Goals and Outcomes

In the fall of 2017, VSU adopted a new vision for itself – one in which the University committed itself to being a catalyst for regional comprehensive progress. This Strategic Plan lays the foundation for living up to that vision by creating a blueprint for increasing the number of graduates, developing more transformational and experiential learning opportunities for those graduates, and increasing the University’s impact on the region we serve. This plan reflects VSU’s commitment to diversity and inclusivity and to bringing a world-class education to all students. This plan similarly serves to increase faculty, staff, student, alumni, and supporter pride in the University, as it paves the way for the VSU family to work together to accomplish our most pressing goals, and thus, achieve our fullest potential as South Georgia’s higher education leader and flagship university.

To download a printable PDF of the strategic plan goals and outcomes, please click here.

Goal #1: Valdosta State University will increase retention, progression, and graduation rates through creating a campus culture focused on individual student success.

Outcome 1.1 – By fall 2018, in line with national best practices, VSU will implement a University-wide advising model with professional advisors working in conjunction with faculty as mentors within all academic colleges.

Completed Fall 2018

In order to accomplish this initiative and many others, VSU created the Division of Student Success in spring 2017 and hired Dr. Rodney Carr as the Vice President for Student Success in summer 2017. In fall 2017, after gathering expert feedback from the Deans’ Council, Council of Department Heads, and University Council, the Division of Student Success formed a model for full-time professional advising centers in all six of VSU’s academic colleges and the Honors College. This model included hiring an Executive Director for Advising, which was done in January 2018; establishing four additional College Advising Centers with directors; and hiring eleven new full-time advisors and two part-time advisors. The Advising Centers were activated in August 2018, and the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CELT) is conducting workshops to assist faculty in their role as mentors to students. 

Outcome 1.2 – By spring 2019, VSU will develop evidence-based responses to identify and address barriers to successful retention, progression, and graduation of students at the University.

Completed Spring 2019

Through research and statistical analysis, VSU developed a retention formula that identifies the top five factors that can have a positive influence on retaining students from their freshman to sophomore year. This formula and research have been integrated into the student sign-on portal, and the research has guided several strategies for outcome 1.3.

Advising Centers now advise students to complete the initial English and math in the first academic year. This is to address two of the five areas identified by the retention formula.

Mr. Rob Freidhoff worked with the Suspension Appeals committee and the professional advisors to design an intervention strategy for students who enter probation, and those identified as “at-risk” for probation.

The retention rate increased fall 2019 from 65% the previous year to 71% fall 2020. The four-year graduation rate increased by 2% during the 2019-20 academic year.

Outcome 1.3 – By spring 2019, VSU will complete a University-wide revision of its three-year Strategic Enrollment Management Plan that addresses barriers found in Outcome 1.2.

Completed Spring 2019

The revision of the University’s three-year Strategic Enrollment Plan has been completed through direct collaboration with the Division of Academic Affairs, the Division of Student Success, and the Division of Student Affairs. The plan sets forth a comprehensive approach to enrollment management, from admission to graduation. The plan also features several strategies to engage students both in and outside of the classroom. The plan is currently being implemented and contains assessment markers and data dashboards to allow each strategy of the plan to be evaluated. One such strategy is to replace the summer orientation process for new students with an 18-month transition period to further ensure student acclimation, retention, and success. 

Outcome 1.4 –By fall 2019, VSU will develop clear academic pathways for all undergraduate degree programs, publicize corresponding two-year rolling course schedules, and implement an annual review process to ensure that all posted information (e.g., catalog, DegreeWorks, website, etc.) remains accurate and up to date.

Completed Spring 2022

By November 2018, all undergraduate degree programs at VSU developed clear four-year pathways through their programs. These program maps are easily accessible on the University’s website. After an intensive process of “pressure-testing” using Visual Schedule Builder, many of the four-year maps were revised to correct some initial errors. This led to a careful review of the proposed fall 2019 schedules, which were revised based on the revised program maps, to ensure that all students could build complete schedules based on the maps. Two-year rolling schedules have been developed to coincide with the revised program maps. An annual review process that will keep all posted program information current and accurate has also been developed. Department heads are tasked with keeping the program maps and two-year rolling schedules up to date and associate deans are responsible for double checking these by pressure-testing schedules to ensure that we are offering schedules that reflect the program maps. 

Outcome 1.5 – VSU will attract, develop, and retain a quality and diverse workforce that promotes student success by forming a more outcomes-oriented training program for managers by spring 2019; completing a classification & compensation study for faculty and staff by fall 2019; creating a faculty workload model that is consistent with comparator norms by spring 2020; and connecting promotion & tenure, as well as funding to support research and High Impact Practices, to the values inherent in this plan by spring 2021.

Completed Summer 2022

In fall 2018, VSU created the Faculty Workload Model Task Force, and throughout the 2018-19 academic year, the task force gathered data from peer and aspirational institutions and surveyed departments to gain a clear understanding of the current state of faculty workload at VSU. The group developed a draft report, which was shared with faculty at a number of forums as well as the Deans’ Council and Faculty Senate. The final report of the task force was approved in spring 2019 by the Deans’ Council, provost, and president. Each of the six academic colleges and Odum Library developed workload documents consistent with the new University policy. These documents were finalized summer 2022. Revisions to the promotion and tenure process were made following changes to the Faculty Evaluation Model and revisions to post-tenure review necessitated by changes in BOR policy on Post-Tenure Review.

Additionally, several groups studied the current state of VSU’s experiential learning High Impact Practices and made recommendations, which were studied further during the 2019-20 academic year. As a direct outgrowth of this effort, the focus of our new Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) is experiential learning. A QEP pilot was completed during the 2021-22 academic year, resulting in many more experiential learning projects than projected. Connecting these efforts to promotion and tenure and workload are a focus of the college workload policies and revisions to existing promotion and tenure policies.

In 2018, Valdosta State University underwent a comprehensive classification and compensation study with the Carl Vinson Institute of Government (CVIOG) to review and recommend necessary changes to our classification system and salary structure, in order to increase our market competitiveness. As a result of the study, the University has been able to simplify the staff classification structure, ensure market/internal structure alignment, establish new minimum pay ranges, and implement an overall compensation philosophy as well as guiding principles for moving forward. The first of five proposed adjustments to employee pay was funded and paid in February 2020. The second adjustment was funded and paid in February 2021 and the third effective February 1, 2022. Subsequent years will be implemented as enrollment, and therefore funding, permit.

Human Resources developed and offered a new outcomes-oriented management training curriculum in fall 2019. All campus divisions participate together, and managers are grouped by manager level (Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3). This mandatory year-long program:

  • Creates a culture of coaching and ownership that enhances job performance, improves collaboration, and addresses conflicts in a timely manner.
  • Equips managers with the necessary skills and strategies in regard to legal issues, employee development, performance management, coaching, and progressive discipline.
  • Provides managers with best practices that will help ensure performance ratings are consistent across all divisions.
  • Establishes norms for a campus-wide customer service strategy that will increase service excellence and build on a student-centric culture at VSU.
  • Educates managers on effective budget management and search committee procedures.

Due to the shift to online learning and other challenges that arose with COVID-19 during the Spring 2020 semester, the Strategic Goal 1.5 Manager Training program continued into the 2020-21 academic year. As of March 29, 2022, 100% of managers have completed the training requirements.  Plans are being created to ensure that all new supervisors receive the training over the next fiscal year.

Additionally, the Division of Academic Affairs held workshops in summer 2019, 2020, and 2021 for deans, directors, and department heads. This included professional development in critical areas such as employment searches, workload, budget, and faculty evaluation.

Outcome 1.6 –By fall 2019, VSU will move to a new entrepreneurial model to fund summer schedule instruction and increase available seats in high-demand courses to meet the programmatic needs of both majors and non-majors as evidenced by a decrease in the number of courses with waitlists in excess of 25 students by 50% from the spring 2018 baseline.

Completed Summer 2019

As a result of regular discussions and planning with the Deans’ Council and Council of Department Heads, VSU created a new model for summer schedule instruction that was piloted during summer 2019. The new model encouraged an entrepreneurial approach to summer scheduling and led to a significant increase in summer enrollment (2019 credit hours up about 8% over summer 2018), with more courses offered to more students enrolled.  The model was also successful in summer 2020 (with headcount enrollment up about 5% and credit hour enrollment up about 3% over 2019). The task force will continue to refine the model, based on experience. 

Outcome 1.7 – By fall 2020, VSU will create a clear definition for “under-enrolled courses” and decrease the number of such courses by 25% from the fall 2017 baseline in order to focus existing resources on growing academic programs as evidenced by student demand and/or regional need.

In Progress

Each college has reviewed and offered suggestions for a University level guideline. Deans’ Council held an extensive discussion of the recommendations and determined a set of guidelines to be used across the University in July 2021. Specifically, it was determined that graduate courses enrolling fewer than 5 students, upper division undergraduate courses (3000- and 4000-level courses) enrolling fewer than 8 students and lower-division undergraduate courses (1000- and 2000-level courses) enrolling fewer than 10 students will be flagged as “under-enrolled”. However, tracking this requires a highly manual process for several reasons. First, enrollments must be captured on one or more set dates to ensure that we are making reasonable comparisons across semesters. Secondly, we have no automated process for combining enrollments in cross-listed courses (courses cross-listed across departments or across levels). Finally, we have no automated process for flagging (and removing from the count) courses that are offered as directed studies. These will require further study to avoid a very cumbersome manual process. 

Outcome 1.8 – By fall 2020, VSU will develop a new University-wide model for evaluating the quality of teaching that promotes excellence in both face-to-face and online modalities, and then implement that model in fall 2021.

Completed Spring 2022

To enhance the evaluation process and its effectiveness for both teachers and students, the Division of Information Technology reviewed a new evaluation software package, SmartEvals, in fall 2018. In addition to replacing the existing evaluation tool, SmartEvals allows students to complete Surveys of Instruction (SOI) on their mobile devices, with the goal of increasing response rates. The software has been reviewed by multiple campus constituencies, including the Faculty Senate leadership team, and was tested with a small group of faculty members during spring 2019. IT implemented the software campus-wide during summer 2019.

In spring 2020, the Faculty Senate approved a shorter list of evaluation questions, which was implemented in summer 2020. A Faculty Senate committee recommended broader changes to VSU’s model of faculty evaluation, which the full Senate sent back to committee in November 2020. A new Faculty Evaluation Model was approved by the Faculty Senate in spring 2021. Individual departments and Colleges are finalizing rubrics for the five-tier scales for each area of evaluation. This new model will be implemented with the 2022 evaluation cycle.

As part of the revisions to the post-tenure review process and faculty annual review that were necessitated by changes in BOR policy, a faculty-administrative task force proposed revisions to the evaluation of faculty that imbeds student success activities in all three areas of faculty evaluation (teaching, scholarship and service). These changes were approved by the Faculty Senate in spring 2022 and will be implemented in a phased-in fashion starting with the 2022 evaluation cycle.

Outcome 1.9 – By fall 2022, VSU will increase freshmen-to-sophomore-year retention by 13% over the fall 2017 baseline of 67%, increase on-time progression by 10% over the fall 2017 baseline of 26%, and increase the University’s six-year graduation rate for all students by 10% over the 2017 baseline of 36%.

Progress Made – Unable to complete due to pandemic

The Student Success Council, in conjunction with numerous other groups within the VSU community, has been studying this issue intensely and making changes to VSU processes to promote student progression and retention. Notable actions thus far include pressure-testing the four-year program maps for each major and revising maps and schedules accordingly to reduce course conflicts and ensure course availability. In addition, working with the Faculty Senate, VSU revised its GPA calculation policy, bringing it more in line with the University’s peers and reducing the penalty for students who repeat courses.

While work is ongoing, VSU is clearly seeing early positive outcomes. In fall 2019, year-to-year retention rose 4.8% over the prior year, and 6-year graduation rates similarly jumped 5.1%. The four-year graduation rate increased by 2% over the 2018-19 academic year.

Owing to the many challenges to retention arising out of the disruption from the COVID pandemic, retention dropped significantly in fall 2021. During 2021-22, all departments are operationalizing faculty mentoring of majors in an effort to better connect with students.

Goal #2: Valdosta State University will increase student participation in expanded transformational and experiential opportunities through implementing high impact and best practices focused on evolving student needs.

Outcome 2.1 – By spring 2018, VSU will establish a faculty-led task force on cross-disciplinary experiences to identify and evaluate such opportunities for future launch. By spring 2019, the task force will report back to the provost with recommendations for immediate opportunities for implementation by fall 2020.

Completed Spring 2022

The faculty-led task force was formed in fall 2018 and immediately began examining current VSU practices and considering recommendations for specific High Impact Practices (HIPs) that the University should implement. The group also examined the processes and potential costs needed to support faculty in expanding VSU’s HIPs. The task force completed its work and submitted its final report to the provost in spring 2019. A follow-up task force made further recommendations in summer 2019. VSU is now looking for opportunities to implement the task force’s recommendations by fall 2020 and is considering options for the establishment of the Mary Virginia Terry Center for Experiential Learning.

A Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP)task force was formed during the 2019–20 academic year, recommending VSU’s next QEP. The QEP was approved by SACSCOC in 2021 and is focused on experiential learning. An interim QEP coordinator and Steering Committee were appointed to lead the experiential learning effort and many faculty members have been enthusiastic participants. The new QEP has had a very successful pilot year during 2021–22. The QEP Steering Committee has helped faculty to develop more than thirty experiential learning experiences for inclusion in the pilot year.

Outcome 2.2 – By spring 2019, VSU will develop a system to track and assess success in High Impact Practices as identified by the Association of American Colleges & Universities, such as common intellectual experiences, undergraduate research, global learning, and internships, within the University and against comparative and aspirational competitors.

Completed Spring 2020

University administration has learned that the task is more complex than originally thought due to the many different types of High Impact Practices (HIPs) that are recommended and the various campus departments that deliver HIPs. The goal is to start with an inventory of HIPs and assess how they are currently being tracked while also recording this information in a single place. Additionally, other strategic outcomes, such as experiential learning across the curriculum and a student’s first-year experience, are HIPs in development where tracking outcomes need to be finalized. The Deans’ Council is reviewing potential national benchmarks for HIPs, including the most recent results from the National Survey of Student Engagement, the Association of American Colleges & Universities’ listing of HIPs, and the requirements for the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification, which articulates characteristics of curricular and co-curricular community engagement.

A survey of existing HIPs delivered outside the classroom was conducted in September 2019. The results show there is little activity taking place, but it is being compiled with academic affairs inventory to establish a full list of existing HIPs.

Outcome 2.3 – By spring 2020, each undergraduate degree program will identify a menu of experiential learning opportunities and require that students select and complete at least one in order to graduate.

Integrated into the new Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP)

The University is continuing to identify experiential learning opportunities for undergraduate students, and the creation of the Mary Virginia Terry Center for Experiential Learning will assist greatly in the completion of this outcome.

The academic colleges have proposed a draft of potential experiential learning activities for review. This was shared with Deans’ Council in spring 2020 and with the Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) Steering Committee.

Departments have been studying this issue and were on track to complete this by the end of spring 2020 but were delayed by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The QEP coordinator and Steering Committee have to date identified more than thirty instances of experiential learning experiences during the pilot year, far exceeding the target number. We have now completed an internal search for a QEP Coordinator, who has been charged with fully implementing the QEP and thus, expanding experiential learning at VSU.

Outcome 2.4 – By fall 2020, VSU will complete a housing master plan to assess existing housing inventory, occupancy projections, and competitive housing options, and provide a recommendation regarding the future needs of housing inventory at the University.

Completed Spring 2022

Students prefer suite or apartment style housing.  However, Valdosta State University has the largest number of traditional style (bathrooms in hallway) residential beds than peer comprehensive universities in the University System of Georgia. Langdale Hall is our largest traditional style bathroom hall, and also has considerable repairs and replacement needs such as HVAC and Elevators.

All Housing Public Private Venture (PPV) projects have been refinanced to take advantage of best market interest rates and eliminate the escalating repayment structure originally established.  A thorough study of existing housing inventory, maintenance and repair, and housing pro forma and operating budgets led to a final plan being presented to the University Council in Spring 2020, as follows:  neither renovating nor rebuilding Langdale Hall with PPV bonds was financially feasible, as the resulting cost of student rent would exceed market thresholds and also USG debt guidelines.  However, even if Langdale is taken offline in 2026 (coinciding with the re-bid of campus dining services, which is heavily impacted by bed count), Auxiliary reserve funding should be sufficient to make spa bathroom renovations to Brown, Lowndes and Patterson Halls, in three phases.

Brown Hall restrooms were renovated in 2021. The other two halls will be renovated in subsequent fiscal years, as long as occupancy remains stable and funding is available.  Additional bonded projects are paid in full in 2030 at which time taking on additional debt for housing construction can be considered.

Outcome 2.5 – VSU will increase the total annual duplicated headcount at all student engagement activities, such as those offered by faculty and/or academic departments, student life, recreation, fine arts, diversity & inclusion, athletics, Greeks, and registered student organizations, by 3% annually over the fiscal year 2018 baseline, while also increasing total annual unduplicated headcount at such programs by 2% annually over the fiscal year 2018 baseline through the end of the strategic plan period in spring 2022.

In Progress – Delayed due to pandemic

To track the University’s progress in this initiative, the Athletic Department received new scanners and has begun scanning student participation at all home athletic events, even non-ticketed events. The College of the Arts faculty and staff have also been trained on scanning student participation at theatre and dance performances and art exhibits. Data shows that the University met and exceeded the FY19 goal for this outcome.

As of June 2019, the unduplicated headcount for student engagement was 6,980, representing 109% of the FY19 goal of 6,352. In addition, the total duplicated headcount at the same time was 62,532, representing 136% of the FY19 goal of 45,740.

As of June 2020, the unduplicated headcount for student engagement was 6,552, representing 100% of the FY20 goal of 6,543. In addition, the total duplicated headcount at the same time was 58,791, representing 126% of the FY20 goal of 46,655. On March 13, 2020, the campus was closed under state-wide stay-home orders during the COVID-19 pandemic. VSU met this goal even though engagement was significantly reduced for the second half of Spring 2020 semester.

As of June 2021, the unduplicated headcount for student engagement was 5,596, representing 83% of the FY21 goal of 6,673. In addition, the total duplicated headcount at the same time was 40,738, representing 84% of the FY21 goal of 48,054. This decline in student engagement was reflective of college student behavior on campus during the pandemic and the limitations placed on social interaction for personal safety. 

As of June 2022, the unduplicated headcount for student engagement was 5,961, representing 87% of the FY22 goal of 6,806. In addition, the total duplicated headcount at the same time was 54,627, representing 110% of the FY22 goal of 49,495. Fiscal year 22 was the first academic year with a return to fully face-to-face engagement without modifications from the pandemic. While we saw fewer unique students engaged, likely a result of fewer fee paying students enrolled, the duplicated headcount returned to engagement levels that far exceeded the goal.

Goal #3: Valdosta State University will increase community and regional impact through leading development in and serving as a resource for industry, health care, arts, education, athletics, and other changing economic regional needs that support the growth of South Georgia and the communities our students will serve.

Outcome 3.1 – By spring 2018, VSU will conduct a comprehensive assessment of current community outreach activities and launch an external marketing campaign to educate the community about services and impact already offered.

Completed spring 2019

VSU’s newly created Center for South Georgia Regional Impact has compiled an extensive list of VSU’s community-based programs, and an external marketing campaign is currently underway. 

Outcome 3.2 – VSU will establish The Center for South Georgia Regional Impact and hire an Executive Director for the center. By fall 2018, the Executive Director will: 1) compile a content-area expert database including VSU faculty, staff, and administrators, and 2) a database of key contacts in the fields of government, economic development, education, healthcare, and the arts for each county in VSU’s service area. By spring 2020, the Executive Director will: 1) compile an initial list of issues confronting communities in South Georgia and will connect those issues to faculty, staff, and student expertise, 2) prepare a quarterly report that outlines areas of concern from VSU’s service area and the outcomes offered by VSU assets, 3) prepare an annual report of the impact that VSU has made in our 41-county service area, highlighting specific problems that VSU identified or was brought to VSU by the community and the specific solutions offered by VSU experts, and 4) work with Academic Affairs leadership to create a robust “Study Away” program that will be managed within each college with the goal of providing students with service learning opportunities by working with area businesses, non-profit organizations, and other entities primarily within VSU’s 41-county service area.

Completed spring 2022

In August 2018, VSU established the Center for South Georgia Regional Impact and hired Darrell Moore as the Executive Director. He immediately began meeting with the Deans’ Council and the Executive Committees of every VSU college, as well as business and community leaders and state legislators throughout VSU’s 41-county service area. In its first year of operation, the Center has partnered with VSU faculty to initiate more than 60 projects with local businesses and governments and other entities. The Center is planning future projects that utilize the academic strengths of VSU faculty, staff, and students to assist in our region.

A major project of the Center through 2020 was working with leaders across VSU’s 41-county service area to achieve an accurate count in the U.S. 2020 Census. According to the Census Bureau, each person counted is worth approximately $2,300 per person counted per year in the form of government investment due to population. This is a project of major importance to the region. The Center has been recognized by local, state, and national leaders for the work being done and is leading the way by developing marketing materials that are targeted to various demographic groups, including school children, migrant workers, minorities, business owners, and more. The Center is also working closely with both the Georgia Complete Count Committee as well as all the Complete Count Committees throughout the 41-county service area.

As of February 2021, the Center has expanded its number of project engagements to more than 100. These projects have engaged faculty and students in creating marketing plans, feasibility studies, business plans and similar projects for private businesses as well as local governments, school systems, chambers of commerce, and industrial authorities. The Center has added a part-time support employee and a graduate assistant to help with workflow. 

Outcome 3.3 – By spring 2019, each college will have an industry/community advisory board comprised of industry/discipline leaders (preferably alumni) who reflect the diversity of the region and will provide input into course and program development to ensure that VSU students are well prepared to enter the workforce, graduate school, or professional school.

Completed Spring 2021

As of February 2021, each college has an advisory board of some type to engage on issues related to meeting the needs of the work force, scholarship programs, and college specific endowments.  Work continues to expand these advisory boards to encompass all academic disciplines within each college. 

Outcome 3.4 – By spring 2021, VSU will complete a renovation of Ashley Cinemas to provide enhanced space for the theatre and dance programs and to create an improved and more visible performance space for Peach State Summer Theatre and other high-value cultural opportunities.

In Progress – Incorporated into Strategic Plan 2027, Outcome 3.4

In July 2018, conceptual designs were prepared in cooperation with a theatre consultant group and reviewed by the College of the Arts. The $18 million proposal was supported by the University System of Georgia (USG) as part of its FY20 capital request, with the understanding that $5 million would be privately raised.

VSU received an appropriation of $1.3M in planning money for this project in the FY 2021 state budget allocation.  Construction funds of 12.4M have been approved.  Design is currently in process with the help of USG, Architect and Contractor.  The VSU Foundation is tasked with securing $5M in private gifts in support of this project and to date has received $2.17M in funds and is working on a plan to raise the remainder by the end of 2022.  As of May 20, 2022, the VSU Foundation has received gifts totaling $3,353,911. An additional gift of $1,000,000 has been committed and will be received summer 2022 (awaiting construction contract). In addition, a gift of $900,000 is expected later this summer. Once these outstanding gifts are realized, the VSU Foundation will have received $5,253,911.