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Amy Copley Tilly, Craven Community College

One acronym strikes fear into many in the south-QEP. The QEP or Quality Enhancement Plan is a requirement for reaffirmation of accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). This is how one college, with NACADA 's help, survived and thrived during its QEP journey.

The QEP is 'a carefully designed and focused course of action that addresses a well-defined topic or issues related to enhancing student learning' (Commission on Colleges, 2004, p. 21). SACS emphasizes that the development of the QEP must be broad-based, the topic should be creative and vital, and the project must be implemented over the long term with a five year impact report.

Craven Community College in New Bern, North Carolina began its QEP discussions in 2004. From the beginning, the college was dedicated to a grassroots initiative; the QEP committee included faculty and staff representatives from all areas of the college. The QEP Committee used a model of participative change similar to Toyota 's, as described by Kennedy (2003), who emphasized the knowledge and power of the workforce. In this model, leadership defines goals and allows the workforce, the real experts, to define and meet the challenges. This leads to quicker buy-in, although it requires an administration that trusts its workers; organization leaders transform from order-givers to participants in learning. The QEP Committee, composed of worker stakeholders from all areas of the college, was the expert team who made decisions based on information gathered at group sessions held throughout the college.

Analysis of focus group data (600 comments from 150 people), a student survey, and Institutional Effectiveness Committee discussions led to the identification of academic advising as the QEP focus. On the college's 2005 opening day, a NACADA consultant delivered the keynote address and conducted sessions with Student Services and faculty advisors. The QEP broad topic was tied into the college's biennial strategic plan process. The QEP Committee focused discussion on these strategic plan enhancement goals and discovered concern regarding student ability to set and achieve goals related to educational plans that lead to careers.

The QEP Committee mapped advising as a process from the viewpoint of our most challenging student-Joe/Jill Clueless. We considered what students need for success, defined as students leaving Craven equipped for their futures in the workplace or at their transfer institutions. We thought about academic advising as an intentional process where student learning would occur; we wanted to move away from equating advising with registration.

A review of The Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS) 2005 student learning guidelines for academic advising revealed that our initiative was concerned with three areas: student ability to set and pursue goals, realistic student self-appraisal, and student career choice. Learning college research pointed to the value of educational planning and goal-setting. O'Banion (1997) advanced six principles of a learning college including: 'The learning college engages learners as full partners in the learning process, with learners assuming primary responsibility for their own choices' (p. 47). When the learner first 'engages' the college, two expectations should be made clear: 'learners are full partners in the creation and implementation of their learning experiences' and 'learners will assume primary responsibility for making their own choices about goals and options' (p. 49). Consequently, from the beginning, colleges must assess learners' 'abilities, achievements, values, needs, goals, expectations, resources, and environmental/situational limitations' (pp. 49-50) and help students understand how their personal situations affect their educational and career options. Tagg (2003) specifically discussed the challenge community colleges face with their open door policy. The open door policy works both ways--easy to get in, easy to get out. Students' beliefs and attitudes about school are tied to their beliefs and attitudes about themselves. As a result, students define the purpose of college as it relates to their personal goals; when students see no connection between college and their personal goals, whether articulated or not, they leave. Tagg laid out five characteristics of a learning paradigm college including 'A learning paradigm college should support students in pursuing their own goals' (p. 124). Students need college to 'help clarify their long-term goals, to discover their heretofore undiscovered potential, to surprise themselves' (p. 131).

This research verified that we were on the right path, but the QEP Committee had trouble finding language to discuss our students' needs. The NACADA Assessment Institute gave the committee the tools we sought, and we quickly identified our mission, goals, and 14 student learning outcomes. While our discussions laid the groundwork for our QEP, NACADA tools gave us direction and focus. Once we identified student learning outcomes, we mapped how learning would be delivered and assessed. Once again tools from the NACADA Assessment Institute provided the roots we needed to delineate how we would deliver advising and create task forces, timelines, and new job descriptions.

Our QEP officially became the LEEP (Learning through Effective Educational Planning) initiative that, with its frog standard-bearer, rapidly became recognized throughout the college. LEEP brought together diverse areas of our institutional culture to focus on teaching students to take responsibility for their educational paths. The LEEP student learning outcomes encourage student learner development in active and effective educational goal-setting including:

  • Knowledge of learning programs and requirements at Craven Community College
  • Ability to select coursework to satisfy program and personal goals
  • Student ownership of education and goals as demonstrated by timely student learner action
  • Appreciation of resources available to help meet those goals

LEEP implementation will begin in fall 2007 with the first student cohort in health careers. These students will attend a mandatory orientation to the career area, complete career interest inventories and placement tests, establish a more intensive relationship with their advisors, and complete first-year classes oriented to their career area. These experiences will provide the tools and resources necessary to empower students to select and complete learning opportunities suited to their interests, abilities, and goals.

The QEP journey has been invaluable. With NACADA's help we found the language and tools needed to delineate our dreams and plans for the college. We have learned much about our college, our colleagues, and ourselves. We are excited about the changes and are poised for the LEEP.

Amy Copley Tilly
Craven Community College
English Instructor and QEP Chair
[email protected]


Academic advising program: CAS standards and guidelines .(2005). Retrieved March 16, 2006.

Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. (2004).Handbook for reaffirmation of accreditation. 2nd printing.

Kennedy, M. N. (2003). Product development for the lean enterprise: Why Toyota's development system is four times more productive and how you can implement it. Richmond, VA: The Oaklea Press.

O'Banion, T. (1997). A learning college for the 21st century. Westport, CT: American Council on Education and the Oryx Press.

Tagg, J. (2003). The learning paradigm college. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing Company, Inc.

Cite this article using APA style as: Tilly, A. (2006, December). QEP,NACADA,and LEEP: How a plethora of acronyms led one institution to a new model of academic advising. Academic Advising Today, 29(4). Retrieved from [insert url here]


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Academic Advising Today, a NACADA member benefit, is published four times annually by NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. NACADA holds exclusive copyright for all Academic Advising Today articles and features. For complete copyright and fair use information, including terms for reproducing material and permissions requests, see Publication Guidelines.