AQIP Category Five


Context for Analysis

5C1 Leadership & Communications Systems

The University of Saint Mary 's (USM) ability to realize its mission and vision is dependent upon its people. USM has a two-tiered governance system: a Board of Trustees (BOT) and a Board of Members composed of the elected leadership of the university's sponsors, the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth (SCL), who hold some reserved powers. The sponsors have representatives on the board to ensure mission and open communication between the two governance bodies (See USM bylaws and SCL governance structure). Administratively, the University is led by the president and the five vice presidents (VP) who work as a team and comprise the Administrative Council (AC). (Refer to Organizational Overview for USM organizational chart .) Information and concerns flow both up and down through direct reports. Cross-functional taskforces address multi-department concerns to ensure efficient ways to address issues. Governance listings and functions are outlined in the faculty handbook.

Horizontal communication channels include:

  • Directors meetings
  • Academic Leadership Council (ALC)
  • Faculty Senate
  • Roundtable (meets monthly with representatives from throughout the campus)
  • University Assembly (faculty and staff meet monthly to share updates and concerns)
  • Teacher Education Committee
  • AQIP Action Project Committees
  • Student Life Staff
  • Extended Sites
  • Cross functional task forces such as Six Terms, Emergency Management Task Force, and Startup/Orientation team

Accreditation and Regulatory groups that have oversight relationship with USM include:

  • Higher Learning Commission/North Central Association (HLC/NCA)
  • Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA)
  • Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE)
  • National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE)
  • Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE)
  • Kansas State Board of Education
  • Kansas Board of Nursing
  • Behavioral Sciences Regulatory Board (BSRB)

5C2 Aligning Leadership System with Practices

The University ensures that the practices of its leadership system – at all institutional levels – are aligned by focusing on the mission, core values, and the implementation and assessment of the Strategic Plan (SP). The mission and values serve as a guiding structure from which the Strategic Plan flows. USM reinforces the mission and core values through faculty/staff and new student orientation, University Days (all faculty & staff come together as a group), and through the Mission Council, whose objective is to keep the mission front and center on campus and to sponsor activities that aid the University in internalizing core values and making them operational.

USM also ensures leadership system alignment through ongoing education of mission, the ongoing improvement (OGI) process, the structure of the SP; clear governance and staff reporting structures; policies and procedures; annual reports, as well as eSpire, the Marketing bulletin board and large television monitor inside the main entrance in Mead Hall; University undergraduate and graduate catalogs, all handbooks, and the Global Studies Institute Starr Report.

The BOT, who participated in the process and approved the SP, receives quarterly updates. When the BOT is updated, so are faculty and staff. All new proposals outlined in the SP are presented to both faculty/staff and BOT in the form of a business plan that connects the project to the mission and strategic plan, provides a five year budget, market assessment, and an exit strategy.

5C3 Setting Values and Expectations Regarding Ethics and Equity, Social Responsibilities, and Community Service and Involvement

The University of Saint Mary core values are community, respect, justice, and excellence. USM's mission and sponsorship of the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth make evident within the culture of USM the pervading commitment to these values, to “service to one's neighbor” (see Category 2), and to ethical dimensions of decision making and action. Expectations for living out the values are communicated in policy and exemplified in practice. Examples of these expectations include the following.

  • Expectations of faculty and staff are outlined in contractual or letter of agreement compliances, “Faculty/staff member agrees to perform duties to the best of his/her ability, to conduct himself/herself in a professional manner, to support and further the objectives and mission of the university, and to assist and cooperate with the University in the administration of its policies.”
  • Faculty and staff handbooks include ethical statements regarding academic honesty and professional behavior in all areas, ways to address grievances, regulatory financial controls, EOE statements, distinctive values of service and social responsibility in mission. A more comprehensive employee standards of conduct, which every employee will sign, is in its final stages and will be in place by Fall 09.
  • The student handbook describes the student code of conduct that flows from the University mission. New students are oriented to the expectations outlined in the handbook.

•  The Mission Council helps to permeate the culture with the mission and core values with activities throughout the year.

  • Workshops, orientation, University Day, and Faculty Institutes are focused from time to time on such expectations. USM also uses EAP (employee assistance program) to provide training to supervisors.  


5P1 Setting Directions Conducive to High Performance, Individual Development, Organizational Learning, and Innovation

USM sets direction in alignment with mission, vision, and values by involving the entire USM community and the BOT in its strategic planning process. The SP drives the action and plans at USM. The SP was an AQIP Action Project in which all of our stakeholders were involved. As described in Category 8, the SP process analyzed the needs and trends of students and stakeholders. In establishing strategic initiatives, SP committee used the information generated from collaborative forecasting activities with faculty and staff. The model for SP development followed the USM OGI model and ensured that the needs and expectations for student learning were central to decision making.

In other activities at USM, similar processes are used and model the leadership emphasis on ongoing improvement as highlighted in the following.

  • Every new initiative must have a business plan, complete with a market study and marketing plan, 5-year financial outlook, and how it aligns with the mission and the SP.
  • The Data Based Decision Making Process AQIP Action Project, led by the USM Assessment Committee identified, categorized, and aligned existing University reports and processes and developed a picture of what next steps are needed to move toward a systematic approach to measuring effectiveness to making informed decisions.
  • As USM engages in ongoing improvement, Administrative Council encourages and provides financial resources for professional development and training opportunities throughout the university. Every faculty has a professional development plan that is reviewed each year. The Faculty Senate regularly discusses issues of “teaching and learning.” Other professional staff members have professional development appropriate to their area, e.g. safety training for security officers and Jenzabar training for the business office, how to deal with clients (students) for everyone. Professional development of personnel is ultimately the responsibility of each vice president.
  • As part of the educational process, all employees are trained to model the core values when interacting with each other and with students. When students fail to act according to the core values, employees are encouraged to address the issue or send the information to student life so that it might be a “teachable moment for the student.” This is not yet done consistently. USM is in the early stages of helping ALL employees, not just faculty, respond to students in these situations.

5P2 Seeking Future Opportunities and Building and Sustaining a Learning Environment

USM leaders guide the institution in seeking future opportunities and building and sustaining a learning environment through the SP. Academic program Annual Reports require growth plans congruent with mission and strategic plan. The Extended Sites strategic plan for growth is in process. Three academic programs have formal growth plans regarding enrollment that are reported to the BOT annually. All programs have OGI plans.

Faculty and staff are encouraged to surface new ideas or opportunities, such as the possibility of partnering with Fort Scott community college identified and explored by a faculty member. The University tracks key indicators to continually assess or monitor the University's learning environment, such as how we measure ULOs (see Categories 1 & 7), faculty evaluations, the entire academic picture. The OGI model (as described in Category 8) encourages ongoing improvement through reflection on past actions and through professional development of faculty/staff who then can bring new insights and learnings to the university community. For example, assistant director of nursing attends a national conference on partnering between universities and health care systems. She brings back strategies and shares recommendations. The director of online learning has done the same with online learning.

5P3 Making Decisions

USM involves representatives from all campus constituencies through cross-functional teams, task forces, or committees as possible and necessary for informed decision making. In other words, “who needs to be at the table?” All decisions aim to be framed by mission and in response to the SP. A component of USM's ongoing improvement process includes an OGI after action assessment, which resides at the level of which the project is executed. This is how the University improves its processes.

USM practices the principle of subsidiary: problems are analyzed and solutions discovered at the level where activities are implemented. New Student Orientation is an example of how this process leads to ongoing improvement. Better communication through cross-functional input resulted in improving the experience and led to USM's most successful orientation to date in August 2008.

The Six Terms Special Task Force is another example of a cross functional group finding solutions at the level they are implemented. This task force involved personnel from the business office, registrar's office, admissions, extended sites, and online programs, all of whom were effected by increasing the number of session starts. They identified problems within procedures and software programs that made their processing of enrollment inefficient. Through communication and analysis of procedures, changes were made that garnered the support of all offices and increased efficiency and responsiveness.

In USM academic governance, the decision-making process originates in various committees – standing or ad hoc. Standing committees serve as policy committees, curriculum committees, and advisory committees. Ad hoc committees are short in existence and created by the President to serve a specific urgent function. When a decision needs to be made about curriculum or policy at the committee level, majority approval is required within the committee before the proposal, policy change, or idea is presented to Academic Affairs Committee or the Vice President for Academic Affairs (VPAA) for approval. If approved by Academic Affairs Committee, the request is then presented to the Faculty Senate twice – the first time for discussion of the request and the second time for a motion and vote for acceptance or rejection of the motion. If approved by Faculty Senate, the request is then forwarded by the VPAA to the President and BOT for their approval. Upon approval of the BOT, the requested change is enacted. Other committees such as the ALC and Rank and Tenure Committee serve advisory functions to the VPAA. Requests and recommendations come from these committees to the VPAA who then makes formal request for approval to the Faculty Senate or President or BOT. If the decision requires curricular policy change, the decision goes through the Faculty Senate. If the decision requires approval regarding issues of rank and tenure, the VPAA communicates the recommendations of the Rank and Tenure Committee to the President and to the BOT for approval.

Fig. 5-4 Academic Governance Decision Tree

Academic Leadership Council

5P4 Using Information and Results

Leadership decisions are framed by the mission, directed by the strategic plan, and informed by the key indicators. The key indicators also serve as touchstones of progress. Key indicators include both academic measures and financial measures, with particular attention to those that are highlighted by the strategic plan which focuses on academics and finances (see Table 1A-C in Category 7 ) . AC regularly monitors data reports designed to measure key indicators. VPs and AC review the data reports at various intervals as appropriate: weekly (e.g. admissions, cash flow), quarterly/semester (e.g. investments, enrollment, retention, and faculty evaluations), yearly (e.g. growth plans, cost of programs, cost of recruitment, service learning courses).

Another important source of information that the AC uses is environmental key indicators. Financial and enrollment data are shared among the presidents of the Kansas Independent College Association (KICA). Comparative data are also provided through CIC Tool Kits . These external data points are used to provide perspective of the competition and set appropriate goals.

5P5 Communicating Between and Among Institutional Levels

USM's structure is designed to provide for vertical communication through line groups and for cross communication among departments and across the USM community. The AC serves as the integrating factor for the vertical lines of communication. Cross communication happens regularly through the monthly Roundtable conversations whose sole purpose is to enhance communication across the campus, and through task forces established to address challenges and opportunities that cross line groups. Community-wide events such as University Days and monthly University Assemblies allow everyone to receive the same information and hear each other's questions. Gathering all personnel together also builds community so that cross functional team members already know one another.

One example of how cross-communication occurs in University Assembly highlights the discussion of whether the University should perform background checks on prospective employees. Research on best practices and cost was presented for feedback at one meeting. Follow-up feedback was asked to be sent to the president's office. The feedback was compiled and presented at the next University Assembly and the decision was made that the AC would move forward with background checks for full time employees.

Other examples of how information is shared across USM include: USM's public relations specialist sends all news releases out to faculty, staff and SCLs via email before they are sent to the media. A large TV monitor in the Mead Hall entryway highlights activities, accomplishments, and visiting prospective students. This is an effective and very popular communication tool for faculty, staff, and students.

5P6 Communicating a Shared Mission , Vision, Values, and High Performance Expectations

USM communicates mission, vision, values, strategic planning goals, and high performance expectations through several means as highlighted below.

  • The faculty and staff were directly involved in creating the mission, vision, values, and SP which has increased ownership of shared values, vision and expectations.
  • The SP and updates are accessible through the University's shared network drive .
  • All new employees are required to read the faculty/staff handbooks that include the mission and values. New employee orientation includes a segment dedicated to USM heritage and mission and values. All new Board of Trustees members go through orientation that discusses mission and values and the SP.
  • At Fall Convocation, students, faculty, and staff renew their commitment to the mission and core values.

•  The mission and core values are displayed in the main hallway in Mead Hall. A Mission table sits inside the main entrance that features a display that reflects the core values of the University, and highlights the core value theme each year.

  • USM communicates expectations for faculty and staff through the Faculty/Staff Handbook and letter of hire.
  • Student expectations are addressed in the Student Handbook and Work-Study policies.
  • USM awards excellence. The Sullivan Award for Teaching Excellence is awarded annually to a faculty member; the Ancilla Award for Service is presented to a student who has demonstrated concern and commitment of time and effort in service to others in the local community, and especially to the poor; and the University's highest award, the Caritas, honors selfless dedication and outstanding contributions.

5P7 Encouraging, Developing, and Strengthening Leadership Abilities

USM is committed to providing faculty and staff opportunities to develop leadership abilities. The University offers tuition remission for employees seeking undergraduate or graduate degrees. Individual departments receive budget allocations for professional development through workshops, conferences, webinars, sabbaticals, Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) awards, and association memberships.

University-wide involvement in the strategic planning process and AQIP Action Projects also creates opportunities for development of leadership skills.

5P8 Ensuring Succession and Preservation of Mission , Vision, and Values

USM has a director of mission whose focus is to educate all employees and students to the mission of USM. As a sponsored work of the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, it is of high value to pass on the educational heritage of the Sisters to the next generation.

USM plans succession when possible at the departmental level. Generally, the president and the vice presidential positions are filled after national searches.

5P9 Collecting and Analyzing Measures of Leading and Communicating

USM regularly collects and analyzes several measures of leading and communicating. The AC uses reports designated as Key Indicators (see 7C1) that support the SP to determine if progress has been made on initiatives. While this is an indirect measure of leadership effectiveness, it does signal that USM work groups tasked to implement objectives are working productively to accomplish them. More direct are measures which the AC uses to determine the climate for leadership and communication effectiveness are listed in Table 5-1.

Table 5-1 Measures of Leading and Communicating Effectiveness



Culture Survey

To evaluate and problem solve characteristics of USM climate, leadership and communication effectiveness

New Graduate Survey

To evaluate satisfaction with education programs; suggestions for improvements

VP Board Reports

To report qualitative results of internal collaborative relationships and to establish ongoing improvement goals

Strategic Plan Updates- Key Indicators

To show progress toward reaching the SP goals and objectives


Course Evaluations

To evaluate communicate effectiveness in teaching and learning; used in annual evaluations of non-tenured faculty, for Rank and Tenure reviews, for individual professional development plans and annual reports, for accreditation reports

Program Reviews

To analyze results of OGI objectives for direction setting, improvement efforts, communicating

PR Tracking

To show effectiveness in communicating with external stakeholders


5R1 Accomplishing Results for Leading and Communicating Processes and Systems

Results for leading and communicating processes and systems include leadership effectiveness in addressing issues related to SP goals and objectives, and leadership communication effectiveness identified in a recent AQIP Strategy Forum with faculty and staff, and satisfaction levels as shown in the Faculty/Staff cultural surveys.

USM has made progress on accomplishing SP goals and objectives. Enrollment and retention have increased, and new programs and partnerships have been established for health care and online education (see 8R1 for complete results).

Another measure of leadership and communication effectiveness was noted during the mid-term SWOT analysis as part of an AQIP Strategy Forum in May 2008. The AC requested faculty and staff to provide a status update on the top 3 opportunities, vulnerabilities, and chronic concerns. In 2005, internal communications was identified as a chronic concern. It was no longer identified as a chronic concern in 2008.

Faculty and staff assessment of USM culture indicates that characteristics of leadership and communication are evident. Responses by staff and faculty on 2007 Culture Survey items are summarized in Table 5-2.

Table 5-2 Faculty & Staff Mean Ratings of Culture Survey Items

Culture Survey Item


N = 79


N = 21

Staff/Faculty members perceive themselves to be actively involved in decisions that affect them. (“Actively involved” means staff members are listened to and that their ideas are seriously considered)



Various subunits (e.g., Registrar's Office, Business Office, Financial Aid, etc.) actively operate in a coordinated manner by co-operating effectively towards the achievement of organizational objectives.




To encourage coordination among its subunits, USM actively supports these groups through cross functional meetings, information sharing, etc.



1-strongly disagree, 2 disagree, 3-nuetral, 4- agree, 5-strongly agree

5R2 Comparing Results

Leadership and effective communication has enabled USM to favorably compete with other institutions, both locally and nationally, as shown in the following recognitions.

For the fourth consecutive year, The Princeton Review has named USM a “ Best Midwestern College ” for meeting the review's standards for academic excellence in the region and survey feedback from students and parents. USM was one of 159 schools in the Midwest region receiving the designation. The University was the only school in the region named two years in a row a one of America 's “Best Value Colleges” for academic excellence, and generous financial aid packages, and relatively low costs.

The USM Master of Arts in Teaching program was awarded the 2007 Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) Award for Institutional Progress in Student Learning Outcomes. The award is given to colleges and universities that demonstrate outstanding achievement in promoting student success, based on overall learning outcomes. University of Saint Mary was one of five institutions picked from a nationwide pool of 31 to receive this honor.

USM was a founding member of Kansas Campus Compact, which is part of a growing national coalition of college and university presidents established to encourage and support campus engagement in the community. In October 2006, USM made the first-ever President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, a program that identifies and promotes community service model programs and practices in higher education, for "Distinction for General Community Service." More than 500 schools applied and only 141 institutions were named to the honor roll.


5I1 Improving Current Processes and Systems for Leading and Communicating

USM improves processes for leading and communicating by using data to assess performance and respond to need.

In May 2007, USM received negative student feedback in the Client Service Satisfaction survey about the usability of eSpire. A survey of faculty and staff also revealed eSpire concerns and challenges. A task force of Information Services (IS) and Marketing staff worked through those issues that summer and made improvements. The Overland Park Campus worked with IS to provide eSpire training for new students and adjunct faculty during fall orientation. Subsequent service satisfaction surveys saw a significant decrease in the number of negative comments about eSpire.

5I2 Setting Targets for Improvements

USM improvement targets are driven by the goals in the SP. Additional objectives set by AC in Fall 2008 support the SP. The University's improvement targets for the next three years are: increasing enrollment and retention, increasing USM offerings, increasing fundraising and the endowment, raising efficiencies (information/relevance, processes, staffing), and building the brand niche as “health care” education (see Category 8 for complete discussion).

University admission staff at both the main campus and extended sites have set targets for recruitment for the next 3 years in consultation with Noel Levitz. University improvement projects are calendared with timelines and deadlines and employees in each department are held accountable for those deadlines. A new AQIP project is underway to address student retention.