UHV prepares student success plan incorporating classrooms, residence halls

University of Houston-Victoria has selected “Living and Learning” as the theme of the university’s accreditation-driven Quality Enhancement Plan to help increase student engagement and retention.

“UHV has undergone a profound cultural change since freshmen and sophomores were admitted in fall 2010,” UHV President Phil Castille said. “For the first time, there are UHV students living on campus and discovering what it is like to be a residential college student. We’ve had a positive transition with 468 students now living in Jaguar Village. But we want to continue to improve and expand the student learning experience at UHV.”

Phil Castille

The university is implementing a QEP focused on residential learning communities, which encourage student engagement not only in the classroom, but also in their college social lives.

UHV’s “Living and Learning” QEP is a required component of the university’s 2014 accreditation review by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. An on-campus accreditation visit will take place in April.

Based in Atlanta, SACSCOC is the accrediting agency for all public, private, and for-profit colleges and universities in an 11-state region, from Virginia to Texas.

“It takes an institution to write and implement a QEP, and I am delighted that we have such a cooperative and insightful faculty and staff to do it,” said Jeffrey Cass, UHV provost, vice president for academic affairs and SACSCOC liaison. “When the goal is to enrich students’ college experience, great ideas come forward.”

Jeffrey Cass

The five-year QEP calls for integrating the academic and social aspects of the university. It will start in the fall with four linked classes. Each year, more classes will be added until the program is at full capacity in 2019.

Each residential learning community will be supported by a team of two faculty members, as well as staff members from the offices of Student Success, Student Life and the Victoria College/UHV Library. A residential learning community consists of a group of 20 to 25 students taking a First-Year Seminar class linked to a core curriculum class and participating in events. In addition, every group of students will have opportunities to explore the connections between their academic and social lives as they take part in activities that go beyond the classroom and extend into the residence halls and the Victoria community.

In order to help extend classroom learning into the residence halls, UHV officials are designing a special area in Jaguar Suites for the residential learning communities. Called the Living and Learning Commons, the area will include a lounge for small discussions, high tech tables for teamwork and group meetings, and a viewing area for film screenings and discussions with guest speakers.

Uppinder Mehan

“Students who are new to the college experience often benefit academically and socially by being more engaged with each other, faculty and staff,” UHV Associate Provost Uppinder Mehan said. “Studies have consistently shown that this engagement results in higher grade-point averages and greater retention.”

The university saw positive results in spring 2013 when assistant professors Justin Bell and Beverly Tomek participated in a pilot learning communities’ project. Their linked philosophy and history classes focused on the subject of justice throughout the semester and included a required community-volunteer component.

“The students reported that it was eye opening to see justice from two different disciplinary angles, as well as in the classroom and the community” Mehan said. “They enjoyed the civic engagement, and some went above and beyond in their volunteering. We learned a lot from the pilot program and expect to see even greater results moving forward.”

This spring, UHV officials are focusing on preparing the Living and Learning Commons and selecting linked classes for the fall. Participating faculty members will receive training on various ideas, civic engagement, student portfolios and assessment.

“With the growth and success of this living-learning program, I think our students will get more out of their education, take a heavier credit-hour load, be more prepared for the workforce and ultimately become better civic participants in Victoria,” Castille said.

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.

Katy Walterscheidt 361-570-4342