Quality Enhancement: Plan Co-Lin is working on ‘Write Path’

WESSON – Copiah-Lincoln Community College is working on a Quality Enhancement Plan, or QEP, to put students on the “Write Path” to higher education.

With the upcoming 2015 reaffirmation of accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Co-Lin has chosen to focus its efforts on improving writing skills. The plan of action will be presented before the SACS Commission on Colleges this coming September.

In order for a college to give financial and federal aid to students and in order for degrees offered by the institution to be accredited, every college must be reviewed and comply with SACS-COC board national standards.

A critical part of the SACS accreditation process is choosing an area of learning to improve, and Co-Lin has decided on the Write Path learning initiative, which emphasizes writing skills.

When the college began researching more than a year ago, institutional data was reviewed and input from students, faculty, staff and community stakeholders was solicited by surveying faculty and staff, as well as students, to compile feedback on what educational areas needed attention. Along with the research data collected through the Co-Lin staff, the decision to choose writing as a student-learning topic was a clear one to QEP committee members.

Jeff Posey, director of Institutional Planning and Research on the Wesson Campus, said community colleges across the nation are putting more of an emphasis on writing to help graduates’ transition to larger and more competitive four-year universities and Co-Lin is not an exception.

“We saw survey data that indicated writing as an area in need of improvement,” said Posey.

Posey also added that a firm consensus on choosing the topic came from multiple meetings and after committees deliberated on the data and various topic suggestions.

Although the QEP is still in the developmental phases, Posey listed some possible results of the program’s outcome, such as training courses for faculty, offering intensive writing classes and opening a college writing studio on campus in the future.

The writing studio would be a place students could go for additional support if they needed more information on essay development, punctuation, style and other conventions of standard written English.

Posey said Co-Lin faculty members are already getting involved by educating themselves on more ways to incorporate writing into their classes and by visiting other colleges’ writing centers across the state such as those at Mississippi College, the University of Mississippi, Alcorn State and others.

Jane Hulon, vice president of Instructional Services, and Stephanie Duguid, assistant dean of Academic Instruction, and Posey accompanied faculty and staff on most of these visits to learn about best practices being used at the university level.

Teachers and staff also are preparing during summer hours to put more of an emphasis on assignments involving more writing.

Although all plans are still in the developmental phases, Posey mentioned a possible location for a writing center on the Wesson campus in the Mutton building in the Internet cafe, but if that location is selected it would only be temporary.

“We are looking at a lot of other colleges’ writing centers in general terms and looking for what would be best and appropriate for Co-Lin,” said Posey.

Posey also added the Internet cafe would be an ideal first location because of the Mutton building’s proximity to the Evelyn W. Oswalt Library.

Hulon said, “We are still in the communication stage and want to publicize the message in as many ways as we can to generate interest.”

In September, the QEP Leadership committee, led by QEP Director Rhonda Tilly, will give a presentation to the SACS-COC Board. Following the presentation, the committee will answer questions.

If the board approves the QEP, the plan will be implemented in stages beginning in the following spring semester and will be in effect for five years.

Co-Lin President Ronnie Nettles approved and endorsed the project as one that addresses a strong topic and will benefit Co-Lin students.

“I feel very confident that whatever guidance and advice the SACS board gives us will only help improve the program and make it stronger,” Nettles said, adding he looks forward to seeing the Write Path program implemented next year.