‘#Talking on the Oaks’ theme of Dillard’s new Quality Enhancement Plan

NEW ORLEANS (Sept. 13, 2019) – Improving students’ oral communication skills is the focus for Dillard University’s new Quality Enhancement Plan, or QEP, according to Jacques Detiege, new director of assessment and analysis.

“#Talking on the Oaks” is the theme for the new five-year plan required by the accrediting body, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Each accredited school must identify a need and come up with a plan to address it.

The final draft of the QEP is due to SACSCOC today, Detiege said. An oral communication specialist will read and review it ahead of October’s presentation to the accrediting body.

A SACSCOC team will visit Dillard from Oct. 28-31, and the QEP will be under consideration along with all accreditation standards. Detiege said SACSCOC has the option to accept the QEP as is or accept it with revisions. After Oct. 31, the university will roll out with full implementation of the plan.

Detiege said the title for the QEP was designed to coincide with Dillard history.

“With Dillard celebrating 150 years, we wanted the title to tie back to the university’s rich heritage, and the Oaks are a huge part of that,” said Detiege. “Students are known to sit and talk on the Oaks. And with our focus being on oral communication, we thought it was the perfect title.”

This year begins a new five-year period for Dillard. A faculty committee came up with the theme, and a second group fleshed out the plan in a document produced for institution’s 10-year accreditation reaffirmation effort.

The goal for the upcoming QEP is, as stated in the plan, “to foster an institutional environment that prepares students to be effective and competitive oral communicators in a diverse, global and technologically advanced society.”

Tactics to enact this plan include interventions in University College, upper-level courses within each degree program and co-curricular activities, such as mock trial and the leadership academy. Activities for the QEP include student interviews, enhancing student engagement through co-curricular activities by providing more opportunities for public speaking and for students to record audio introductions in courses to post on Canvas.

Faculty professional development opportunities to improve teaching practices also are a part of the plan.

“It is about 60 pages and touches on why we chose the topic and the goals set forth based on the topic, along with the resources we will use to achieve these goals,” said Detiege.

Detiege has also been charged by Dr. Yolanda Page, vice president of Academic Affairs, to improve the faculty evaluation process.

He said the goal is to make end-of-course evaluations easier to provide feedback to faculty and allow deans to better assess “improvements that need to be made within their respective colleges,” Detiege said.

“We plan to enact this goal by creating new questions students actually want to answer in addition to having open-ended questions to provide professors with real feedback.”

Dillard for several years has emphasized enhancing verbal skills, both written and oral, for its students. DU’s last QEP was focused on writing skills, and now it’s moved on to speaking. Meanwhile, the $1 million, five-year Career Pathways Initiative grant from UNCF focuses on students improving the mechanics of writing (grammar and punctuation) through a co-requisite in five English classes through ENG110 through ENG202.