Dear Dr. Wheelan:
Developing students’ critical thinking skills is an essential part of any undergraduate academic program and a core responsibility of our academic community. At the University of Mississippi, it is a core component of our mission and strategic plan, which calls for actions that “foster critical thinking across the curriculum.”
I am proud to present to you Thinkforward, the University of Mississippi’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP). Thinkforward is designed to foster critical thinking skill development in lower- division, general education courses and co-curricular learning experiences by enhancing faculty development and modifying student learning environments. As we outline in the following pages, Thinkforward sets out an ambitious set of actions, unites our community of scholars around a central learning outcome, and reflects our ongoing commitment to improve general education.
We are excited by the opportunities this QEP offers our students and faculty and look forward to sharing our QEP vision with the On-Site Review Committee during their visit to campus. Thank you very much for the attention you are giving to the University of Mississippi’s reaffirmation of accreditation process.
Larry D. Sparks
Interim Chancellor University of Mississippi
The University of Mississippi is a comprehensive public-research university and the flagship University of the State of Mississippi. With Fall 2018 enrollment of 20,418 and regional instructional sites in DeSoto, Tupelo, Booneville, and Grenada, the University is Mississippi’s first comprehensive, public university and classified as R1: Doctoral University—Highest Research Activity in the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.
The mission of the University is to create, evaluate, share, and apply knowledge in a free, open, and inclusive environment of intellectual inquiry. The education of undergraduates plays the primary role in the life of the University. And in fulfillment of that role our mission charges us explicitly to provide “an academic experience that emphasizes critical thinking” (University, 2018).
Critical thinking is at the heart of a college education. Our graduates face a complex and rapidly changing world. In order to thrive in any walk of life, University of Mississippi graduates must be able to form sound judgments based on reason and fact, remain open to the discovery of new facts, and understand that their judgments are made in the context of a world of broad and diverse perspectives. We know that while we cannot predict with detail the future of the world of work in which our graduates will engage, preparing them to meet it with strong critical thinking skills will enable to them to adapt to any challenge.
We have developed this Quality Enhancement Plan, Thinkforward with twin goals to support critical thinking: over the course of five years, we will (a) cultivate the ability of our faculty to teach critical thinking and (b) enhance the student learning environment to better engage critical thinking. Through a consensus-driven process, we have articulated a local definition of critical thinking and have also developed six student learning outcomes unique to our campus. In support of these goals, we will engage in seven comprehensive actions, which include hiring new personnel to lead our initiative, creating an annual faculty institute to support critical thinking pedagogy, providing opportunities for critical thinking redesign grants, supporting faculty programming on critical thinking, as well as developing other initiatives. The learning outcomes will be regularly assessed and all of these actions will be supported financially and administratively.
Thinkforward springs forth from broad conversations between students, faculty, and staff. This dialogue is clearly tied to our strategic plan, Flagship Forward, which specifically dedicates us to academic excellence. Our community views this plan as an opportunity to achieve even greater success with the mission we now undertake. Our campus culture understands the value of critical thinking to a college education.
We are thinking forward!