Southeast Team Develops AQIP Project Aimed at Enhancing Employee Satisfaction


Understanding and enhancing employee satisfaction and well-being is the goal of an Academic Quality Improvement Program (AQIP) project to begin at Southeast Missouri State University in January.

The project is the result of the work of a Southeast team that participated in a Higher Learning Commission (HLC) Strategy Forum Nov. 12-15 with a goal of answering the question, “How can we foster a campus environment that values all employees?” Specifically, the team explored ideas for enhancing employee recruitment and retention so all faculty and staff feel welcomed, respected and appreciated through enhanced dialogue around inclusion and diversity.

By reflecting on the feedback from the University’s 2014 Systems Portfolio and through conversation, critical thinking and action planning, the team considered several different approaches toward addressing this question.

Team members included Southeast President Carlos Vargas; Dr. Bethany Alden-Rivers, associate provost for academic effectiveness and student success; Dr. Debbie Below, vice president for enrollment management and student success; Sonia Rucker, assistant to the president for equity and diversity and dean of students; Alissa Vandeven, director of Human Resources; Rhonda Weller-Stilson, associate dean and director of the Earl and Margie Holland School of Visual and Performing Arts; James Williams, assistant director of Educational Access Programs; and Dr. Diane Wood, professor of biology.

As the Strategy Forum came to an end, the team agreed that addressing this topic on a systemic level would be the most impactful and sustainable approach, Alden-Rivers said, thus, the project’s title, “Developing a data-informed process for understanding and enhancing employee satisfaction and well-being.”

 Alden-Rivers says the University collects data about faculty satisfaction and well-being through the Higher Education Research Institute’s (HERI) Faculty Survey, but it does not currently have a systematic process for using these data to enhance the faculty experience. Additionally, the University does not have a similar data collection instrument for non-faculty.

The goal of the action project is to create a process that uses current and new data collection instruments that provide comparable data for all working groups and subgroups within each working group. By having a more inclusive instrument, the University can develop targeted, actionable insights into employee satisfaction and well-being. Team members say this is a valuable starting point for understanding and enhancing the ways in which all employees are heard, understood and valued.

“The HLC Strategy Forum provided an excellent opportunity for conversations amongst a diverse group of Southeast representatives. I found the dialogue to be valuable in understanding different perspectives between faculty and staff,” Weller-Stilson said.

Williams added, “The Higher Learning Commission’s Strategy Forum was a great learning experience. I feel that we are in the beginning steps to make this University a community in which all employees feel valued.”

The Higher Learning Commission is the regional accrediting body for Southeast Missouri State University. The University is affiliated with the HLC as part of its Academic Quality Improvement Program. As part of the AQIP Pathway, the University operates on an eight-year continuous improvement cycle that includes strategy forums, action projects, systems portfolios, feedback from peers, feedback from the HLC and comprehensive evaluations.

The action project will run at Southeast through November 2018.

The Strategy Forum was a three-day event for institutions that participate in HLC’s AQIP Pathway. Normally, teams of eight to 10 individuals from each institution attend the Strategy Forum whose purpose is to engage in facilitated conversation and action planning around a pressing issue for each institution. Forum participants leave the event with an action project to take back to their institution.