear goals and results to measure. USM meets regularly with both parties to discuss ways to improve the results. Both of these partners are highly developed and resourced companies which have expertise that USM does not. USM benefits not only financially from these relationships, but also grows in its understanding of the movements and shifts in the industry.

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9I2 How culture and infrastructure help to select specific processes to improve and to set targets for improved performance results in building collaborative relationships

The University of Saint Mary’s growing culture of ongoing improvement and its limited resources, both financial and human, drive the process. USM is aware that it needs to make the most efficient use of its resources. Thus how they are used is evaluated regularly. USM has made significant progress in adopting a culture of ongoing improvement; however, USM knows it needs to continually work to formalize processes and at the same time be sure it is not creating processes for the sake of having more processes when a simpler measure would yield the same results.

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