AQIP Category Nine

Building Collaborative Relationships

Context for Analysis

9C1 The University of Saint Mary 's key collaborative relationships

The University of Saint Mary's (USM) collaborative and partnering engagement with external stakeholders and constituencies may be represented through three categories that occur in a variety of functions: Administrative/Managerial, Outreach/Educational, and Professional/Regulatory. (See USM Collaborative Relationships in Organization Overview O.4 Figure 3 for complete list. )

9C2 How key collaborative relationships reinforce the University of Saint Mary 's Mission

The three categories of collaborative partnerships advance the USM mission and support institutional directions in different ways. Administrative/Managerial partners (e.g. Noel Levitz, Aramark, COMPASS) provide administrative services that enhance the operations of the University and develop the capacities of USM staff to deliver quality programs and services. USM administrators finalize agreements with these partners after they evaluate cost-benefit and the fit with strategic initiatives. USM faculty and staff develop Outreach/Educational partnerships (e.g. feeder schools, field experience/service learning sites, global programs) to increase educational opportunities for prospective and current students, the community, and other agencies with educational missions. Faculty, staff, and administrators participate in Professional/Regulatory partnerships (e.g. professional and accrediting agencies) to increase their professional development, to engage in sharing of expertise, and to demonstrate how USM mission-driven programs meet professional standards. USM partnerships contributed to the strategic planning process as faculty and staff conducted the environmental scan and SWOT analysis and as the Strategic Planning Committee developed specific action steps for the plan. USM program chairs work directly with accrediting bodies to establish and adhere to professional standards for programs.


9P1 Creating, prioritizing and building relationships

USM builds relationships with a variety of institutions and agencies to carry out its educational goals and to serve the needs of the community, both of which are central to the University's mission. Administrators set priorities for formal agreements based upon strategic initiatives, program demands, student needs, and societal issues.

Relationships with educational institutions from which students are received

USM creates and builds relationships with educational institutions and other organizations that serve as “feeder” organizations. Recruiters initiate contact with both public and private school districts throughout Kansas and the region and make personal visits to discuss and promote USM undergraduate and graduate program offerings with administrators, counselors, and teachers. Contacts are also made with community colleges to build relationships with counselors and to attend campus events in an effort to promote USM programs to potential transfer students. USM athletic coaches develop relationships with their colleagues at high schools and community colleges in Kansas as well as other states to recruit athletes to USM. Faculty and staff work to create relationships with a wide variety of businesses and companies throughout the Kansas City Metro area to promote degree-completion and graduate programs. These types of contacts are made through active membership in chambers of commerce, attendance at community events, education fairs, marketing USM programs to targeted audiences, and making contact through phone calls and email.

The types of relationships mentioned above are prioritized based on program needs and their relevance to the Strategic Plan and Mission . With enrollment growth stated as a priority, relationships with feeder institutions and organizations are essential to carrying out this strategic initiative. Vice-presidents who oversee recruiting for both undergraduate and graduate programs research potential partners, anticipate potential results, and make recommendations to the Administrative Council regarding partnerships. When budget constraints limit the funding allotted for extensive marketing, these personal contacts are a critical part of the plan for enrollment growth.

Relationships with institutions and employers that depend on the supply of USM graduates

USM establishes and maintains educational and outreach partnerships that are mutually beneficial to USM students, potential employers, and the University. USM faculty and staff work with employers to keep curriculum current and to prepare students for professional positions. Employers participate on advisory boards, seek out USM graduates, and participate in job placement activities. Some examples include:

  • Advisory Boards for Nursing, Education, and Business programs that convene at least twice a year
  • Business Etiquette/Networking Dinner co-sponsored by USM and three other universities.
    • Employers and students attended with students receiving instruction about proper business dinner etiquette during the interview process and appropriate social skills in a business setting.
  • Annual Teacher Interview Day Held at USM. Attended by 30 school districts.
  • Dollars and Sense Career Development
  • Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) co-sponsored events on USM campus
  • Nursing Career Fair, first held 2008 at USM for graduating class of 74 students

Relationships with organizations that provide services to USM students

The University works with a number of organizations to provide services for USM students. As with all collaborative partnerships, USM determines the need for a particular service, how the partnership will benefit the University and the external organization, and how the partnership will comply with the Strategic Plan. The majority of these relationships have been initiated by individual departments and range from health care to social services, learning assistance, campus food service, and laptops provided for students. In some instances, faculty or staff reach out to agencies to serve identified needs of USM students; in others, the organization makes the initial contact to offer services. Required practica for nursing, education, and psychology students promote the development of relationships with dozens of area organizations, agencies, businesses, and schools. USM and the sponsoring agency enter into formal agreements and the department chairs manage the partnership activities and mutually beneficial initiatives.

Relationships with professional associations and regulatory agencies

USM places a high priority on upholding the integrity of its educational standards through creating and maintaining productive relationships with professional and regulatory agencies. USM holds memberships in professional organizations and in state and national accreditation agencies. Faculty and staff participate in professional associations which allow them to gain knowledge and resources for the benefit of the University and to contribute their expertise to the professional field. University membership in accreditation organizations, such as Higher Learning Commission (HLC), National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), and International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE), provide standards and accountability measures to certify the quality of USM academic programs. This external verification of programs assists USM in achieving its strategic goals.

The USM Strategic Plan prioritizes collaborative partnerships as an action step in achieving strategic initiatives. To determine whether to pursue a partnership, the Administrative Council (AC) examines how it relates to USM's mission and strategic priorities. Consequently, administrators have built formal agreements with agencies that advance the health care (Sisters of Charity- Leavenworth [SCL] Hospitals) and online learning programs (EdTek).

Initially any member of the faculty, staff, student body, or administration can pursue the development of collaborative relationships. Once the informal relationship yields a mutually beneficial action plan then department chairs or program directors submit a formal proposal to the appropriate vice president (VP) for consideration.

The basic process utilized in the determination of collaborative partnerships is as follows:

•  Determination of need or suitability, based on program goals

•  Internal review of USM Strategic Plan, Mission , and anticipated impact

•  Partnership identified and relationship established formally or informally

•  University representative identified to serve as point of contact and provide oversight of partnership

•  Formalized relationship as appropriate through University governance structures

•  Monitored relationship for results

•  Continuous interaction and feedback with partner

•  Annual review of all partnerships conducted by appropriate USM representatives

9P2 Ensuring needs of those involved in partnerships are being met

While establishing relationships with external stakeholders is a priority for USM, maintaining those relationships is also vital to the success of the University in seeking to fulfill its Mission. In order to ensure that relationships remain sound, the University conducts environmental scans and market demand studies to ensure the greatest level of success. USM utilizes advisory councils and community service connections as opportunities to obtain feedback and respond to requests of partners.

Formal arrangements with external constituencies or partners include legal contracts or written letters of agreement (Compass Learning Odyssey for MAT Program; K-12 schools for student teachers; counseling/human services practica; partner hospitals for nursing clinicals; Mid-America Colleges Consortium; Kansas Campus Compact/AmeriCorps Partnership). Interests of stakeholders are protected further through the public access to and disclosure of information through investment policies, regulatory compliance (e.g. Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act [FERPA], Occupational Safety and Health Administration [OSHA], Title IX, Civil Rights Act, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System [IPEDS], Annual Financial Audit, Fire Codes, Campus Crime Reports), institutional accreditations (e.g. North Central Association [NCA], NCATE, IACBE, CCNE), adequate insurance coverage, and the use of outside legal counsel as appropriate. Full National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) membership and membership with NAIA Character of Champions promote and validate that USM upholds legal and ethical behaviors.

Operationally, USM administration, faculty, and staff establish timelines, conduct formal communications, and monitor outcomes through performance evaluations, participant activities, satisfaction surveys, and renewal of partnership agreements. Department chairs and program directors collect and analyze the performance, participation, and satisfaction results. Based on the findings, USM and partner staff establish improvement goals. Using the USM OnGoing Improvement (OGI) model, staff collaboratively examine the strengths and weaknesses of the existing partnership based on the data and then they align interventions or objectives with the agreed upon improvement goals.

9P3 Building relationships within the institution

Founded and sponsored by the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, rooted in the Catholic tradition, the University derives its Mission from age-old principles and traditions which model the values of community and respect for all University members regardless of diversity of background, ideas, politics, and religion. These values promote collegial relationships among administrators, faculty, staff, and students. Certain imbedded structures, activities, and committees create opportunities for such esprit.

  • Mission Council has highlighted one of the core values as the theme for the year and its sponsored activities keep that value in the forefront for faculty, staff, and students.
  • Mission Council has hosted monthly community gatherings for eats and camaraderie to honor the contributions certain groups on campus have made in advancing the celebrated value.
  • USM builds relationships internally by bringing faculty and staff from different departments and offices together to work on a common goal. For example, standing committees comprised of elected and appointed members deliberate on related issues and assignments and bring their findings and proposals forward for legislative decisions.
  • Standing committees and ad hoc committees (designated as projects dictate) provide time at least monthly for communication, information-sharing, and decision-making across the USM community. Most groups meet monthly.
  • Roundtable meets monthly and brings representatives from all divisions together with the President to discuss events, issues, and updates
  • Co-curricular activities such as athletics, fine arts, department clubs, and service-learning projects build close-knit student relationships. Faculty and staff members support many of the activities, and their attendance builds rapport among them and with participating students.
  • Convocations, commencement, Christmas parties and dinners, and end-of-the-year activities and parties create formal and informal times for celebration as a University community.
  • The Learning Communities for freshmen and the Transfer Core for new transfer students are deliberately designed to be places for making a community, “home-base” atmosphere for students.

9P4 Measures of building collaborative relationships which are collected and analyzed regularly

USM measures the success of collaborative relationships by collecting data based on the type of partnership. Academic partnerships are measured using data such as student enrollment, number of articulation agreements, service hours performed by students, and success of attaining accreditation. Results are tracked by the appropriate USM representative—faculty, staff, administration, or committee—and evaluations are submitted to the Vice President of Academic Affairs by semester or academic year.

Other collaborative partnerships are measured by number of placements, increased enrollments, satisfaction surveys, revenue generated, alumni contributions, and donor support. Data collection tools and how results are used are listed in Table 9-1.

Table 9-1 Targeted Partnership Measures


Data Collector

Description & How it is used

Donor reports


List of who gives and how much they give; change of time Decision making based on report data; identify their major potential donors and target for cultivation

Volunteerism Reports


Important with cultivation of alums; donors in training;

Event Attendance Report


#s of attendees, compared over time

Service Learning Agency Surveys

Service Learning staff

Questionnaire to volunteer partners Evaluate the effectiveness of partnerships; highlight key issues and areas of improvement; notes what was done well; tracking partners and class participation

Visits to Feeder Schools


Track number of visits and enrollment rates

Field Experience Student Placements


Track student placements for program field experience requirements



Formal agreement for services & partnerships


9R1 Results for key collaborative relationships

Institutional Advancement

Fundraising events are a measure of the effectiveness of collaborative relationships with partners and stakeholders. Table 9-2 shows results based on participation levels and income generated.

Table 9- 2 Fundraising Event Measures

Fiscal Year

# of Gifts

Volunteer Committees

# of Volunteers

# of Participants & Donors

Total Income



Leavenworth Lansing Fund Drive and Reunion






Leavenworth Lansing Fund Drive , SpireFest, Golf Tournament, and Reunion






Leavenworth Lansing Fund Drive , SpireFest, and Reunion






Leavenworth Lansing Fund Drive , SpireFest and Reunion




Alumni and donor satisfaction is based on the patterns of participation and giving from 2005-2008 and then compared with the fiscal years 2003 and 2004.

  • Volunteers decreased from an average of 92 per year to 86 average in the 4 fiscal years from 2005-2008. This is because an event was dropped from the roster of events due to lack of increasing participation and revenue. This was Leavenworth-Lansing Spire Games. Also, the National Alumni Board was disbanded secondary to attrition by age, infirmities, and younger alumni not having time to volunteer.
  • SpireFest increased participation from an average of 269 to 408 which is an approximate 50% increase in participation. Donations increased on an average from $86,538 to $118,316.
  • Lansing/Leavenworth fund drive which replaced the Spire Games remained almost the same even though the change of venue and volunteer need which averages 55. Donations dropped substantially due to an active major campaign for the school and most businesses were not able to maintain their fund drive contribution and add a major gift to the campaign.

Internships, Practicums, Field Experience

Results from collaborative relationships which provide students with opportunities for internships, practicums, and field experiences indicate an increase in student participation. (See Fig. 9-1) The quality of the experiences is measured through evaluation instruments that department chairs and faculty collect and analyze based on adequate preparation and professional responsibility. When results warrant, department chairs initiate changes in programs or partnership activities.

Fig. 9-1: Internships Practicums, Field Experiences 2005-2008

Service Learning

Academic service learning is an alternative method of teaching and learning which has allowed students an opportunity to provide service to the community and experience learning hands-on. Since 2004 with the support of the Vice President for Academic Affairs (VPAA), the tutelage of the staff and faculty, the efforts of the Kansas Campus Compact, and Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) members, USM has implemented service learning classes as well as offering course credit for students participating in alternative service learning breaks . Students have provided 32 different community partners with over 8,300 community service hours from New Orleans , Kentucky , and Denver to the streets of Leavenworth and the greater Kansas City area. See category 2R1 for complete results.

Relationships with feeder institutions

USM measures its relationships with feeder institutions by school visits and enrollment trends. Visits to high schools have exceeded 130 for 2008 and more than 150 are scheduled for 2009. More than 24 college fairs have been attended in 2008, and 55 are scheduled for 2009. Visits to three community colleges have been made in 2008 and the same number is scheduled for 2009. These visits and articulation agreements yield data on transfer enrollments. Transfer student enrollment results do not reveal a particular trend; however, efforts continue to update existing articulation agreements with the goal of producing consistent growth in this area. (See Fig. 9-3)

Fig. 9-3: Transfer Student Enrollment 2005-2008

9R2 Comparing results with other institutions and organizations

The University of Saint Mary has not developed a system for collecting and tracking comparative data at this time. Efforts are underway to establish a system. For example, with the addition of a Vice President of Development, USM has begun using the national development standards for benchmarking to compare results annually. The VP will also gather data from like institutions when possible. The development office is developing queries/records for tracking and comparison analysis annually.


9I1 Improving current processes and systems for building collaborative relationships

As results indicate, USM collects information that documents partnership activities but has not yet developed a system to regularly assess the quality of partnerships in light of USM goals, mission, and strategic initiatives. Action steps have been targeted to integrate this component within key indicators for ongoing improvement.

9I2 Setting targets for improvement with regard to current results

With regard to current results for building collaborative relationships, the VP for Development is creating an OGI system for improvement targets. The VP has changed job responsibilities, formed annual and major (capital) fundraising teams to increase both participation and donations in the next period of accountability. A database position has been added to help increase the validity of contact information. The development staff are establishing 5 new alumni councils ( Washington , D.C. , St. Louis , California , Florida , and Montana ) to help communicate and increase alumni participation in those geographical areas. Objectives have been targeted to increase the volunteer base and thereby increase participation and donations to all events.

The Administrative Council communicates the progress and results of collaborative partnerships as a part of Strategic Plan updates. VPs develop quarterly status reports including relevant information regarding current collaborative partnerships which are shared with the Board of Trustees (BOT) and at University Assemblies. Formal reports are developed and provided to stakeholders on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis. Information is also communicated via the USM website and the Aspire magazine.