MONMOUTH, OREGON — Western Oregon University’s recent comprehensive review and revision of undergraduate degree requirements has been selected as the winner for the 2022 Northwest Commission of Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) Beacon Award for Excellence in Student Achievement and Success. Beginning in 2017, WOU faculty investigated alternatives to its existing general education and university degree requirements, and ultimately adopted streamlined degree requirements that better serve the needs of today’s students. This work has resulted in higher graduation rates across diverse groups of students and a reduction in excess credits among transfer students.
President Peters offered, “This kind of dedicated work reimagines how we deliver curriculum, and places Western Oregon University in a position to better serve students and communities. Our faculty and staff are dedicated and work diligently to put students at the center of everything we do.”
NWCCU’s Beacon Award for Excellence in Student Achievement and Success is an annual award recognizing institutional or programmatic accomplishments in student achievement and success at the NWCCU family of institutions. Award winners demonstrate distinctive, measurable, and replicable innovations that have resulted in student achievement and success at the institutional or programmatic level. The Beacon Award recognizes innovative approaches that significantly contribute to measurable improvements in completion and/or graduation rates.
This project grew from a systematic study of student and program-level data about paths through undergraduate degrees, with a focus on identifying unnecessary barriers to graduation. WOU was motivated by 4- and 6-year graduation rates that did not live up to their student-centered values. The resulting framework established a university-wide undergraduate degree model that ensured a path to each degree of no more than 180 credits: up to 90 credits in the major, up to 60 credits of general education, and at least 30 credits that students could choose for themselves.
“While change of this magnitude is hard, this work transformed university degree requirements, reduced complexity that confused students and advisors, and removed unnecessary barriers to graduation. WOU is more ready than ever to support student success,” remarked Provost Winningham.
Along with the honor of being chosen, this award is accompanied by a monetary award which Western Oregon will use to support high-impact learning experiences for students in their first-year seminars. Although numerous faculty served on the general education task force, Dr. Sue Monahan, the primary architect of the new program, will accept the award on behalf of WOU at the NWCCU annual conference awards luncheon on November 3, 2022.
About Western Oregon University
Western Oregon University, founded in 1856 in Monmouth, is the state’s oldest public university. Serving about 4,000 students, WOU is a mid-sized, NCAA Division II institution with about 70% of the student population being from Oregon. A significant portion of attendees are members of under-represented groups, veterans, or non-traditional students. WOU is Oregon’s campus of choice for those seeking a transformative education in a supportive, student-centered learning community where classes are taught by faculty. Together we succeed.
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