By: Christina Koonts

Assessment plays an important role in an organization, Virginia International University included. The role assessment plays impacts everyone who has a stake in VIU. The process allows for the Office of Institutional Effectiveness to better help plan and implement strategic plans for different staff departments as well as the deans of VIU’s schools of study. Creating strong and effective plans for all aspects of the university allow for continued growth and overall achievement. Assessment is an integral part of how VIU’s future is shaped.

Assessment is being able to give value or importance to something; for an organization it determines what we do as departments and individuals, and then work to improve our work and processes in those avenues. In the context of higher education, assessment is defined more narrowly and specifies a particular assessment use. Assessment in U.S. colleges and universities is now understood as a means of developing and improving student learning and teaching:
Assessment is the systematic collection, review, and use of information about educational programs undertaken for the purpose of improving student learning and development. (Palomba & Banta, 1999 [2015], p. 4)

Improving performance, both academically and organizationally! Simply put, assessment is defined as continuous improvement.

The Office of Institutional Effectiveness (OIE), overseen by Associate Vice President Ms.
Christina Koonts, recognizes that assessment is conducted through different measures for a variety of assessment uses, though with a common aim of systematically using evidence to improve institutional effectiveness. Assessment at VIU, then, happens in four areas:
a) School-level programmatic assessment of student learning (for all degree and certificate programs).

b) Bachelor degree level programmatic assessment of general education learning.

c) Evaluation of nonacademic/ support and student affairs units.

d) Institutional assessment/evaluation of educational and administrative effectiveness.

With respect to (c), evaluation of nonacademic/ support and student affairs units is defined by the Office of Institutional Effectiveness as follows (adapted from Banta & Palomba, 2015): Assessment: Aggregating individual measures for the purpose of discovering group strengths and weaknesses that can guide improvement actions.

With the constant changing work environment, there is a periodic need to review how jobs are defined, departments are organized, processes are structured, and problems are managed. The goal of assessment is to assist managers and deans in implementing effective action plans and appropriate solutions toward achievement of organizational objectives.
In essence, the point of assessment is not the sheer collection of reports and data; it is instead the application of the data to promote changes and developments within the organizational culture and operations. Collection without analysis and application is fruitless.
At VIU we conduct assessment both organizationally and academically. Organizationally, we conduct goal-setting exercises in each department, all of which are tied to the strategic goals of the institution. This process is important because it is what drives fulfillment of our institutional strategic plan. We have a direction that we need to go in, and by monitoring and evaluating performance and achievement, we are able to ensure that we are getting there. Academically, we are looking to fulfill student learning outcomes for each program. All assessment is centered around measurement of what learning is taking place.
We want to be sure that our students learn what they set out to, in order to be successful after graduation. Additionally, we are able to find weaknesses in the programs and drive curricular improvement, keeping the programs relevant and up-to-date, and providing a better product for VIU students.

The short answer? Everyone! The structure is part of a systematized and organized process regulated by the Office of Institutional Effectiveness. Individual departments are responsible for the oversight and maintenance of assessment within their organization. This is accomplished by having an embedded focus on the analysis of assessment as essential components of each department, both academic and organizational. Therefore, departments are responsible for forming and maintaining assessments and assessment practices within their respective areas. Given that each organizational function is unique, all departments are tasked with determining a structure and function that is most conducive to their roles within the institution. As a result, the roles of all individuals at an institution might be articulated by the formalized structure of the work of the OIE.

The most important information that VIU departments report to the Office of Institutional Effectiveness (and what VIU must report to regulatory bodies) is how assessment results are being used toward improved or developed organizational and educational processes and procedures. We all want to improve, as individuals and departments and provide the best working and learning environment possible in a sustainable manner. We want our student services to be strong, just as we want our curriculum to be strong and relevant. Assessment helps us to take an objective look at what it is we are doing in the day-to-day operations to determine what is working well, and what is not working well. We can then readjust and align our objectives to be more focused, with the intended result of a better experience for all of the VIU community.

Assessment never stops. Assessment at VIU involves the analysis and interpretation of information on employee and departmental performance as a basis for identifying needed improvement or development of educational and organizational processes.

Analysis relates to producing assessment results and involves summarizing, arranging, presenting, or otherwise rendering assessment data for interpretation and decision-making. VIU departments are asked to summarize and report results for all assessment data. For quantitatively-oriented data, reporting can be summaries of aggregated performance ratings or scores (e.g., percentiles, etc.). For qualitative/ textually-oriented results, departments can summarize prevailing trends or themes in the data (among other examples). However, it is an ongoing and continuous process that truly never ends.

VIU’s OIE monitors steps the collection and use of data carefully. OIE (and SACS COC) is interested in knowing what VIU departments are learning about the effectiveness of their organizational processes on the basis of assessment results, and, where achievement or improvement has not happened as expected, what actions directors and employees are taking to enhance the quality of departmental delivery. This essentially establishes the use of assessment data for continuous improvement. The use and reuse of data/information occur over the lifetime of an assessment cycle and is intended to learn and grow along with the department (and employees).

The School of Public and International Affairs is glad to announce a scholarship especially offered to SPIA students. The Gerard and Dianne Blais VIU-SPIA Scholarship will be awarded to a student who demonstrates potential for continued academic and professional success, as well as the need for financial assistance.

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Often students do not give much consideration to internships during the fall semester, often thinking that they only happen in the summer time. However, many organizations and companies offer unpaid and even paid intern positions throughout the year!

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This year’s company picnic was bigger and better than last year with an obstacle course, face painter, caricature artists, balloon twister, and a petting zoo!  VIU employees invited their families to enjoy the fun and we all had a great time!

A huge thank you goes out to the Facilities team and the student staff who helped make this year great – the food was a hit, and we couldn’t have done it without you!

This year, along with our annual raffle for door prizes, Courtney Hill coordinated a 50/50 raffle to raise money for the VIU Scholarship Fund.  Camilla Nunes was the lucky winner of the raffle and graciously donated back her winnings to the pot.  We raised a total of $450 for ours students!  Great job everyone!

The door prizes this year went to the following lucky winners: 

  • AMC Gift Card àPrashish Shrestha
  • Essential Oil Kit àKamrul Hasan
  • Outdoor Picnic Basket à Dr. Isa Sarac
  • Orville Redenbacher Air Popper àSmita Maskey
  • Restaurant Gift Card àNitesh Pradhan
  • Amazon Echo Dot à Dr. Klara Bilgin
  • Room Escape Gift Certificate àElizabeth Garibay
  • iPod Shuffle àSadik Bulut
  • Headphones à PremRavula
  • FujiFilmInstax Camera àChristy Koonts
  • Kennedy Center Gift Certificate àManda Mendbayar
  • Red Door Spa Gift Card à Ken Kidmungtangdee
  • Cookology Gift Certificate àCourtney Hill
  • Nationals v. Braves Tickets àKarla DeMarsico
  • 48” Smart LED TV àPatrick Moss

Dr. Ron Kovach, Vice President of Academic Affairs, spending time with
his grandchildren at the company picnic in July.
Last month, VIU participated in our first Corporate FunRun in Chantilly, VA, and our team had a great time!  Thank you to all of the staff members who participated this year.  We are happy to announce that we raised money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society AND we won Second Largest Team!  We can’t wait for next year!

Congratulations to Takaki Matsumoto for being VIU’s top runner and for placing in the top 50 male runners (out of 142) in just under 32 minutes.