Skip to main content

Strategic Plan for Biology

Context For Planning

A major strength that benefits the Biology Department is being housed in the new Kindschi Hall of Science, a building that the Biology faculty helped design to meet its own specifications. Working in this custom-designed facility will greatly enhance the department's ability to foster student learning and collaborative scholarship for years to come. The Biology Department finalized major reviews and substantial program revisions to its undergraduate Biology and Natural Resources Management majors in 2015 and 2016, and will be fully implementing the revised programs during the current strategic plan time period. As a result of the major revisions to the undergraduate Biology and Natural Resources Management curricula, the department will need to carefully assess the impact these changes will have on program and student outcomes and student learning objectives. If the desired effects of these curricular changes are not obtained, the department needs to be ready to institute corrective revisions promptly. By updating its undergraduate curricula, the Biology Department is well-placed to continue providing a high-quality education through state-of-the-art programs to students in its undergraduate Biology and Natural Resources Management majors.  Students in the Biology Department are involved in research, internships, service learning, and international experiences through their association with the Biology Department, and these are activities we will continue to encourage.  The Biology Department recognizes and rewards its faculty for excellence in teaching, scholarship, and service. Multiple University awards attest to the teaching excellence of the Biology faculty. The Biology faculty is actively engaged in scholarship, and includes a substantial number of exemplary scholars with national and international reputations. Both undergraduate and graduate students in the Biology Department also are actively engaged in scholarship with faculty mentors. The Biology Department faculty provides substantial service to the college, university, and community, and faculty members occupy leadership roles in all of these service areas. The service provided by the Biology faculty is a source of substantial synergism with both teaching and scholarship and is a collective strength that the Biology Department should not relinquish. Even though the department successfully hired seven tenure-track faculty members from 2009 to 2016, as a result of resignation, retirement, and administrative reassignment, the total number of tenure-track faculty in the Biology Department actually declined during this time period, from 35 in 2009-2010 to 32 by the end of 2015-2016. As a result, the Department remains dependent on affiliate, visiting, and adjunct faculty to instruct a substantial number of course sections, especially in its introductory lecture and laboratory courses. This also was identified as a challenge in the 2003-2008 self study, and is an area of continuing concern to the department. For this reason, the department needs to continue its efforts to increase and then maintain the number of tenure-track faculty so that it is better able to support the substantial teaching, scholarship, and service duties expected of its faculty. The strategic plan detailed below was developed based on the specific challenges identified through the unit-level and programmatic self studies completed in April, 2016, and focuses on actions to address those challenges.  Those things the Biology Department does well, as detailed in the unit-level and programmatic self studies, will continue to be done well, even if they are not specifically represented by formal strategic plan objectives. 



Mission

The Biology department offers undergraduate programs in Biology and Natural Resources Management and a graduate program in Biology. The Biology department is an inclusive learning community that engages in critical inquiry extending scientific knowledge and practices to foster engaged citizens, and mentor creative and competent professionals in the biological and natural resource sciences.

Vision

The Biology department will provide students with theoretical and practical skills by offering a rigorous and challenging curriculum rooted in intensive field and laboratory courses. We will encourage creative and critical thinking by providing opportunities for independent research projects both inside and outside of the curriculum. In order to do this, we recognize that we must support faculty and students to be engaged in scholarly pursuits. We will foster an atmosphere where student learning, discourse, discovery, and reflection are encouraged throughout the curriculum. By the time undergraduate or graduate students finish our program, they will be competitive applicants for employment or admission to professional or graduate school in the biological or natural resource sciences.

Value Statement

The Biology department values: 1. A broad, challenging, and current curriculum featuring intensive field and laboratory courses. 2. Opportunities for faculty, graduate, and undergraduate research experiences both inside and outside of the classroom. 3. An engaged, diverse and responsive faculty, dedicated to excellent teaching, scholarship and service at all levels. 4. Faculty and student involvement in education, scholarship, community engagement, and professional service related to the scientific aspects of biological, ecological, and environmental sustainability. 

Strategic Priorities, outcomes, and key objectives

Strategic Priority Area 1: Actively engage learners at all levels.

Outcome A: Grand Valley's learning environment is personal, challenging, and transformational, supporting excellent academic programs and co-curricular opportunities.

Objective 1.A.1

BIO and NRM undergraduate programs will implement advising plans to improve student advising at all levels. 100% of undergraduate majors will receive advising instruction in introductory courses (NRM 150, BIO 210), and advising impact will be assessed in all BIO and NRM capstone sections.

Baseline

Baseline: All students enrolled in NRM 150 receive specific advising assistance through a required assignment (approximately 75 NRM majors/year). We seek to expand this to BIO majors (approximately 150/year) by instituting a similar activity in BIO 210. Programmatic advising impact is not currently being consistently assessed in the capstone courses, but this will be instituted in 2016-2017.

Progress

2019 Status
Achieved
Curriculum in NRM 150 and BIO 210 is effective in providing academic advising to 100% of students early in the major. 84% of BIO major Seniors report seeing either the BIO advisor or a CLAS advisor. As the BIO 210 assignment only began 2 years ago, we expect this number to increase to 100% over the next two years.

2018 Status
Substantial Progress
Curriculum in NRM 150 is effective in providing academic advising to 100% of students early in the NRM major, while 80% of BIO majors report seeing their academic advisor. Efforts will continue to promote an awareness of advising opportunities, and to standardize advising curriculum in BIO 210 across all sections. Additional advising efforts will emphasize extracurricular high impact opportunities for majors, and more intentionally reach first generation and transfer students that could benefit from additional advising support.

Objective 1.A.2

BIO and NRM undergraduate programs will encourage students to participate in high-impact experiences in BIO/NRM 399, 490, 499, study abroad courses, and non-credit-bearing research and work experiences with a goal of increasing participation in these activities from current levels. These experiences will be in addition to the high-impact experiences that all students receive through SWS, Capstone, and upper-level BIO and NRM laboratory courses.

Baseline

For the period from spring/summer 2009 through winter, 2016 Approximately 13.4 % of BIO and NRM undergraduate majors completed one or more additional high-impact experiences through BIO/NRM 399 (2.7 %), 490 (4.9 %), 499 (3.4 %), and study abroad courses (2.4 %). The percent of students involved in non-credit-bearing research and work experiences is currently not quantifiable.

Progress

2019 Status
Substantial Progress
92% of NRM majors and 74% of BIO majors reported engaging in high-impact experiences, including internships, jobs, coursework, research experience, student clubs, volunteering, and study abroad.

2018 Status
Substantive Progress
10.3% of BIO and 21.4% of NRM majors completed credit-bearing high-impact experiences in calendar year 2018. 91.7% of NRM students enrolled in senior capstone courses in calendar year 2018 reported engaging in non-credit-bearing high impact experiences while enrolled at GVSU. Most BIO majors also reported engaging in non-credit-bearing activities, including research (28.7%), internships (10.3%) and volunteer experiences (46.0%). The BIO Department will continue to increase student awareness of high-impact opportunities, and facilitate entry points for students to connect with these experiences.

Outcome D: Grand Valley supports innovative teaching, learning, integrative scholarly and creative activity, and the use of new technologies.

Objective 1.D.1

The Biology MS Program will develop a curriculum that supports students in a variety of sub-disciplines, and these course offerings will be stabilized so that routinely offered courses meet or exceed minimum enrollment requirements. To achieve this goal, the BIO MS Program will review and revise the graduate program curriculum to keep it current and aligned with current Graduate School policies.

Baseline

The current BIO MS Plan dates to 2000, with no major changes since 2004.

Progress

2019 Status
Substantial Progress
The Biology Graduate Program committee continues to respond to curriculum needs. The program has successfully dual-listed several courses that provide undergraduate access to carefully selected graduate courses, and these changes also positively support course enrollment and staffing.

2018 Status
Substantive Progress
We continue to provide excellent and diverse graduate-level course work that is relevant, timely and challenging.

Objective 1.D.2

To help students develop the skills and capacities needed to succeed in their upper-level coursework, we will revise BIO 120 in parallel with the inquiry-based approaches being developed in BIO 121 and BIO 210.

Baseline

BIO 120 has not had a major revision since 2003.

Progress

2019 Status
Substantial Progress
There were significant revisions made to the BIO 120 Lab curricula for Fall 2019, which included improved instructor resources and a more clear and consistent assessment plan across the multiple sections. In addition, revisions to lab activities continue to be in progress. Lecture instructors meet regularly to reflect on course curriculum, student learning objectives and best practice for this first-year experience. They have implemented metacognitive interventions in the classroom to improve student performance.

2018 Status
Substantive Progress
Revision of BIO 120 Labs to a more inquiry-based approach is well underway. We anticipate initial implementation of labs in Fall 2019, with complete implementation by Fall 2020.

Outcome E: Grand Valley strategically allocates its fiscal, human, and other institutional resources.

Objective 1.E.1

To increase the competitiveness of and enrollment in the Biology graduate program, the BIO MS Program will seek sources of consistent external funding to provide additional assistantship or research support for our graduate students.

Baseline

The BIO MS Program currently is allocated a total of 8 internal graduate assistantships. We seek to augment this number with additional externally funded assistantships and other sources of research support to improve program attractiveness to students, allow for program growth, and maintain competitiveness with other similar programs.

Progress

2019 Status
Substantive Progress
The Biology Graduate Program Committee continues to identify sources of funding for Graduate Assistantships, and to financially support as many students as possible in the Biology MS Program.

2018 Status
Substantive Progress
The Biology Graduate Program Committee has actively worked to identify sources of additional assistantship funding and has been successful in obtaining and maintaining several external sources of funding that directly benefit students in the Biology MS Program.

Strategic Priority Area 2: Further develop exceptional personnel.

Outcome A: Grand Valley's learning environment is personal, challenging, and transformational, supporting excellent academic programs and co-curricular opportunities.

Objective 2.A.1

In support of the CLAS goal to increase the credit hours taught by tenure-stream faculty by 10%, the Biology Department will increase number of full-time, non-reassigned, tenure-track faculty from 32 to 36, and maintain at least 36 full-time, non-reassigned, tenure-track faculty in the department thereafter.

Baseline

Baseline: 32 current full-time, non-reassigned, tenure-track faculty (does not include faculty with majority joint appointments with CMB, or faculty reassigned to administrative roles in CLAS, BCOIS, or Graduate Studies).

Progress

2019 Status
Minimal Progress
We were unable to increase out net tenure track positions, or replace retirement positions in this calendar year. Anticipating additional faculty retirements in the next year, we will continue to request the opportunity to hire new tenure track positions in 2020, in order to increase our % SCH taught by Tenure Track faculty.

2018 Status
Minimal Progress
We were unable to increase our net tenure track positions, or replace retirement positions in this calendar year. Anticipating additional faculty retirements in the next year, we will continue to request the opportunity to hire new tenure track positions in 2019.

Strategic Priority Area 3: Ensure the alignment of institutional structures and functions.

Outcome B: Grand Valley is diverse and inclusive.

Objective 3.B.1

The Biology Department will increase number of faculty members qualified as Inclusion Advocates from 4 to 6, and maintain at least 6 faculty members as approved Inclusion Advocates thereafter.

Baseline

Four faculty members now serve as Inclusion Advocates

Progress

2019 Status
Achieved
We currently have six Tenure Track faculty Inclusion Advocates in the department, as well as one Adjunct faculty, two Affliate faculty, and one Lab Supervisor staff member that are Inclusion Advocates.

2018 Status
Substantial Progress
We currently have six Tenure Track faculty Inclusion Advocates in the department, as well as one Adjunct Faculty Inclusion Advocate.

Strategic Priority Area 4: Enhance the institution's image and reputation.

Outcome A: Grand Valley's learning environment is personal, challenging, and transformational, supporting excellent academic programs and co-curricular opportunities.

Objective 4.A.1

At least 75% of NRM graduates are employed or pursuing advanced degrees in a natural resources-related field within 5 years of graduation.

Baseline

Based on a recent alumni survey, approximately 70% of NRM graduates are employed or pursuing advanced degrees in a natural resources-related field.

Progress

2019 Status
Substantial Progress
The alumni survey we use for these data is given every other year, so we have no new data to report in this year's assessment cycle.

2018 Status
Substantial Progress
85.3% of NRM alumni surveyed are employed with part-time, full-time, or seasonal positions. Thirty-six (35%) respondents indicated they earned a Master’s degree, and 38 respondents (37%) indicated they earned an additional certification.

Outcome C: Grand Valley has mutually beneficial relationships, partnerships, collaborations, and connections with local, state, national, and world communities.

Objective 4.C.1

The NRM undergraduate program will establish an external professional advisory council that will meet annually to confer with the faculty to ensure the program continues to reflect current needs in NRM-related fields.

Baseline

The Natural Resources Management program faculty determines that the program reflects the current needs in NRM-related fields.

Progress

2019 Status
Substantial Progress
Eight external advisory council members attended the meeting on February March 29, 2019. The goals for this meeting focused on creating and maintaining high-impact learning experiences for students, and potentially establishing long-term internship or experiential learning opportunities for students by matching student projects with the needs of external agencies and organizations. The NRM Program received valuable feedback that it will use to consider future changes to further strengthen the program.

2018 Status
Substantial Progress
Eight external advisory council members were convened in 2018 to discuss the NRM Program. The NRM Program received valuable feedback that it will use to consider future changes to further strengthen the program and reflect current needs in NRM-related fields.

Outcome E: Grand Valley strategically allocates its fiscal, human, and other institutional resources.

Objective 4.E.1

The NRM undergraduate program will apply for accreditation as a professional natural resources program through the Society of American Foresters.

Baseline

The Natural Resources Management program is currently not accredited, putting it at a competitive disadvantage with other natural resources programs regionally and nationally.

Progress

2019 Status
Substantial Progress
The NRM Program received institutional approval to pursue accreditation through the Society of American Foresters. It will pursue this application in 2020.

2018 Status
Substantial Progress
NRM faculty have established a timeline for completion of tasks associated with accreditation. The program is on track to complete a proposal and seek approval for Accreditation from both GVSU and the Society of American Foresters in 2019.

Back to list