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Curricula Assessment 2015

The Department of Animal, Dairy, and Veterinary Sciences (ADVS) considers, evaluates and promotes teaching as a critical mission for the Department. The Department Head supervises and directs all assessment activities and educational programs within the Department. He delegates undergraduate assessment responsibilities to the Curriculum Committee. The Curriculum Committee comprises 7 faculty members with significant teaching assignments and the ADVS student adviser. Graduate assessment is delegated to the Graduate Programs Committee (GPC). This Committee consists of 5 ADVS faculty members with significant research appointments. In addition, the Department Head on occasion may appoint internal and external ad hoc committees to advise on curriculum relevance and program direction.

Key Indicators of Success

Key indicators of success include student input evaluations, curriculum review and evaluation, student performance and input from faculty.

Student Assessment Input

  • ADVS implements the Utah State University policy of having every course evaluated by students each time it is offered. The Department Head and faculty insures the highest level of instructional competence by reviewing evaluations annually. ADVS uses the university's adopted IDEA system (additional information found here).
  • The Department conducts its own written undergraduate exit survey. The survey is distributed to exiting seniors via Qualtrics. The Department Head and Curriculum Committee review the results. The School of Graduate Studies administers an exit survey for graduating students. The Department Head and GPC review the results for ADVS graduates.
  • The Department Head conducts an oral exit interview at or around the time a graduate student completes his/her program of study. The interview schedule is arranged by the Graduate Programs Coordinator. The purpose of the interview is to assess the students' graduate experience and to respond to critical issues needing immediate attention.

Curriculum Assessment

  • The Curriculum Committee and GPC makes recommendations to, and seeks input from, the ADVS faculty on a regular basis regarding curricula and program development in the Department. Assessment of graduate training also involves continuous liaison with Colleges/Universities offering similar graduate degrees. Curricula are adjusted as needed to meet the present-day skills and training required by academia and industry.
  • In addition to adjustments based on continuous assessment, the GPC periodically undertakes a comprehensive review of ADVS graduate program curricula at approximately five-year intervals as mandated by the School of Graduate Studies. Such reviews include extensive surveys of current students, alumni, and employers of ADVS graduates, as well as reviews of comparable programs at peer institutions. A recent five-year review can be found here.

Student Performance Assessment

The success rate of graduates from ADVS undergraduate and graduate programs in career placement and admission to other graduate programs is closely tracked. The standard of excellence is to ensure that every student completing a degree program in ADVS is competitive for positions in teaching, research, extension, and industry and for admittance to professional schools.

University Instructor and Course Evaluation Tool

Based on the IDEA evaluation system, all categories of courses within the ADVS undergraduate curriculum compare well against courses nationwide, discipline-wide, and within our institution. Students appear to be very satisfied with the quality of courses offered in ADVS. ADVS occasionally conduct systematic evaluations at the programmatic level to improve satisfaction with introductory courses.

IDEA evaluation scores for course quality ADVS

Methodology Used

In 2011, USU transitioned to the IDEA system for course and teacher evaluations. The IDEA system is a statistical science-based assessment program that relies on an extensive, nationwide repository of course evaluation data from all corners of higher education. The system provides students an opportunity to evaluate the overall quality of a course, the overall quality of the teacher, and then perceived progress towards relevant pre-selected (by the instructor) course objectives. It was determined that in the assessment of our undergraduate programs, ADVS would be remiss if the powerful assessment capabilities of this science-based evaluation system was not used. ADVS has mined the IDEA data for all ADVS courses taught at least once between 2011 and 2015. Rather than focus on individual courses or individual instructors, ADVS broke the entire course catalog into seven different general categories: Introductory courses (1000-level classes with mostly freshman enrollment), Intermediate courses (2000- and 3000-level classes with mostly sophomore but some junior enrollment), Capstone courses (rigorous 3000+ level classes with mostly junior and senior level involvement), Equine courses (consists of introductory, intermediate, and capstone level classes, but that are exclusively part of the equine program), Hands-on classes (self-explanatory; lab based, usually upper level classes with smaller enrollment), Quantitative Intensive/Communications Intensive courses (ADVS classes that have university QI/CI designations because of the type of assignments required. These classes fill specific requirements at the university level), and then ADVS graduate level courses (some 5000 level classes are duel listed as graduate and undergraduate courses).

The IDEA system takes the raw course evaluation scores as input values, converts them to a normalized evaluation score by comparing to other course evaluations from the entire nationwide IDEA database, from other programs within a specific discipline (Agricultural Sciences, for the ADVS department), or from all disciplines within the university. These converted scores are actually normalized rankings, where a score of 50 is exactly average, and the scores go up or down from there, as appropriate. The scores have been processed such that rankings between 45 and 55 comprise are statistically indistinguishable from each other. These comprise 40% of the courses, and these are all deemed "average". Of the remaining 60% of courses, half (30% of the total) are above average (scores greater than 55), and half (the other 30% of the total) are below average (scores lower than 45). The figure provided shows the converted evaluation scores for overall course quality as broken down by course category within the ADVS program. The figure shows ADVS courses compared to other courses nationwide, within our discipline, and within USU. The data in this illustration show that ADVS students feel the courses in their emphasis of study are of excellent quality: ADVS courses are perceived to be "above average" in just about every one of the ADVS categories when compared with the nationwide database. The two kinds of classes that get ranked only as "average" are the introductory courses and the QI/CI courses. When compared to other ADVS courses, the only category that is anything other than "average" is the introductory category, which statistically falls below average. The ADVS introductory courses are average when we compare to other similar courses at USU. The two predictable trends as noted are the Introductory courses and our QI/CI courses scoring lower than all other ADVS courses.

Student's Perception of the ADVS Department and Curriculum

Overall, student perception of the ADVS Department faculty, staff, and curriculum are very positive. ADVS students report to their favorite USU classes and professors are from the ADVS curriculum, particularly the production courses. This trend reflects the IDEA data previously presented. Students like taking as many hands-on courses where they perform laboratory procedures and work with animals.

In the past, ADVS has not had an effective tool in which to assess student's perception of the major (emphasis). Therefore, a new survey tool has been established that will better assess the student's perception and allow them to provide input regarding the overall effectiveness of their program of study. This survey will be sent to students at the time they meet with the ADVS academic adviser to complete all graduation requirements.

Survey Tool Used

Undergraduate students are surveyed to ascertain their perceptions of the ADVS curriculum. The survey can be accessed by going to: https://usu.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/preview/SV_4ONAmHpXFMG2i33

Learning Objectives

The following tables delineate learning objectives from each ADVS undergraduate course, organized by our four emphasis areas; animal/dairy science, biotechnology science, bio-veterinary science, and equine science and management.

Animal/Dairy Sciences EmphasisBiotechnology emphasisBioveterinary Science emphasisEquine Science and Management emphasis
ADVS Graduate Degree Program

The Department of Animal, Dairy, and Veterinary Sciences (ADVS) offers comprehensive and exciting opportunities for students seeking MS and PhD degrees in the Animal, Dairy, and Veterinary Sciences. Students may choose from a series of knowledge-based specializations in Animal Nutrition, Animal Molecular Genetics, Reproduction and Development, and Animal Health and Disease.

Students specializing in these disciplines will become skilled in the applications of molecular biology, genomics, metabolomics, proteomics and bioinformatics. For students seeking careers in production animal agriculture, ADVS also offers Animal and Dairy Management degree options. Management options prepare students for the challenges facing the animal industry and commodity groups in the 21st century.

Graduate Learning Objectives

Learning objectives apply to all degree programs and specializations in ADVS

  • Provide a competent faculty and state-of-the-art facilities for comprehensive student training toward MS and PhD degrees in Animal, Dairy and Veterinary Science with specializations in Animal Management, Animal Health and Disease, Animal Molecular Genetics, Animal Nutrition, and Reproduction and Development and MS and PhD degrees in Toxicology.
  • Provide student mentoring in degree specialization to ensure job competitiveness in teaching, research, extension, and other professional positions.
  • Provide classroom, laboratory, and field learning experiences that will expose students to the latest scientific principles and research techniques.
  • Provide opportunities for students to make presentations at professional meetings that contribute to effective learning, knowledge enhancement, and leadership skills. Students perfect their presentation skills by making oral presentations at the regularly scheduled ADVS seminar.

Student-customized learning objectives

  • Learning objectives are established based upon degree, specialization, and the career goals of the student. The student in consultation with his/her supervisory committee determine course requirements. Depending on the research emphasis selected and the students' background, requirements generally differ for each student.
  • Students working toward an MS or PhD degree must complete graduate-level statistics courses, as well as participate in the ADVS seminar.
  • Learning objectives are met by passing rigorous graduate level courses, passing the comprehensive exam for students in a PhD program and the successful defense of the thesis or dissertation.
  • To meet individualized learning objectives a student will be expected to become competent in one of the following degrees/specializations.
    • Animal, Dairy and Veterinary Science (MS/PhD)
      • Animal Management (MS only plan A and B
      • Animal Health and Disease
      • Animal Molecular Genetics
      • Animal Nutrition
      • Reproduction and Development Toxicology (MS/PhD)

Graduate Outcome Data

  • During 2008 - 2009 a comprehensive review of the ADVS graduate program was undertaken that resulted in a general revision in degrees and specializations. The recommendation was approved by the ADVS Faculty in the fall of 2008, approved by the Board of Regents in 2009 and implemented Fall Semester 2010.
  • During 2009 a series of discussions were initiated with the ADVS faculty to determine if there was support for a proposed 2 + 2 veterinary degree program (DVM) with Washington State University School of Veterinary Medicine. The DVM program would require that the first two years of the degree program be on the USU Logan campus and years 3 and 4 on the Washington State University, Pullman Campus. The Utah School of Veterinary Medicine would be a separate entity under the College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences (CAAS) and the faculty would hold faculty positions in ADVS. Since many of the faculty in the Utah School of Veterinary Medicine would have dual assignments of teaching and research they would be expected to mentor graduate students. The administrative oversight for graduate students would reside with ADVS. ADVS faculty unanimously supported the proposal. The proposed Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in a Washington-Utah Cooperative Veterinary Educational Program was submitted to, and approved by, the Utah Board of Regents in 2010, with Utah Legislative consent and funding in 2011. The first class began Fall 2012.
  • A survey of credit hour requirements for the PhD degree at universities with comparable missions and structure (competing institutions) was undertaken in 2011. The purpose of the survey was to determine if ADVS exceeded competing institutions credit hour requirements for the PhD degree, and if so, what would then be the optimal credit hour requirement.
  • At the request of the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies and Vice President of Research in 2011, a 5-year plan to improve upon the current graduate program in ADVS was submitted in June 2012 and approved by Central Administration in 2012.
    • 5 Year Plan View Here
The plan was developed in cooperation with ADVS faculty and graduate students. Six areas were identified that needed improvement:
  • Financial support of graduate students in the form of tuition support, graduate assistantships, and funds for student travel to conduct or present research.
  • Financial support to aid in recruitment of top graduate students to the limited number of open positions.
  • Maintain a critical mass of active researchers in topic areas of the Department.
  • Increase personnel in deficient core areas, namely the animal nutrition program and animal/dairy management.
  • Maintain current graduate course offerings, and supplement with additional advanced courses (especially in the molecular sciences) to graduate students.
  • Emphasis throughout graduate student program on career counseling.
  • More structured application of directed mentoring strategy (via adviser and dissertation committee).
  • In 2014, the USU Interdepartmental Toxicology Graduate Program was discontinued. Much of the support for the Interdepartmental program had come from ADVS faculty and the Utah Agricultural Experiment Station. Upon assessing comments from ADVS faculty, a recommendation was made in the ADVS 5-year Graduate Programs Plan, that the Interdepartmental Toxicology Graduate Program would become a graduate degree program administered by ADVS.
  • During the period from 2009 through 2015, all graduates were surveyed to determine if they had found employment opportunities in positions within their areas of specialization or if they would be pursing additional degrees or post-degree training.

Graduate Data-Based Decisions

  • In 2010, the degree programs (Animal Science, Dairy Science and Bioveterinary Science were consolidated into a one-degree program. Prior to 2010, three separate degree programs were offered with various specializations. These programs were spread out over 20 - 30 students. This resulted in lower enrollment numbers in each degree program. Further, the Bioveterinary Science degree program was often confused with the undergraduate Bioveterinary Science emphasis. Therefore in the economy and better management of the existing graduate programs, the three degree programs were brought under a single MS and PhD degree program with 5 specializations: Animal Management (Plan A and B), Animal Health and Disease, Animal Molecular Genetics, Animal Nutrition and Reproduction and Development. The Animal Management specialization is a management oriented program and therefore is only offered as a MS degree program.
  • The Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in the Washington-Utah Cooperative Veterinary Educational Program was approved, funded and became a DVM degree program in 2011. A Pathology/PhD program was instituted in Fall 2012. The DVM from a US approved veterinary school was required for entrance into the Pathology/PhD degree program.
  • The 2011 survey of credit hour requirements for the PhD degree at competing universities resulted in the reduction of the number of credit hours for completion of the PhD program from 90 credits for the BS to PhD to 72, and from 60 to 42 for the MS and DVM to PhD. The change was approved by the Board of Regents in 2012 and went into effect fall semester 2012.
  • ADVS is midway through the 5-year graduate program plan. The following has thus far been accomplished:
    • Financial support of graduate students in the form of tuition support, graduate assistantships, and funds for student travel to conduct or present research: 
    • At the beginning of the 5-year plan ADVS offered 8 research assistantships (MS 13,000 and PhD 16,000 with subsidized health benefits. Today, that number has been increased to 11 and a new ADVS Doctoral Research Fellowship has been established ($18,000 with subsidized health benefits). A student receiving this fellowship also qualifies for a tuition award. Additionally, ADVS and the School of Veterinary Medicine offer a resident program in Pathology/MS or PhD. A student in this program must have a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and will prepare to become board certified in pathology while completing either an MS or PhD. The stipend for this program is $32,000 with subsidized health benefits and the student qualifies for a tuition award. Therefore, ADVS and the School of Veterinary Medicine have made significant contributions to increasing graduate student assistance by providing more research assistantship support. ADVS has also encouraged the research faculty to include graduate student stipends as a budgetary item where permissible on their grants. 
    • Financial support to aid in recruitment of top graduate students to the limited number of open positions:
      • ADVS successfully competed from among the 5 Departments in the College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences for a Presidential Doctoral Research Fellowship (PDRF). The student was recruited and brought to campus in the recruitment process. A second PDRF was offered to CAAS. The applicant from ADVS had the strongest academic record, but the fellowship went to another department since ADVS had already received a PDRF. The School of Graduate Studies (SGS) was approached on this issue and it was agreed between SGS and ADVS that a 50/50 match totaling $20,000 would be offered for 4 years similar to a PDRF. Another student was highly recruited and brought to campus during the interview process and chose to enter a PhD program in ADVS. A first time ADVS Doctoral Research Fellowship was made available in 2013 and a highly qualified and highly recruited student was offered the fellowship. This student was brought to campus during the recruiting process. All of the doctoral applicants were out-of-state. Another top student was being recruited into a PhD program in ADVS and the major professor could only offer the student $16,000/year from an extramural grant. ADVS augmented that amount by $4,000 and the student accepted the offer to attend USU, although she was being highly recruited by other universities. The student was brought to campus in the recruiting process. Therefore, ADVS recruited 4 academically outstanding graduate student scholars in fulfillment of its initiative to recruit top graduate students. It is now ADVS policy that all extramural grant applications, where allowable, must factor in graduate student support as a budgeted category. In addition, the Department Head informed the ADVS research faculty that, within means, the Department will augment assistantships if it will result in matriculating graduate student scholars.Maintain a critical mass of active researchers in topic areas of the department. Some core areas are currently deficient in personnel, namely the animal nutrition program and animal/dairy management.
      • Within the past 3 years ADVS has recruited and successfully hired 6 highly qualified faculty to new positions primarily within the USU School of Veterinary Medicine. Drs. Mason, Meyer, Meyer-Ficca, Rutigliano, Campbell and Vanderwall. All have substantial research appointments except for Dr. Vanderwall, who was appointed ADVS Department Head in September 2014. Dr. Vanderwall still maintains an active research program and will continue to mentor graduate students. ADVS anticipates these faculty hires will eventually boost the number of graduate students in ADVS by at least 25% and thereby grow the program as specified in its 5-year plan. A nutritionist, Dr. Thorton-Kurth, with a strong background in molecular and growth biology has been hired and started in August of 2015. The hiring of this faculty will fill a critical need stipulated in the 5-year plan. 
      • Maintain current graduate course offerings, and supplement with additional advanced courses (especially in the molecular sciences) 
      • The following School of Veterinary courses (VM) were cross-listed for ADVS graduate students and for students from other departments such as Biology: 
        • Vet Microscopic Anatomy (VM 7510 - ADVS 7510)
        • Vet Physiology I (VM 7519/ADVS 7519)
        • Vet Physiology II (VM 7520/ADVS 7520) 
        • Vet Immunology (VM 7534/ADVS 7534) 
        • Vet Virology (VM 7535/ADVS 7535) 
        • Vet Bacteriology (VM 7536/ADVS 7536) 
        • General Pathology (VM 7545/ADVS 7545) - 2 hour course without lab for graduate students. 
In addition, ADVS now offers Endocrinology (ADVS 6630) and Science Communication (ADVS 6650).
Emphasis throughout graduate student program on career counseling:
  • ADVS has appointed Dr. Lee Rickords as the Graduate Programs Coordinator and part of his assignment is to advise graduate students on career opportunities. Dr. Rickords is well informed on opportunities in genetics, reproduction and molecular biology. In other specializations, he may direct students to faculty in ADVS or other departments whereby the student can receive career guidance.
    • More structured application of directed mentoring strategy (via adviser and dissertation committee): ADVS will continue to include students as authors on referred scientific publications, continue with an excellent seminar series that brings outside scientists to campus to interact with students, and continue to support a high level of student involvement in research presentations at local/national/international meetings. The Department has developed an accountability tracking system that enhances student progress, updates and provides online access to the ADVS Graduate Student Handbook, enhances accountability for faculty mentorship, established an annual ADVS Graduate Student/Mentor Symposium that enhances student-faculty interaction and education, and has developed a foundational research course that provides ADVS graduate students with a basic understanding of best-practices for working in nationally competitive research laboratories. These measures will increase faculty accountability for graduate student mentorship and will provide students with a clearer pathway to completion of their degree program.
  • In 2014 the MS and PhD in Toxicology were offered as new degree programs in ADVS.
  • Surveys of graduating graduate students began in 2015. At present there is not enough data to provide useful information leading to formative discussions by the Graduate Programs Committee. The information will be used to discuss program improvements and possible program changes.

Overall Accomplishments from Various Faculty and Student Assessments

Since 2009, ADVS has made significant improvements in its graduate programs (e.g., more assistantships, improved website development, revised and updated Graduate Programs Handbook.

Successfully recruited more top tier students (scholars), hired additional faculty, currently filling a critical faculty position in Animal Nutrition, offers more graduate level courses to students in ADVS and other departments such as Biology and has taken on a greater administrative role in mentoring and monitoring graduate student progress. Students that enter a degree program in ADVS complete their program of study within a reasonable period of time (BS or DVM to MS 2 years, BS to PhD 4 - 5 years and MS or DVM to PhD 3 years) and become employed in professional and academic positions. Because of the various initiatives that have been put into place, new graduate student enrollment (based on fall semester counts) is on the increase: 2012 = 5, 2013 = 4, and 2014 = 12).

Beginning 2015, the Department Head will conduct oral graduate student exit interviews at or around the time the Graduate Program Coordinator signs off on the completion of the thesis/dissertation form. 

The purpose of the interview is to assess the students' graduate experience and to respond to critical issues that may need immediate attention.