1. Advising Changes - In response to multi-year student exit survey results () the Department Head made significant personnel and organizational changes to the Biology Advising Center in 2004. These changes resulted in improved exit surveys the following year. The Department continues to assess the performance of the Advising Center and carefully reviews student exit surveys and seeks student input on a regular basis. Again in 2009, we have made significant personnel changes and are working to better improve our advising efforts. The faculty are providing a larger role in advising majors, leading to a stronger connection between faculty and student. Efforts to improve our service in advising to our undergraduate students include:
• Formation of a Biology Advisory Council
• Monthly meeting between the Biology Undergraduate Student Senator and the Department Head
• Monthly meeting of faculty advisors, Biology Advising Center Staff, Administrative Assistant and the Department Head
• Biweekly meetings between the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Administrative Assistant, and Department Head
• Focus on collecting assessment data on enrollment, retention and graduation rates, professional and graduate school acceptance rates
• Emphasis on providing training of Biology Advising Center Staff to improve skills in web design and database management
2. Physiology Curriculum and Teaching Changes - In response to multi-year student exit surveys results (Outcomes Data) and curriculum self assessment efforts, changes were made in the Physiology course offerings beginning in 2004. The changes are:
• Adoption of name and content changes for the "Comparative Animal Physiology Laboratory" course to "Animal Physiology Laboratory" and expansion of its offering to twice a year vs once a year.
• Recruitment of a new instructor for the Comparative Animal Physiology course.
• Creation of a new Physiology faculty position funded by Tier II tuition funds. After a year- long national search, this position was filled in August 2004.
• In Fall 2009, we welcomed a new faculty member specializing in Ecological Physiology.
3. Capstone courses
Biology Program: Based on the information gleaned from the current Evolutionary Biology course (see Outcomes Data), we are now exploring additional ways to modify and improve the capstone course to better serve student needs, and to better evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the curriculum in the core Biology Program. Because of the large number of majors in the Department, we are particularly interested in providing multiple, smaller sections of the course each semester, which would greatly improve our ability to assess student depth of knowledge, oral communication skills, and writing skills.
- Biology I and II (freshman series) reduced from 10 to 8 credits by elimination of the recitation based on course evaluations.
- Co-op class opened up to all biology related fields (not just pre-health) based on student feedback.
- Public Health Education emphasis electives in HEP courses changed after a reevaluation of course content and student comments.
- Public Health Industrial Hygiene calculus and organic chemistry requirements reduced based on graduate survey information and comparison with peer institutions.
- Biol 2200/Genetics moved to upper division (Biol 3060) based on evaluation of its content level and student input.
- Application dates of College of Science and Department of Biology scholarships coordinated and advertised together to increase student awareness. Student comments in the past indicated that they weren't aware of the separate awards.
- Several special topics courses (Biol 4750/Biol 6750) were offered to accommodate student requests for learning opportunities in specialized areas.
5. Planning for the future
In an effort to improve the educational and research opportunities of our students, the Department is in the process of initiating the following changes and improvements:
- Restructure and update introductory biology laboratories
- Introduce capstone experience
- Introduce increased writing program into focal courses such as Genetics (BIOL 3060)
- Continue to pursue internationalization opportunities in coursework and research for our majors and minors in partnership with the College of Business
4. Uses of Assessment Data (summary)
The Department Head, Biology Advisory Council, and Curriculum Committee use various assessment data to better understand the strengths and weaknesses of the Department. We strive to build on our strengths and have developed strategic plans that set us on a trajectory of success. Without knowing our weaknesses, we are at a disadvantage to correct these. Through careful review of assessment data, we can better understand our weaknesses and make necessary changes to strengthen these areas.