USC presented its Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) on Tuesday in a virtual kickoff event.
The QEP, “Experience by Design,” aims to promote beyond the classroom experiences and engage student groups with low retention and graduation rates in those experiences. Such experiences include peer leadership, undergraduate research, internships, community service and study abroad.
"We want our students to see how their experiences here at the University of South Carolina connect to their personal, academic and their professional goals. Through a robust number of beyond the classroom experiences stemming from the curricular and co-curricular setting ... our students will be well prepared with the knowledge and skills that will lead to promising careers, service within their communities and curiosity as lifelong learners," university President Bob Caslen said.
The student groups Experience by Design will focus on include minority, Pell grant-eligible, transfer and male students.
"While we want all students to be engaged meaningfully in beyond the classroom experiences, we will be focusing our resources in supporting the student populations that we believe will be impacted most," Amber Fallucca, the director of the Quality Enhancement Plan and associate director for the Center for Integrative and Experiential Learning (CIEL), said.
The university plans to do this through grants and funding that will go towards supporting students, faculty and staff in seeking and creating beyond the classroom experiences.
The QEP is a part of the university’s reaffirmation accreditation review by The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
USC’s accreditation was put under review when Gov. Henry McMaster called for the board to vote on current university President Bob Caslen in 2019. SACSCOC characterized this as “undue influence by external persons or bodies” and a breach of their “Principle of Accreditation” standards.
SACSCOC also cited irregularities in the university's presidential search as a breach of their standards.
The University of South Carolina is working with four regional Palmetto College campuses for Experience by Design: Lancaster, Salkehatchie, Sumter and Union. Experience by Design will be spearheaded by the CIEL.
CIEL plans to utilize established infrastructure from the university's Graduation with Leadership Distinction Program for Experience by Design. It will also be hiring new staff, such as an outreach and assessment manager.
Experience by Design builds on USC's 2011 QEP, USC Connect, which was also introduced as part of an accreditation cycle.
"Our first QEP was so successful that there was really not a lot of debate about the importance of student engagement. No debate about the value of beyond the classroom experience, whether that be curricular or co-curricular," Sandra Kelly, vice provost and dean of undergraduate studies, said. "So, as we began our discussions, it was, 'Okay, what is the next step? How do we move forward?'"
Experience by Design also aligns with the university's recently established strategic plan, "For South Carolina: A Path to Excellence," Caslen said.
"As we seek to accomplish our vision to be the preeminent flagship university in the nation, we continue to be guided by our strategic plan, and we recognize the important role we have in the state as a member of this community and flagship for higher education. We are not only the University of South Carolina, but we are also the university for South Carolina," Caslen said.