Academic Affairs

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Cultivating the Collaborative Campus: The QEP for 2023-2028

January 27, 2022

With exploratory work for the next university strategic plan, an upcoming reaccreditation cycle, and a search for the seventh Chancellor of the university, the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) community is in a unique position to shape its focus on what the “university of tomorrow” might become. A step in that direction was made with the announcement of the selected proposal for the 2023-2028 Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP): Cultivating the Collaborative Campus: High-Impact Interdisciplinary Research & Teaching. *

“Interdisciplinarity: the ability to draw on and move across multiple fields of study or knowledge.” - Dr. Beverley McGuire, professor of East Asian religions

There is a clear call and increasing demand for skills and expertise that can approach a challenge from multiple directions instead of a single focus. In university academia, this collaborative and multidimensional approach is often called interdisciplinary because it intentionally involves an engagement of skills from other disciplines that are complementary to the situation, or challenge, being investigated. “We develop better nurses if they understand bedside manner; better marine biologists if they can communicate with the public about their research; better creative writers if they understand the human condition; and better businesspeople if they understand ethics and the broader social context in which their work takes place,” explained Dr. Shawn Bingham, associate professor of sociology and director of the Honors College.

“We cannot solve the big problems facing our world by looking through the lens of a single discipline — we need a multi-faceted, interdisciplinary approach to solving those grand challenges.”  – Dr. James J. Winebrake, provost and vice chancellor for the Division of Academic Affairs

In the newly selected QEP, faculty and staff will combine knowledge and expertise from multiple disciplines to collectively craft how the university can explore, create and assess an enhanced interdisciplinary focus. “This QEP addresses the need for a cultural shift at UNCW towards greater interdisciplinarity in teaching, research and programming. Interdisciplinarity – the ability to draw on and move across multiple disciplines – has become increasingly important in addressing systemic, interlocking problems that we face today,” said Dr. Beverley McGuire, professor of East Asian religions. On a global scale, many of “the most challenging problems the world faces are interdisciplinary – climate change, mental health, safety and security, social justice,” stated Dr. James DeVita, associate professor of higher education and director of High Impact Pathways.

“To be a great university, you have to keep asking everyone great questions. You challenge yourselves and the community to bring together those diverse perspectives, bring together different ways of thinking [and] different disciplines… to answer those questions as a community together.” – Dr. Kemille Moore, associate professor of art and art history and senior associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences

The selected QEP will empower faculty, staff and students to dive deep into exploring how academic programming at UNCW can change and improve. Questions, such as the following, will be considered:

How do we expand and enhance opportunities that weave multiple disciplines into our courses, programs and research activities? And how do we sustain those activities and create a culture that embraces interdisciplinary problem solving?

The preliminary proposal* is straightforward with a projected timeline and expected funding needs, but also allows flexibility for the creative nature that thrives in a higher education community. Its design will strategically foster a creative environment where three to six teams (made of faculty, staff and students from different campus departments) are tasked with developing a goal that results in an actionable and (you guessed it) interdisciplinary outcome. Over the next seven months, the proposed QEP plan will undergo extensive review to refine its UNCW mission-driven scope of impact and to formalize the goals, outcomes, key performance metrics and the implementation action plan.

And this is just year one of the plan. Years two and three will see implementation of goals, and then evaluation of whether the outcomes reached the original goals.

“Creativity and imagination thrive when we take different disciplinary knowledge and create intellectual collisions.” – Provost Winebrake

Some of the most important innovations are the result of multiple people from a variety of disciplines working together. The work surrounding this QEP topic for the next five years will identify where these “collisions” are already occurring at UNCW and actively create more opportunities. Faculty, staff and students will come together in selected teams to address how high-impact interdisciplinary research and teaching can positively affect the UNCW of today and progressively shape the UNCW of tomorrow.

“Chancellor Sartarelli and I are excited to endorse the selection of UNCW’s next proposed Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) topic: Cultivating the Collaborative Campus: Interdisciplinary Research and Teaching,” said Provost Winebrake. “We believe it has actionable power to shape significant opportunities for collaboration and interdisciplinary problem solving here on campus. These collaborative opportunities will lead to higher levels of student success, greater opportunities for faculty research and new possibilities for teaming with community partners. We are excited to see work on this QEP progress and to keep our community updated along the way.”

Check out the Quality Enhancement Plan* to view details of the selected topic, a timeline for next steps in the process and additional information.

View the UNCW Quality Enhancement Plan

Importance of a Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP)

Why is this important? The Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) process is an opportunity for a campus community to identify, address and engage an emerging topic considered to be a desired focus of the university. And, it is a requirement for the university to achieve reaccreditation each decade.* Even though occurring once every ten years, QEP plans are often designed to be sustained long after their completed work, and, in the most successful cases, they add to the overall campus experience.

* Note: This selected topic proposal and related plan content are both subject to upcoming review and approval by SACSCOC. For more information, please view the selection process timeline on the QEP webpage.

-- Megan Kauzlaric