Center of Excellence

Draft Copy (Marine Science comments/edits 11/25/02)

Definition of “Center of Excellence”

A “center of excellence” is an exemplary academic program that has distinguished itself as a niche market for the University. It promotes innovative research, teaching, and learning practices that establish it as a leader in the region and beyond. Because of its strategic location and/or the absence of similar programs within the region, the center is uniquely positioned to be a leader in (1) conducting nationally-recognized research and forging partnerships to serve community needs of the region, (2) helping to shape related public policies, (3) enriching the practice of teaching in the discipline, and (4) attracting and retaining students who will earn graduate degrees and become contributors to the discipline. A program designated as a “Center of Excellence” is positioned to spearhead the University’s efforts to become one of the great universities of its size in the region because it meets the following criteria:

  • It has accreditation or seeks re-accreditation when appropriate.
  • It has a highly qualified faculty engaged in scholarly research and publications, creative teaching, and service to the community.
  • It attracts eminent scholars to bring new levels of scholarship and skills to the campus and to raise the University’s status among its regional and national peers (e.g., visiting lecturers, faculty exchange and the creation of chairs of excellence).
  • It has a well-balanced and flexible curriculum that encourages interdisciplinary learning and practical training.
  • It has high quality facilities and technologies for teaching and research.
  • It has a qualified staff for facilities operations, project management, clerical and record keeping, fiscal accountability.
  • It creates partnerships with businesses, governmental entities, and other universities to advance knowledge and research by.

1. Facilitating collaborative research and academic exchanges (e.g., symposia, conferences, workshops, journals, networking/Internet linkages).

2. Actively engages in rigorous, systematic, and hypothesis-based research to increase knowledge, serve community needs, and meet educational objectives.

  • It implements student-centered, active learning with diverse pedagogical approaches to teaching, research, and learning styles while providing student internships, and collaborative research opportunities and employment for faculty and students.
  • It facilitates the acquisition of public and private funding and maximizes the leveraging of such funds by applying

1. established policies and procedures to generate and allocate resources.

2. Generating or providing such resources for seed money for grants for faculty, staff, and students.

3. Encouraging travel to meetings to develop collaboration and new funding sources.

  • It addresses issues of diversity to ensure access and equity for all groups of students via several avenues (e.g., scholarships, financial assistance, online or distributed education, and other requisite student services to promote access, equity, and retention).
  • It uses an array of marketing strategies to publicize its programs, projects, and activities.

It surveys the needs of its stakeholders by periodically evaluating and assessing program effectiveness (e.g., curriculum, faculty productivity, responsiveness to needs of the region, enrollment and retention of majors, graduation rates, tracer studies of graduates, work force needs within the discipline) through surveys and advisory committees.

Having an academic program designated as a “center of excellence” is a prestigious honor for personnel associated with the program. It enhances the portfolio of the faculty and staff and validates the quality of the students’ experiential learning. In addition to those intrinsic benefits, the designation has several extrinsic benefits for stakeholders:

  • It offers alternatives and priorities for strategic planning, to institutional budget redirection
  • It provides release time from teaching loads, awarded at the discretion of the department chair, to implement special programs and projects sponsored by the center
  • It recommends additional library acquisitions to support the center’s programs, projects, and activities
  • It offers flexible curriculum opportunities
  • It offers scholarships and fellowships to attract students identified in recruitment
  • It offers “Seed” money to “jump start” center projects.

A center’s status of excellence shall be reviewed every five years by both internal and external evaluators (evaluators and instruments to be determined).