Ashford University – A Work in Progress
Like all universities, Ashford is a work in progress. And that’s a good thing. It would be a mistake to sit still and not make improvements – some small, some large. If we don’t keep moving forward, we will stagnate and our value to our students will decline. In that spirit of constant evolution, I’d like to share some of the changes and improvements that Ashford has been implementing and show you where we, as an institution, are headed.
Over the last year, much has happened. We've added new master’s degrees in disciplines such as psychology, criminal justice, and accountancy. We reorganized to strengthen our shared services operational model and increase our focus on student-facing activities. We've had a very successful visit from our accreditor, the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC). At the same time, we also had to make some very difficult decisions, such as closing our campus in Iowa at the end of the upcoming academic year to make sure we're giving full attention to our online operations and using our resources as wisely as possible. Since our enrollment has declined a bit, we have made cost adjustments to ensure that we are efficient and that we are not wasting dollars.
In our quest to evolve, we have spent a lot of time working on our courses and programs. Recently, I was informed that we have improved the success rate in more than a dozen of our introductory courses. This improvement is the direct result of a great deal of work behind the scenes. Faculty and staff gathered data, analyzed the results, and then made changes. Then, they analyzed the impact of their efforts and started all over again. It is a great example of continuous quality improvement to increase the value of our programs.
This ongoing work takes place in the framework of an emerging vision for the University. I will point out just three particular areas where we know we will focus a lot of energy in the near future:
- First, we will continue to individualize and personalize our advising. Not every student requires the same level and amount of advising, so we will continue to assess the needs of our students and provide appropriate services to address those needs. One thing we certainly want to do is reduce the number of transfers to voicemail when students call.
- Second, we are adding more online tools and support so students can take full advantage of the best available technology and software, such as the Grammarly writing-enhancement platform. We want to add more career planning support and opportunities to chat with support staff. We have embedded numerous Help Now mini-videos into our courses so students may jump immediately to a teaching aid without leaving a book or assignment.
- We have an aggressive agenda of adding new programs over the next two years. These will be mostly master’s degrees that speak directly to the career interests of our students and the changing nature of our business world. New programs require a lot of work and investment, but we are prepared to make that investment to give our students more great choices.
I am optimistic about the future of Ashford University. We love what we do, and we are always looking for ways to improve the quality and impact of our programs. It is very rewarding to work in an organization where the central purpose is to improve people's lives through learning and education.
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Dr. Richard L. Pattenaude is the President and CEO of Ashford University.