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“QEP” stands for Quality Enhancement Plan and is a crucial component of the University’s regular reaffirmation (reaccreditation) process through SACSCOC (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges). QEP is a set of new initiatives that the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill seeks to implement over a five-year period (beginning in FY 2016–17) to address a well-defined and focused topic/issue that:

  • makes a major, measurable improvement of student learning at the University
  • is aligned with and evolves from the University’s mission, strategic priorities and planning/evaluation efforts
  • involves broad-based campus participation

The current QEP is designed to improve learning in the sciences (with sciences being broadly defined, including disciplines traditionally associated with the social sciences).

The Office of the Provost, in consultation with the Deans Council, chose this topic based on data showing increased interest by Carolina students in declaring science as a major, as well as areas for improved pedagogy and student access to specific opportunities.

Several efforts informed the QEP choice, including the University’s 2011 Academic Plan and 2010 Undergraduate Retention Study, the Board of Trustees’ 2013 21st Century Vision Committees, the UNC System’s strategic plan, and the College of Arts and Sciences’ 2013 Task Force on Large Lecture Courses.

The linkages between the arts and humanities and the sciences are not always obvious to students. The QEP will leverage the excellence Carolina has in the arts and humanities to integrate them into the QEP to improve science education. This may take many forms, such as integrating art and science in first-year seminars; offering more hands-on experience in courses, labs and research opportunities; and bringing scientists and artists together to brainstorm and build things at campus makerspaces.

“Learning by Connecting, Doing, and Making” promotes a mindset focused on experiential learning, through its use of many action verbs.

“Connecting” refers to our goal to be more explicit in bringing ideas and skills from the arts and humanities to our developing scientists. For example, life-saving vaccines produced by scientists are useless if members of society fear their use. Bringing scientific solutions to a community requires a humanistic lens combined with effective collaboration and communication skills.

“Doing” emphasizes that students will go beyond reading about the process of science; they will experience the messy, complicated, uncertain, and rewarding process themselves.

“Making” refers to the synthesis of novel ideas and emphasizes how the scientific process often leads to tangible objects, such as the creation of prosthetic hands.

In sum, our “Learning by Connecting, Doing, and Making” QEP aims to:

  • connect arts and humanities with the sciences to provide critical thinking skills and an understanding of the myriad ways in which science and culture are intertwined
  • increase collaborative experiences that demonstrate the nonlinear process of science through research so that students understand the importance of collaboration, discovery, and iteration in science
  • highlight the novel ideas and objects that arise through research so that students can produce innovative, high- quality work that they present to other scholars