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3.4.9 Academic Support Services

The institution provides appropriate academic support services.

Judgment of Compliance

PVAMU SACS Accreditation - Judgement Compliance

Narrative of Compliance

Prairie View A&M University provides a wide range of appropriate academic support services, including college bridge programs, academic advising, developmental education and the University College experience, disability services, distance learning, service-learning, student exchange and study abroad, general tutoring and supplemental instruction, University Scholars, and discipline-specific assistance (within colleges and departments, the Undergraduate Medical Academy, and University research centers). The library's many academic support services are described in Comprehensive Standard 3.8.2. In addition to assessment instruments used by individual programs, the University also uses the NSSE (National Survey of Student Engagement), FSSE (Faculty Survey of Student Engagement), and APS (Academic Program Survey) to gauge students' use and perceptions of various academic enhancement offerings.

 

College Bridge Programs
Prairie View A&M University offers five major "bridge to college" programs, one for all students and four for those who wish to study architecture, engineering, pre-medical curricula, or broader STEM disciplines.

The Academy for Collegiate Excellence and Student Success (ACCESS)
According to the brochure for the program, "The Academy for Collegiate Excellence and Student Success (ACCESS) opens pathways to excellence in educational achievement and personal growth. It is a model for success. ACCESS provides the opportunity and the knowledge to make good choices about living and learning." ACCESS started in 1996 to improve academic preparation and increase student retention. Students must be Texas residents and high school graduates with a minimum GPA of 2.0 in order to participate.

ACCESS students currently participate in a seven-week summer "academic boot camp" that also includes field trips and community service. 200 contact hours of daily instruction occur from 8am to 3pm in mathematics, reading comprehension, writing, conversational Spanish, critical thinking and problem solving, and study halls and additional workshops are required from 6:30-9pm five nights per week [1]. Historically, several changes have been made to improve both learning and retention. In response to the “Closing the Gaps” legislation, ACCESS targeted Hispanic students for the program, and as a result, 20% of the 2005 class were of Hispanic descent. In 2006, a major service-learning project was incorporated, when students went to New Orleans, Louisiana to help teachers at Lusher Charter School renovate historic Fortier High and to work with local disabled citizens through the ARC of Greater New Orleans, while in 2008 they toured the Lyndon B. Johnson, William Clinton, and George W. Bush Presidential Libraries. In 2009, ACCESS students visited City Hall in Houston, distributed compact fluorescent lights to residents, and toured the Fort Hood military base [2].
           
Through this dual emphasis on academic rigor and service to the community, ACCESS meets its goals of academic preparation and student retention. Between 1996 and 2007, 1181 students participated in ACCESS, and 76.3% of them continued their education at Prairie View A&M. With the first cohort of participants, all 18 students also attended PVAMU, although this is not a requirement for the Academy. 15 students (83%) were in good academic standing after their first year, and 17 of the 18 students returned for their second year for a retention rate of 94%. Students' first-semester GPAs consistently average above those of a cohort of other freshman students matched by ethnicity, gender, SAT/ACT, GPA, urban or rural school. They also have a retention rate 10 to 20% higher than the cohort, and the 1996 ACCESS class had a six-year graduation rate approximately 12% above both the cohort and the University averages [3]. Overall, the ACCESS classes have had an average six-year graduation rate of 41.5% [1].

In 2003, ACCESS received a Star Award from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board for "exemplary contributions toward closing the higher education gaps that challenge the state."

Architectural Concepts Institute (ACI)

The Architectural Concepts Institute program is open to both first-time freshmen and transfer students who are admitted unconditionally to the University and who wish to study in the College of Architecture. In a ten-week summer session before the fall of official enrollment, students have the opportunity to earn up to 12 semester hours of credit in design courses towards the Bachelor of Science in Architecture. The Institute gives students the opportunity to determine their interest in and aptitude for architectural studies and also may help them finish the five-year program earlier. Limited spaces are available for the ACI [4].

The Engineering and Science Concepts Institute (ESCI) and College of Engineering Enhancement Institute (CE2I)

The Engineering and Science Concepts Institute was an eight-week freshman summer program for students interested in computer science and all fields of engineering. Students in the ESCI earned 7 to 9 semester hours of credit toward a Bachelor of Science degree while working on problem-solving skills and taking supplemental seminars, field trips, and tutorials. Because "the goal is to develop individuals, yet stress that much of the success of the individual is directly dependent upon the performance of the group," coursework emphasized team projects and collaborative learning. Admission to the program considered SAT and ACT test scores, GPA, completion of TSI requirements, two letters of recommendation from high school math or science teachers, leadership potential, and interests that align with those of corporate sponsors. Participants were housed in University College with mentors, and financial support was available [5].

Starting in 2009, the Roy G. Perry College of Engineering Enhancement Institute (CE2I) replaced ESCI. Although no college credit is offered to students, the Institute seeks to move students up one level in mathematics over the course of the five-week residential program. Fundamental computing, chemistry and physics, as well as field trips to area companies, personal and professional development seminars and workshops, are part of the curriculum. Applicants must be first-time freshmen who are admitted both to the University and the College of Engineering [6].

Pre-Medical Concepts Institute
Incoming students who wish to go into medical fields (dentistry, veterinary medicine, biomedical sciences, and medicine) can take 10 semester credit hours of biology classes and enrichment classes in mathematics and chemistry during a popular 8-week summer program sponsored by the Department of Biology. Since 1977, the PCI has operated either with the assistance of federal grants or with students paying the cost. From 1985 to 2005, for example, awards from the Health Careers Opportunity Program (HCOP) funded the Institute. Benefits of the program continue throughout the freshman year, with MCAT and DAT exam preparation workshops, tutorials, and field trips [7].

The Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Enhancement Program
Initiated in 1999 with a grant from the National Science Foundation, The Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Enhancement Program (STEM-EP) has four primary goals: enhancing undergraduate educational quality, increasing preparation for graduate school, increasing enrollment and retention in STEM fields, and developing faculty. Incoming students participate in a nine-week summer institute structured to increase skills in computing, communication, and mathematics.  Admissions standards include a minimum high school GPA of 3.0, SAT Reasoning of 900 or ACT of 19, and complete TSI status (all sections of the THEA exam passed) [4].

The program was so successful that when the initial five-year grant period expired in 2004, NSF refunded STEM-EP. Freshmen in the program typically hold an average GPA of 3.0, and the retention rate from freshman to sophomore year has been 97% from 2000 to 2006 [8].

 

Academic Advising
The process of academic advising starts with New Student Orientation, where students have the opportunity to meet with advisors and select courses for the upcoming term. In responses to student surveys in 2008, 86% of first-time freshman respondents said they were satisfied or very satisfied with both the process of creating a class schedule and training in the use of the Panthertracks system. In one survey, 100% of transfer students were satisfied or very satisfied with the advisement they received, while in another, just 67% of transfers were pleased with their experience in building their schedule with a Professional Advisor (29% chose no answer / not applicable) [9].

Freshmen continue to be advised in University College by Professional Advisors throughout their first year. University College works closely with the departments, through Faculty Advisement Coordinators (FACs), to have updated copies of all degree plans on file, including prerequisites, and to ensure appropriate advisement towards the student's major degree plan. Students are taught how to use the Panthertracks system to find course sections, see their unofficial transcripts, and register for classes. Throughout the first-year experience, Professional Advisors in University College regularly contact the 100 to 120 students assigned to them, print and hand deliver midterm progress reports, create "academic contracts" and assign struggling students to study hall; every spring, an Honors Banquet celebrates the academic achievements of hundreds of freshmen who have a GPA of 3.5 or above. University College residents also have the opportunity to take the Holland Self-Directed Search (SDS) and DISCOVER career assessment from ACT to help them choose an appropriate field of study.

Assessment of advising in University College is done through the ACT Survey. From 2005 to 2008, between 49 and 57% of respondents have reported that freshman advisement is done "exceptionally well" or "more than adequately," at a rate of 6.2 to 12.2% above the national averages. Another survey item asks about frequency of contact with advisors, and from 2004 to 2006, the majority of University College respondents (between 28 and 36%) selected 5 or more meetings; nationally, the most popular choice was just 2 meetings [10].

Transfer students with 24 or more credits but incomplete Texas Success Initiative requirements first report to the Office of Testing, Tracking, Assessment and Evaluation in Room 137 of the Wilhemina Delco Building to be placed in appropriate developmental education courses. They then proceed to their major colleges and departments to complete the advising process like other returning students.

According to the Faculty Handbook, "Knowledge of the requirements for the degrees in one’s home department, along with the academic advising services available to students, is critical" [11]. Advising arrangements vary from department to department. For example, the College of Nursing has a coordinator for Pre-Nursing Advising, and since Fall 2006, the College of Business has had a Professional Advisor on staff to help students transition from the pre-business classification to business majors. In most instances, however, faculty members serve as mentor-advisors to the students majoring in their discipline.

Faculty members hold office hours during regular business hours Monday through Friday, with minimums determined at the department level. Advising may take place during office hours or additional advising time scheduled by individual faculty. In the 2005 FSSE, 63% of faculty respondents reported spending 1-4 hours per week with another 26% spending 5-12 hours per week on advising undergraduates [12]. All advisors use the University catalogs and degree plans within their departments to suggest course selections. They also can consult the Suggested Advising Guide for Students with Disabilities from the Office of Diagnostic Testing and Disability Services [13].

In 2008, Banner, an Enterprise Resource Planning application from SunGard Higher Education Solutions, replaced the SIS Plus Student Information System and united several key university functions under the same umbrella, including advising and registration. Students now have more reliable, efficient 24 hours a day, 7 days a week access to the system on the Web, and faculty do as well. Each student is assigned a unique alternate PIN for registration each semester and must meet with an advisor in order to obtain this number before any classes can be selected. A hard-copy advising form must be filled out, signed by the student and advisor, and retained for at least one year [14]. Help guides are available for checking registration status, searching for open class sections, and registering, among other tasks [15].

The success of advising as an academic support service can be measured by student surveys. The 2007 NSSE revealed that 97% of surveyed seniors discussed career options with a faculty member or an advisor at some point. 84% of freshmen and 88% of seniors agreed that their academic advisors are accessible [16]. In the Academic Program Survey (APS) administered to undergraduate and graduate students in Spring 2008, respondents gave an average rating of 3.79 on a scale of 1 to 5 to the statement "Academic advisement guided me appropriately to graduation" [17]. The sample was 80% graduate students, and the number represents one of the lowest averages for the 13-item survey; this trend also was seen in Summer 2005 and Fall 2006, but not in Fall 2005, when advisement received the highest average score on the survey. As the Executive Survey comments, "It is likely that students may not have understood the role and responsibilities of academic advisors during the course of their academic career.  Therefore, university faculty and staff in the University College should educate students in their first year at PVAMU and clearly define for students the ways in which they will assist them throughout their academic career at PVAMU and how this assistance will change as students transition from first-year students to upperclassmen."

 

Developmental Education and University College
Because University College is a living-learning community for first-time freshmen, its impact on academic support is multifold, as its role in college bridge programs and advising suggests. The University College dormitories and buildings were completed in 2000, and staff training and equipment purchases, including a residential computer lab, were implemented by September 2001, in keeping with the University's OCR Priority Plan. Freshmen live in one of fourteen dormitories, each with its own Professional Advisor, Learning Community Coordinator, and two Community Assistants, as well as an associated Faculty Fellow and Panther Advisor Leaders (PALS) student peer mentors, to support 100-120 students. All members of this academic team provide regular, personal guidance for academic progress. According to the American Campus Communities “Customer Satisfaction Survey,” conducted by the Insights Research Group for 2005, 2006 and 2007, 73.4% of the 3010 participating students were satisfied or very satisfied with the "academic focus of the community" [18].

A large part of the academic support in University College comes from developmental education. In 1999 Dr. Hunter Boylan, founder of the National Center for Developmental Education, conducted an evaluation of Prairie View A&M's program, and guided by his recommendations, staff revised the curricula and structure of the program. A learning frameworks course, CURR 1013, was developed for conditionally admitted students to study learning strategies, critical thinking, personality types, and self-realization and cognition concepts. Academic Enhancement presently offers nine other developmental education courses, three each in English, Reading, and Mathematics [19], reduced from twelve in Fall 2007. Students are placed based on their scores on the THEA exam and successful completion of earlier classes in the sequence. To further motivate students, if a grade of "C" or better is not earned at midterms in any developmental education course, students are blocked from early registration for the next academic term. In several classes, the THEA exam is offered at the end, which can allow students to progress more quickly through the sequence and start on college-level work.

Because the largest population of students is in developmental mathematics, faculty offer special workshops, use a mathematics computer lab in Room 202 of the W.R. Banks building, and started incorporating MyMathLab, an online learning environment from Pearson Education that offers interactive multimedia tutorials, practice quizzes, eBooks, tutoring. From 2002 to 2007, between 6000 and 9000 students per year made use of the mathematics lab [20].

Another development to support academic development of students is the introduction of learning communities. The 2007 NSSE instrument pointed out that Prairie View A&M lags behind the TAMU system, peer institutions, and the national average in the number of freshmen who participate in learning communities [21]. In response to this, with grant funding from the "Achieving the Dream" national initiative, learning communities were started in Fall 2007 to enhance the persistence and success of students in developmental education. CURR 1013: Principles of Effective Learning was paired with PHIL 2023: Ethics for conditionally admitted freshmen and with MATH 0113: Beginning Algebra.

2008 NSSE results suggest that PVAMU freshmen involved in learning communities are less likely to come to class without completing work and more likely to spend time studying and to report positive relationships with other students. Around 90% reported learning something that changed their understanding and looking at an issue from another perspective, compared to 64% of University College students as a whole [22].

Interest also is increasing; 30% of freshmen in 2005 replied that they planned to participate in a learning community while the number jumped to 52% in the 2008 NSSE survey. In keeping with this trend, for Fall 2009, three learning communities are being offered.

In terms of program success, retention rates and academic performance both have increased. Between 1992 and 1998, the retention rate for freshmen at PVAMU ranged from a low of 57.7% in 1997 to a high of 60.9% in 1992. After University College was implemented, the overall freshman retention rate for 2004 was 67.1% and improved to 74.6% by 2008, a 7.5% increase over the four-year period [23]. The retention rate of freshman students requiring remediation education improved from 57.1% in 1999 to 64.7% in 2000, after the launch of University College. Numbers remained above 60% through 2004 and reached 73% in 2005 [24]. The number of students who successfully completed all developmental education courses jumped 16%, from 439 in 1999-2000 to 511 in 2000-2001, the first year University College was in operation. The average freshman GPA went from 2.18 to 2.41 in the same time period [3].

 

Diagnostic Testing and Disability Services
PVAMU strives to foster a learning environment that encourages as well as challenges all students in keeping with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). The mission of the Office of Diagnostic Testing and Disability Services is "to create and sustain a supportive environment that includes policies and practices that assist persons with disabilities to achieve at their fullest potential" [25]. Students must present professional documentation no more than five years old to the Office in order to receive accommodations. For those who never have been tested officially for learning disabilities, the Office conducts educational evaluations in Room 323 of Evans Hall.

The Office of Diagnostic Testing and Disability Services owns equipment to help students with various learning difficulties, such as calculators, tape recorders, and carbonless notebooks. Most University facilities are ADA accessible, and the Office can arrange for class location to be moved if necessary. Transportation assistance is offered to students with impaired mobility, and interpreter services are available to students with hearing impairments [26]. Use of the Office varies, but on average, 100 students are assisted each semester.

 

Distance Learning
Distance learning at Prairie View A&M is increasing both to supplement the traditional classroom and to reach students who would not otherwise be able to earn their college degrees. The Office for Distance Learning supports academic programs through technology: video course delivery with the NorthSTAR and TTVN Telecommunications Networks and online course delivery using WebCT 6.0 / eCourses. Four sites on the main campus and one at the College of Nursing are equipped to deliver video content, which is crucial for students at remote sites in Bryan / College Station. Distance Learning also administers TrueOutcomes, which allows faculty and staff to assess outcomes and also provides students with a convenient online portfolio to build throughout their University career.

All classes, whether face-to-face or online, are loaded into the eCourses system for instructors to use. Syllabi, individual assignments, plagiarism-detection services, group projects, quizzes, discussion boards, announcements, e-mail, an online gradebook, and synchronous chat are available for use. Distance Learning provides Respondus software to faculty for easier construction of tests, LockDown Browser tools for administration of exams in a secure manner, and StudyMate to make Flash-based activities. The 2008 NSSE showed that approximately 67% of graduating seniors frequently used electronic technology (listservs, chat groups, discussion boards) to work on or complete an assignment [27]. 80% of seniors also reported that they often used e-mail to talk to instructors [28]

Instructors who teach online courses must complete a certification process that includes eight hours of progressive training and a final exam [29]. All online courses go through a lengthy, five-tiered approval process to ensure that materials meet departmental standards and that the course is designed to meet exemplary educational outcomes [30].

The role of the Office of Distance Learning in technology use is discussed fully in Comprehensive Standard 3.4.14.

 

Service-Learning
The Service-Learning Program seeks to introduce students to civic engagement with the overall goal that every Prairie View A&M student participate in at least one service-learning activity during their time at the University [31]. To this end faculty are encouraged to integrate service-learning into their curricula where students address local needs through structured opportunities intentionally designed to promote their learning and development through five steps: preparation, action, reflection, celebration, and evaluation.

Activities have included marketing students developing a recruitment program for the FBI, nursing students teaching parenting skills to high school students, business students participating in the IRS-sponsored Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program to assist clients in preparing income tax returns, and students in the College of Juvenile Justice and Psychology mentor and tutor at Jones Elementary School [32].

Service-learning is increasing steadily. In the 2005 NSSE, 27% of freshmen and 26% of seniors replied that they often or very often participated in community-based assignments. In the 2008 survey, these numbers rose to 33% and 46% respectively [33] [28].

 

National Student Exchange and International Study Abroad Programs
National Student Exchange (NSE) includes close to 200 colleges and universities in both America and Canada and offers Prairie View A&M students the opportunity to study at other institutions for one or two semesters. In order to participate in an exchange, a student must meet minimum GPA requirements 34]. In Fall 2007, Prairie View A&M welcomed five students through NSE, and in Fall 2008, the first PVAMU student went on exchange to William Patterson University [35].

Because "international experiences expand students’ understanding and deepen their knowledge of the world, thus better preparing them for a life of service and professional productivity in the ever increasing global marketplace," academic units at Prairie View A&M University are charged with developing their own curricula and procedures for international study abroad programs [36]. Students must be classified at least as sophomores, meet minimum GPA requirements, and carry health insurance coverage in order to be considered, and a common application form is required for processing financial aid [37].

PVAMU students travel to Ghana each summer in conjunction with the Division of Social Work, Behavioral and Political Sciences [38]. Since 2004, the College of Business has partnered with Universidad de las Americas in Puebla, Mexico, to award competitive study abroad scholarships to students interested in international business, and an MBA student recently studied at Hong Kong Baptist University [39]. According to NSSE results, in 2005, 12% of graduating seniors said they had studied abroad; that number rose to 15% in 2008 [28].

 

General University Tutoring

Center for Academic Support
The Center for Academic Support (CAS) offers tutoring in over 30 academic subjects, particularly those in the core curriculum and hard sciences [40] and mini-classes and workshops on such topics as test-taking strategies, note taking, money management, and handling stress. Tutors often hold Wednesday night hours in University College to make services more convenient for freshmen. Undergraduate and graduate student tutors must have a minimum GPA of 3.0 and faculty recommendations from specific courses. In addition to working with tutors, students can use current textbooks, physics notes, a typewriter, test guides and study skills books in addition to more than 25 different handouts on everything from working in groups to reading skills.

While individual tutoring remains the most popular service, Supplemental Instruction (SI)—collaborative group learning sessions for historically difficult courses—also is available from trained tutors. Classes offered through SI have included financial accounting, organic chemistry, and business statistics. From Spring 2002 to Fall 2008, the Center conducted over 14,000 tutorial sessions [41]. In an evaluation conducted during the first quarter of 2006, 92% of students replied that their sessions were definitely helpful and that they would recommend the Center to others; 100% said they would return if necessary [42].

Writing Center
Started in a storage closet in 2003 with volunteer faculty tutors, since 2004, the Writing Center has provided student consultants on the writing process and a variety of writing assignments. Thirty-minute conferences assist with prewriting, brainstorming, audience, organization, research, and citation. Tutors make classroom presentations (in 2008, 67 classroom visits were made to inform students about the Writing Center services and hours), compile a newsletter called "The Writer's Block," and run a new Workshop Series with topics ranging from citation to proofreading to literary analysis was initiated in Summer 2009 [43].

With the assistance of Title III funds, many improvements were made in 2008. The Center added six additional undergraduate and graduate student consultants and a second location in the second floor elevator lobby of Hilliard Hall; the original location received new desktop and laptop computers with software like Dragon Naturally voice-recognition software and Web access to allow tutors to show students how to use library databases and cite sources and to work more directly on real-time revision. To assist students at distance-learning locations such as the College of Nursing, the Center offers asynchronous online conferencing via e-mail; tutors return written feedback plus a 5 to 7 minute digital audio mp3 commentary. Finally, in August 2008, an outside consultant from Texas A&M—Commerce assessed the Writing Center as having sound practices grounded in current theory [44].

Overall, the Writing Center is active and successful in reaching students. The classification, major, assignment, and instructor of each student are recorded on an intake form to track patterns of usage. Results show strong usage by students in criminal justice, psychology, engineering, history, political science, and English courses, as well as hundreds of education majors, courtesy of a new Writing in the Disciplines initiative in that College. Especially useful from the intake form is the type of assignment, which allows Center staff to create tutorials and presentations on the most common tasks.

In FY 2007, the Center conducted 450 conferences and achieved a 5% return rate—students who came back repeatedly—whereas the Center conducted 959 conferences (an increase of 110%) with a return rate of 22% for FY 2008. Student satisfaction ratings for tutors averaged 3.87 on a 4.0 scale in 2008 [45] [46].

 

University Scholars Program
The University Scholars Program (USP) helps high-achieving undergraduate students prepare for future leadership and admission to graduate school through academic research, campus activities, and professional development. Students with excellent test scores and high school GPAs can be admitted as incoming freshmen, and sophomores with a cumulative GPA of at least 3.5 may apply as well [47]. Scholars benefit from GRE preparation, leadership and professional development workshops, and in the past, from honors sections of courses. In Spring 2006, under the guidance of the Program Director, eleven honors classes were offered in eight different disciplines, and 59 students enrolled in five courses. For Fall 2006, nine honors classes ran the full semester [48].

For the larger campus community, the USP provides several academic support services. The Director works to spread information about the Fulbright Program, introduced to campus in 2004-2005, and the Program co-sponsors guest lectures by luminaries such as Nikki Giovanni (2004), Dr. Cornel West (2005), and Julian Bond (2006). The USP Director also processes College Level Examination Program (CLEP) and Advanced Placement (AP) exam results and ensures that students receive the appropriate college credits; in 2006, thirteen students received a total of 113 semester credit hours [48].

 

College-Specific Academic Support
Many colleges and departments have specialized academic support programs to address the specific needs of students in their fields; selected ones are profiled below.

  • The College of Nursing has a Virtual Tutoring Retention Program that provides updates, announcements, websites, and study materials for each of the five semesters that students are in clinical studies [49]. Through a Title III grant, the College also established four learning labs, including the Human Patient Simulation (HPS) Lab, Intensive Care Lab, Developing Family Lab, and the Child Health Lab. Labs contain state-of-the-art health care equipment, and their use has progressed from one to two days a week in 2003-2004 to present use levels of five days a week. The number of students who participated in one or more simulated learning experiences over the past five years has ranged from 92% to 100%. Since the inception of simulated learning, the number of student visits per academic year has increased from 215 to 772 [50]. Nursing students have outstanding success on state licensure exams, rising from a 90% pass rate in 2002 to 100% in 2006. In 2007 and 2008, pass rates have been 98.9% and 98.2% respectively [23].
  • The Department of Languages and Communications has three labs through Title III funds. The Multimedia Foreign Language Laboratory in Room 169 of the Wilhemina Delco Building assists students enrolled in Spanish courses by giving them access to software, online quizzes, and other computer activities. The television studio production laboratories in the Department of Languages and Communications now feature SDI/HD digital equipment, cranes, two sets, over thirty computer-controlled light fixtures, wireless audio, and dedicated digital servers to store audio and video feeds from broadcasts. A state-of-the-art news production and editing laboratory, with Avid and Adobe applications, also is available to students studying Communications [51]. The latter two facilities in particular, along with 2 available digital cameras and 28 digital video recorders, bring hands-on, practical application into production classes and help prepare students for required internships.
  • The Division of Social Work, Behavioral and Political Sciences offers the six-week Pre-LIMS (Pre-Law Investment in Mentoring Students) each summer.  A partner institution, the University of Texas at Austin law school, contributes $12,000 in funding to raise student interest in legal studies and to improve matriculation rates into law school. Pre-LIMS started in 2004, with daily classes on constitutional law and legal history and practice assignments in writing case briefs. Students received LSAT preparation classes and visits from law school faculty, and they concluded the program with a mock trial at the United States Southern District Court before a seated judge [52]. The Division currently is seeking grant funding to expand Pre-LIMS into a year-round activity.

 

The Division also supports its students academically with a reading room with hundreds of books and journals related to pre-law, history, sociology, social work, government, and political science and a small computer lab with 11 workstations.

  • The College of Business offers multiple academic support services to its students. A virtual tutoring cluster operates with e-mail addresses for seven different business areas; each e-mail goes to at least one faculty member in that discipline who can assist students with their coursework [53]. The College coordinates the Center for Business Communication (CBC), which offers assistance with writing assignments like resumes, reports, outlines, and business correspondence from Monday through Friday, 9am-5pm. A dedicated Assistant Coordinator supervises the Center, including its reference library, and approximately 500 students per semester take advantage of the CBC. Peer tutoring is available in the "Reading Room." Additionally, a computer Homework Lab with 20 Dell workstations and an on-site technician is available Monday through Thursday, 8am-7pm, Friday 8am-5pm, and Saturday 10am-2pm [54]. The College of Business also sponsors Executive-in-Residence and Dean’s Lecture Series that brings industry leaders and professionals to campus, and the 26th Annual College of Business Career Fair took place in January 2009.  Approximately 300 business students attend each year, and in 2004, 88% of graduating seniors gave the event positive ratings [55].
  • The Department of Engineering Technology exposes students to real-world applications in data computing, telecommunications, and networking in the two labs that comprise the Prairie View A&M Networking Academy (PVNA) [56].
  • The Educator Preparation, Counseling and Diagnostics (Testing) Laboratory started operations in October 2002 in the College of Education to help faculty and students prepare for the ExCET and TExES teacher certification exams. The Lab emphasizes the subject area competencies related to each test, familiarizes students with the exam formats and test-taking strategies, provides over 300 study resources in all 46 content areas, and makes practice tests available. Fifteen computer workstations are available to use training software during lab hours (Monday through Friday 8am-5pm and Saturday 8am-2pm). From 2004 to 2007, over 1200 students utilized the lab each year. The State of Texas Legislative Budget Board sets Prairie View A&M's target final pass rates for the TExES at 80%. In every year that the lab has been open except its first, where the rate was 79%, pass rates have exceeded the targets by 2% to 14% [57].
  • The Athletics Department requires that student athletes spend six hours per week either in the study lab, open Monday through Friday, 9am-5pm, or evening study hall, open Monday through Wednesday, 6-9pm. These hours, which recently increased from a required four, are mandatory for freshmen, transfer students, student-athletes with poor academic progress, and anyone referred by a head coach [58]. The lab is getting eight new Dell computers in 2009, and three dedicated tutors, two graduate assistants, and two work-study students are available to the athletes. Over the 2008-2009 academic year, the average GPA of student athletes rose from approximately 2.5 to 2.75, evidence of the success of the new studying policies.

 

Undergraduate Medical Academy
Authorized in 2003 by House Bill 85 [59] and Senate Bill 1009 [60], the Undergraduate Medical Academy (UMA) is charged with preparing students to enter medical school in Texas. In close partnership with the Texas A&M University System Health Science Center College of Medicine and an external advisory board of thirteen physicians and university administrators, the UMA offers academic and career counseling, mentorship, summer internships at the College of Medicine, course enrichment, MCAT exam preparation, trips to medical schools, and presentations by medical school faculty. The Undergraduate Medical Academy is state-funded and receives additional support from outside grants. For example, the partnership with Texas A&M University System Health Science received a $340,000 award from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board for its 2006-2007 cycle [61].

A Director was hired in early 2004 in preparation for the charter class of 18 students who started that fall. By 2006, enrollment grew to 56 (15 additional students enrolled in 2005 and 23 more in 2006) students, and in May 2006, the first student in the program graduated from the University [62]. Students are invited to apply for admissions during the spring semester of their freshman year through a rigorous process [63].

Academic support to students in the UMA has evolved since the Academy's inception. Faculty members in physical chemistry and physiology were hired. In 2004-2007, over 20 faculty members from the College of Medicine lectured to UMA students about basic research or clinical specialties. Medical students, particularly those who belong to the chapter of Student National Medical Association (SNMA), also visit the campus and mentor Prairie View's students. UMA members have the opportunity to participate in academic research with faculty, and an article with two student co-authors was published in the May 2008 journal Shock [64]. Summer internships started with biomedical research experiences and clinician shadowing but moved to more crucial MCAT preparation and shadowing experiences starting in 2007. MCAT preparation also is available year-round through materials in the library. As described in Comprehensive Standard 3.8.1, students have a dedicated computer lab with 8 workstations, a periodical reading room, and a circulating / reference library with over 1,100 materials in Room 129 of the Elmer Elwood O'Banion Science Building. They also have access to four study rooms and the instruction and research lab in Room 102, which has distance education capability [65].

As of 2007, the UMA had a 91.7% retention rate. 63.6% of the 2007 UMA applicants to medical school (7 out of 11) gained admission to medical schools, substantially higher that the Texas average of 24% and national average of 38% for African-American students. Of the 2008 graduating class, 61.5% of the UMA students were admitted to medical school compared to a national average of 40% for African-American applicants [62].

 

Research Centers
Under the Office of Research and Development, well over a dozen Research Centers operate on campus. Many offer opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to participate in advanced academic research alongside faculty members. Details about the following selected programs, particularly their involvement of students, are available in the supporting documentation:

  • The Center for Digital Battlefield Communications (CEBCOM) is a collaborative effort of the Department of Defense, state of Texas, and industry to support the Army Research Laboratory in its efforts to study and develop effective wireless technologies. Under the guidance of three faculty members in electrical engineering, undergraduate and especially graduate students earning their M.S. and Ph.D. degrees have the opportunity to work on prominent research projects [66].
  • In the College of Agriculture and Human Sciences, both the Cooperative Agricultural Research Center (CARC) and the International Goat Center involve undergraduate and graduate students in research and hands-on application of theories they are studying. CARC trains and employs an average of 60 students each year, and more than 40 students accompanied CARC scientists to the 15th Biennial Research Symposium of the Association of Research Directors in 2009 [67]. The International Goat Center allows a team of students to manage an exhibition team of goats that has won five championship titles at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and multiple other honors [68].
  • The Community for Urban and Rural Enhancement Services (CURES) and Texas Institute for the Preservation of History and Culture (TIPHC), both fully implemented by January 2003 at part of the OCR Priority Plan, frequently work together on projects such as Mary Allen Seminary in Crockett, Texas and the new City Hall/Municipal Complex in Katy, Texas. Students from the School of Architecture and those studying for their Masters in Community Development are involved [69]. Furthermore, in conjunction with the TIPHC and CURES Center, the graduate program in Community Development developed a certification program in Historic Preservation to help address the shortage of African-American professionals in the field.
  • The Center for Applied Radiation Research (CARR) regularly involves students in research; the site lists 113 conference papers and 29 journal articles resulting from the Center's activities [70].
  • The Center of Excellence for Communication Systems Technology Research (CECSTR) was instituted in 2002. In 2007-2008, CECSTR supported 9 graduate students and 10 undergraduate students [71] [72].
  • The Thermal Science Research Center (TSRC) supports graduate students pursuing their Masters of Engineering and provides mentorship to undergraduate students [73].

 

Overall Assessment
Results from the 2001 and 2003 NSSE administrations revealed that freshmen and seniors felt that Prairie View A&M places "some" to "quite a bit" of emphasis on "providing the support you need to help you succeed academically" [74]. Mean scores rose for freshmen between 2001 and 2003, perhaps due to the academic support provided by University College. Results reporting changed in 2005 from means to percentages, and feedback shows great improvement in the perception of the value that the University places on academic support services. 57% of freshmen and 61% of seniors in 2005 replied that PVAMU emphasizes academic support "quite a bit" or "very much," and in the 2008 NSSE those figures increased to 69% and 78% respectively [33] [28]. 67% of faculty in the 2007 FSSE administration also reported that the University stresses support needed for academic success [28].

Supporting Documentation and Links


Comprehensive Standards 3.4.9

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