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Welcome to the Third Edition of Innovation in Higher Education. The passage of the Virginia Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2011 will have a profound effect on the Commonwealth’s colleges and universities for decades to come. Also known as the "Top Jobs Act," or "TJ21," this groundbreaking legislation calls on Virginia’s institutions of higher education to create or enhance programs that lead to more college graduates, greater employability, and a strong economy for the future of all Virginians. In the spirit of TJ21, SCHEV is devoting this space to the innovative programs being implemented at the Commonwealth’s colleges and universities aimed at achieving these goals.

Some Specific Areas TJ21 Addresses

Specific Programs that Address TJ21 Goals


Commonwealth STEM Industry Internship Program (CSIIP)

The CSIIP is a free online tool that matches Virginia college students with Virginia companies offering paid summer internships. One application puts the student's profile in front of over 85 companies across Virginia. Companies are in control of the selection process and hire students directly. The overall goal of this program is to provide work-based STEM experiences for Virginia students, and to develop a relationship between Virginia students and Virginia industry with the ultimate goal of keeping STEM talent in Virginia. CSIIP is funded by the Commonwealth of Virginia and is being managed and implemented by the Virginia Space Grant Consortium (VSGC). The application process is closed for summer 2013, but will reopen by September 2013 for the next internship cycle.

For more information:

George Washington University, Bachelor's Degree Completion Program in Integrated Information, Science and Technology (IIST)

The IIST program at GW is a bachelor’s degree completion program designed for community college students and working professionals who wish to continue their studies beyond an Associate’s degree. Created in 2009, this program is offered at GW’s Arlington Education Center. The program runs on a cohort model resulting in a very high retention rate among the students. Students are able to finish the program in 5 semesters (less than two years). The integrated and STEM-oriented content of the program provides students with the necessary skills required to be successful in the Information Science Technology and Biotechnology fields. Currently, 33 students are participating in the program. A transfer agreement allows Northern Virginia Community College students to complete their degrees through this program. Additionally, some students may continue on to earn a Master’s through GW’s business school.

For more information:

Old Dominion University, DegreeWorks

DegreeWorks has been an academic advising tool used by academic advisors at Old Dominion University since fall 2009. DegreeWorks uses completed courses stored in student academic histories, to produce a degree audit for each student. The system uses rules and requirements published in the undergraduate and graduate catalogs, defined and coded for each program. The degree audit includes features, such as maintenance of advising notes, future course planning and, in particular, the student can produce a "what if" audit in the event of a change of major to demonstrate how completed and planned courses might apply. The degree audit allows students to easily identify unmet degree requirements, including remaining courses, GPA requirements, minimum grade requirements, and required assessments and exams. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, use of DegreeWorks can reduce time to degree by guiding the student accurately and efficiently through requirements for degree completion

For more information:

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Radford University, Wintermester Online Semester

Radford University implemented its first Wintermester session in December 2012 which offered students a five-week, online, mini-semester tucked in between fall and spring semesters. Almost 190 students enrolled in the new online courses offered during the Wintermester. The session was specifically designed to help students progress more quickly in their degree programs by providing a variety of course offerings. All instruction was conducted online and allowed RU students to take a class while at home celebrating the holidays. It also provided the opportunity to hold a part-time job during the winter break which assists with affordability. It is anticipated that non-RU students will find Wintermester to be a helpful way to advance their academic career. Wintermester sessions allow students to progress more rapidly toward degree completion, emphasize a more effective use of technology and teaching resources through year-round utilization, assist with the retention of students, and expand the growth and development of Radford University's online learning opportunities.

For more information:

Ferrum College, Professional Certificate Programs

The Ferrum College certificate programs seek to differentiate graduates in the very competitive and challenging job market. These programs have been strategically devised to enhance career opportunities. Certificates complement standard class work and acknowledge to prospective employers the accomplishment of a value-added education guided by the student’s own initiative, going well beyond average effort. Direct involvement, in addition to degree-related coursework, enhances a student’s educational experience by providing opportunities with practical impact upon their chosen field of study. Currently, students have the opportunity to explore the areas of: Agricultural Entrepreneurship, Global Perspectives, Professional Accountancy, and Stewardship toward Sustainability. Professional certificates are awarded at commencement and focused within a chosen major.

For more information:

Virginia Military Institute, ePortfolio Project

The VMI ePortfolio Project promotes reflective learning through a blend of traditional and multimodal assignments that cadets complete in an electronic space. This academic program initiative encourages faculty members across disciplines to design new courses (or redesign existing courses) using the ePortfolio as a vehicle for teaching and learning. In these courses, cadets may keep reading response journals or, as required by their professors, start their own blogs. Others create movie trailers, podcasts, commercials, or use other forms of visual media as a vehicle for learning. In this way, the VMI ePortfolio Project provides both incentive and support for technology-enhanced instruction that employs a range of different modes of learning.

For more information:

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Virginia Tech, National Tire Research Center Collaboration

The recent creation of the National Tire Research Center in Halifax County, Virginia is a major research and development project involving Virginia Tech, private sector, and regional collaboration. Together with General Motors and the Tobacco Commission, Tech’s Transportation Institute has created the Center with an $11 million one-of-a-kind machine to do research on more fuel efficient and safer tires. This will bring people from all over the world to Southside and will create jobs and other economic activity.

For more information:

George Mason University, MAP-Works (Making Achievement Possible)

In order to improve the University’s retention and graduation rates, targeted interventions for first- and second-year students who are at the highest risk of leaving were implemented using the MAP-Works platform. MAP-Works is a theory-driven, robust, and proven early alert system, which provides a mechanism for collecting and sharing information that will lead to targeted interventions. It allows all campus stakeholders (faculty, advisors, University Life staff, and students) to work together to ensure student success and it uses a proactive approach to identifying at-risk students by providing warning indicators based on both institutional and student self-reported survey data. In addition, Mason piloted an incentivized networking experience for students in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences during which students met with deans and upper-class students to get personalized advice on experiences and opportunities.

For more information:

Bridgewater College, Early Warning Programs

Through new, multidisciplinary programs at Bridgewater College, faculty, staff, and students across campus are focusing on student retention and academic success, and are witnessing great results. The Early Warning Program is designed to give faculty and staff a place to report concerns about students and get these students the academic, social, or psychological assistance they need. In addition, students are being trained to help one another succeed and remain in school through the Academic Coaching Program. Upperclassmen acting as Academic Coaches work with incoming students to help them develop the study skills and discipline that make for successful students. The program has doubled in size in the past year. As a result of the Early Warning Program, Academic Coaching Program, and other retention-focused initiatives, the College is experiencing some of its best retention rates in years.

For more information: 540-828-5607

Virginia State University, Academy for Engineering & Technology at the New College Institute

In August 2012, VSU launched the Academy for Engineering and Technology (AET) in partnership with the New College Institute (NCI) in Martinsville. The pilot initiative is designed to prepare Southside Virginia high-school students for future enrollment in STEM programs at the college level or for skilled, entry-level employment with advanced manufacturing firms. Upon graduating from high school, AET students will receive a certificate in engineering, technology, advanced manufacturing, and the opportunity to obtain industry-level certification relevant to computer-aided design and logistics operations. Those students will then have opportunities to immediately enter the workforce or to continue their education at VSU or another higher education institution. Classroom instruction is enhanced by experiential learning and paid internships with advanced manufacturing employers.

For more information:

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Image credits: Governor of Virginia's Office. Photo by Michaele White.