Academic Quality Improvement Program
Systems Portfolio

November 1, 2012


Organizational Overview

The University of Saint Mary (USM) is a private, not-for-profit, Catholic, co-educational university sponsored by the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth (SCL).  USM takes its distinct character from the educational mission of the SCL’s who see education as one of the great acts of charity, “serving others at the fullest points of their needs.”  As USM’s Mission states: “The University of Saint Mary educates students of diverse backgrounds to realize their God-given potential and prepares them for value-centered lives and careers that contribute to the well being of our global society.”

USM began as a junior college for women in 1923.  It soon became a four year college and conferred its first bachelor’s degrees in 1932.  Although it admitted men to classes earlier, it did not become a residentially co-educational college until 1988.  It became the University of Saint Mary in 2003. 

USM educates students on three sites, as well as online.  The Leavenworth main campus, located in Leavenworth, Kansas, comprises 12 buildings on some 200 idyllic acres. It serves traditional undergraduate residential and commuter students, as well as a post-baccalaureate accelerated BSN program and a Doctorate in Physical Therapy.  The Overland Park Campus, serving non-traditional adults, is located in Overland Park, Kansas, a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas City, Kansas. Occasional classes are held at Providence Hospital in Kansas City, Kansas.

Carnegie classifies USM as a Masters M University (Master’s University – Medium Programs).  It offers liberal arts, pre-professional, and professional undergraduate programs in 26 majors.  It also offers a degree completion program for non-traditional students, four masters degrees (Education, Psychology, Counseling Psychology, and Business), and one doctorate (Physical Therapy).  In addition, USM offers three online degree programs (RN-BSN, Master of Arts in Teaching, and the MBA).  USM is licensed and accredited by the State of Kansas and by the Higher Learning Commission, while all of its academic programs for which professional accreditation is warranted are so recognized (e.g. NCATE, CAPTE, IACBE, CCNE, CAHIIM).

USM currently enrolls approximately 1200 students.  Fifty percent of USM’s students are “traditional” and attend classes on the Leavenworth campus.  Over 90% of those students study full-time and half of them live on campus.  About 60% come from Kansas and 15% from Missouri, with the rest coming from 40 other states and several foreign countries.  Approximately 25% of USM students, from throughout the US, are enrolled in online programs, while most of the 15% in on-ground graduate programs and 10% in a degree completion program come from the Greater Kansas City area.  Nearly all online, on-ground graduate, and degree completion students study part-time. 

About 40% of USM’s traditional undergraduates are first-generation. 40% are Pell Grant eligible, while 98% receive some form of financial aid. Just over 25% are minority, and about one-third are Catholic (self-reported).  

USM employs approximately 135 people, of whom 48 are full time faculty.  Approximately 70% of our faculty hold terminal degrees.  Nearly 60% are tenured with another 25% currently on a tenure track. 

USM’s Quality Improvement Journey: 2008 – 2012

One of the most important developments since 2008 has been the creation and implementation of a new strategic plan, which can be found at:  The entire university community, including the Board of Trustees, participated in the process, the result of which was a plan built on three commitments: 1. to continue developing programs in healthcare, as a niche for the university; 2. to taking steps to improve retention and graduation rates by improving academic success; and 3. to improving and enhancing facilities and technology so as to prepare for future campus growth.  See below for examples of what has already been done.

Doctor of Physical Therapy
In August 2011, the Higher Learning Commission approved USM’s first doctorate – in Physical Therapy.  The Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education awarded it candidacy status in April 2012, and the first class was admitted in June 2012.

Upgraded Facilities
Related to implementation of USM’s DPT program, and consistent with its new Strategic Plan, USM embarked on a  major renovation of one of its historic  buildings, which will house the university’s health science programs, including DPT, BSN, and Accelerated BSN, and offices for the online MSN, currently seeking HLC approval, and Physician Assistant program, which is still in the building process.

Accelerated Nursing Program
To further enhance its focus on healthcare, USM added an Accelerated Nursing Program in May 2012.  The Accelerated BSN is a new model of delivery designed for second degree students. 

Healthcare Information Management
Also beginning this fall, USM opened its Bachelor of Science Degree in Healthcare Information Management (HIM).

USM committed to improving its assessment processes.  First, the university developed a new set of four University Learning Objectives.  USM then developed an appropriate matrix, identifying the courses in which these objectives are to be measured, and rubrics to determine how they will be measured.  The university then addressed the issue of finding external measures which would help to validate these internal assessments.  That was accomplished by contracting with the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA) and National Student Survey of Engagement (NSSE). USM has just received its first year of data from all three measures. The data will be analyzed and used at our first Assessment Day in October, thereby “closing the loop” in the university's new assessment process.

Student Success
USM has addressed student success as measured by retention and graduation rates. The university studied our peer institutions as well as best practices nationally, set benchmarks and goals, and identified several steps the university would take in addressing this issue.  Several of these steps are discussed in this portfolio.

And finally, USM is pleased to report that on August 24, 2012, following the submission of the required reporting documents and an HLC site visit, HLC notified the university that it will continue the university’s accreditation with the next reaffirmation in 2018-19.

To reiterate, this is only a select list of improvements USM has made since submitting its last portfolio, only four years ago.  You will find much more in the pages to follow.

NOTE:  USM volunteered to pilot the new Academic Quality Improvement Program Systems Portfolio, and has found it much better than the format it may replace.  Embedding the core competencies makes much more sense than indexing them.

Also, in the spirit of AQIP, nearly fifty faculty, staff, and administrators were directly involved in the preparation of this portfolio.  They were divided into nine teams, each addressing a separate category, but sharing what they were learning, before submitting their responses to the questions.   Although some editing was necessary, we have chosen to allow each team to speak for itself, even to use its own voice.