Strategic Plan for the Campus Climate Study
Campus climate is defined as the attitudes, feelings and perceptions of individuals about the campus community in which students, faculty and staff interact. The National Institute of Independent Colleges & Universities states that, "campus climate is the total effect of the environment – institutional and community - that influences the experience of those who work and study at the college or university...campus climate is about perception - about how it feels to be in that community, not simply what happens" (NIICU, 1991).
A climate study is a tool that enables the collection of data to provide a clearer understanding of how community members perceive a college and how they react to those perceptions at a specific point in time. A climate study can stimulate dialogue, provide longitudinal data for student assessment, and help institutions clarify their image as well as better communicate their unique identity (Robinson-Armstrong).
The fundamental purpose of the St. John Fisher College climate study is to gather information about attitudes and perceptions from all segments of the campus community to inform future decisions that will result in all students completing their degree programs as efficiently and as richly as possible and to support faculty and staff in their work with students. This climate study is intended as a step in an ongoing process of assessment, recommendations and changes to strengthen Fisher. It will contribute to establishing an information-rich decision-making process at the College. This study reflects part of the College's effort to promote student success in an increasingly diverse environment and recognizes the important roles of faculty and staff at the College.
During the 2007/08 academic year, faculty, staff and students of the Campus Diversity Advisory Board (CDAB) explored the possibility of initiating a campus climate study and met with different constituents on campus. As a result of these discussions, the Student Government Association passed a resolution during the Spring of 2008 in support of the climate study. The President and Board of Trustees endorsed the climate study as part of the Fiscal 2009 budget approval process and the Robinson Consulting Group (RCG) was chosen to administer the study.
Dr. Donald Bain, President, has made the following charge to the Climate Study Steering Committee: St. John Fisher College seeks to continue its strong commitment to tolerance, inclusion and diversity. The College's mission statement declares that, "...we prepare individuals for lives of intellectual, professional, and civic integrity in which diversity and service to others are valued and practiced." Therefore, the climate study should examine the current state of the College to identify issues, challenges and opportunities the College faces. Recommendations derived from analysis of the climate study should identify opportunities to move the College forward and be integrated into the College's overall strategic plan as part of our effort to fulfill the College's mission. The climate study report should address what the College can do to strengthen its commitment to maintain an inclusive, tolerant and diverse environment that supports student success as well as identify benchmark measures that can be assessed over time.
The climate study process officially began during Spring 2008 when campus community members were invited to participate through email messages and at the President's Spring 2008 Forum. The President asked the Vice President for Student Affairs & Diversity Initiatives to form a Steering Committee to manage the climate study. The Steering Committee was constituted from among those who expressed interest in the climate study process. At this time, the Steering Committee includes the following persons:
- Christine Birnie, faculty member, Wegmans School of Pharmacy
- Bruce Blaine, faculty member, School of Arts and Sciences
- Rick DeJesús-Rueff, Vice President for Student Affairs & Diversity Initiatives
- Barbara Duffy, staff member, Human Resources
- Michelle Erklenz-Watts, faculty member, Wilson School of Education
- Jennifer Granger, staff member, Athletics Department
- Ruth Harris, faculty member, Office of Multicultural Affairs and Diversity Programs
- Liz Lachance, staff member, Institutional Research
- Matt Lengen, student, Student Government Association President
- Eileen Lynd-Balta, faculty member, School of Arts and Sciences
- Karyl Mammano, faculty member, Bittner School of Business
- David Pate, Dean, School of Arts and Sciences
- Karen Reifenstein, faculty member, Wegmans School of Nursing
- Miesha Roberts, student, Equestrian Club Member
- Talia Rodriguez, student, SJFC Sustained Dialogue Moderator
- Gerry Rooney, Senior Vice President for Enrollment Management & Planning
- Yantee Slobert, staff member, Office of Multicultural Affairs and Diversity Programs
Composition of the Steering Committee reflects efforts to achieve broad representation from throughout our campus community while maintaining a manageable Committee size. Additional student member(s) will be added to the Steering Committee to augment student representation when students return to campus for the fall semester. As other specific needs are identified, the Steering Committee will invite additional community members whose knowledge and expertise may appropriately address the function of task forces that will be created.
The Steering Committee, working with the RCG, will take the lead role in formulating the timeline for the climate study and organizing all aspects of the project (e.g., construction of the survey instruments, report preparation and distribution, etc.). Other steps the Steering Committee will take to plan and implement the campus climate study include reviewing the literature related to campus climate studies. Existing data available through surveys (e.g., HERI, CIRP, EBI, etc.) and other reporting mechanisms at the College (e.g., enrollment reports, staffing reports, etc.) will also be reviewed by the Steering Committee.
In the fall of 2008, several focus groups will be organized from a cross-section of students, faculty, and staff. Two outside consultants will be on campus on October 27 and 28 to meet with the focus groups. At that time, focus groups will be presented with prompts that encourage open dialogue about any aspect of the campus climate that affects the learning, teaching and working environment. The RCG will analyze the focus group data to identify themes and issues which will be further explored on a written survey instrument that will be distributed in February 2009 to all students, faculty, and staff. Internal and external survey development expertise will be utilized in the construction of the climate study survey.
To insure confidentiality of all responses by campus community members, all data gathered via the focus groups and the survey will be collected directly by the RCG consultant. All raw data will be housed by the RCG at the University of Michigan until the climate study is completed. The Steering Committee will receive coded reports from the RCG consultant at the University of Michigan which will protect the confidentiality of the responses provided by individuals who participate in the focus groups and those who complete the survey. To further assure confidentiality of survey responses, data collected from respondents in any sample that is too small will not be utilized by the RCG or the Steering Committee.
When the survey analysis is completed, the College will receive from the RCG a set of tables and analyses based on the themes that emerged from the survey. Pertinent findings and analysis based on higher education research literature will be included. This information will form the basis for further discussion and formulation of recommendations to improve the campus climate. Recommendations prepared by the Steering Committee will be shared with the campus community for further comment and feedback prior to being formally submitted to the President.
After the climate study is completed, RCG will provide the raw data to the College. The data will arrive as summary data initially and raw data will not be received if it is identifiable to a specific individual.
The President of the College will inform the community of the draft report and activities of the climate study committee in a manner similar to that used to report on Board of Trustee meetings. As appropriate, the President will assign responsibility to respond to the results and recommendations to the appropriate administrators, staff, faculty committees, and student government groups.
The Steering Committee will insure that a Recommendation Implementation Committee is constituted to monitor and follow-up on climate study recommendations during a five year period after the study's completion. This Recommendation Implementation Committee will be charged with keeping the President, trustees and campus community informed about progress in addressing recommendations from the climate study through brief annual progress reports.
Phase I, June – October, 2008: Fact Finding & Focus Groups:
- Review of existing institutional data sets.
- Campus Climate Steering Committee will determine the best design, composition and logistics for focus groups.
- Provide email list of potential focus group participants to RCG consultant at the University of Michigan.
- Communication about focus groups.
- Conduct focus groups (October 27 & 28, 2008).
Phase II, January, 2009: Development of Survey Instrument:
- Survey tool development.
- Communication about survey tool.
- An email list of potential climate study survey participants will be forwarded to RCG consultant at the University of Michigan.
- Develop and implement an invitation process to encourage participation by all members of the campus community in the survey process.
- Completion of the climate survey instrument.
Phase III, February 2009: Survey Implementation:
- Review and pilot test with small group of faculty/staff/students.
- Conduct climate study survey.
Phase IV, May – September, 2009: Development and Presentation of report:
- The RCG will provide to the College a preliminary report.
- The Steering Committee will organize task forces to assist in reviewing and preparing a report about climate study outcomes.
- The Steering Committee will analyze the preliminary report with the President.
- Draft report for trustees and campus community.
- Present draft report to campus community and provide a feedback process for additional community member input.
- Prepare final report that incorporates recommendations received from campus community feedback along with recommendations for actions that the College might take to improve the campus climate for all community members.
- The Steering Committee will review and prioritize recommendations based on the perceived urgency of the recommendation and forward that information to the College's Senior Staff.
- The Senior Staff will determine how best to address the recommendations through its regular budgeting and planning activities.