New director of assessment to centralize student learning improvement

Stephanie Foster
Stephanie Foster

Colorado State University is reviving the director of assessment position to focus on assessing and improving the student learning experience across the University. Stephanie Foster will serve in the role in the Office of Institutional Research, Planning and Effectiveness. She was hired through a national search and brings extensive experience working in higher education on learning assessments and accreditation.

When the director of assessment role was vacated in 2014, institutional assessment activities were distributed across various areas of campus. Recentralizing these efforts will help ensure CSU’s approach to the assessment of student learning is thorough and integrated at all levels of operation. The position will be especially valuable in the short term as CSU moves through institutional reaccreditation for 2024 but will also support the University’s continuous improvement efforts well beyond reaccreditation.

“Our executive leadership team wanted someone who could centralize our efforts and work in a more focused way with our academic departments, Faculty Council, the Higher Learning Commission Accreditation Liaison Officer and other units on campus to make sure our assessment of student learning is thorough and connected through the various levels of student learning,” Vice Provost Laura Jensen said. “To be able to scaffold all of that in a meaningful and authentic way, we needed to have something centralized — we needed a director of assessment.”

A good fit

When reading the director of assessment job description, Foster said it felt like a good fit for her — a role she could embrace with passion and tackle with expertise.

“I feel like there’s nothing in this job that I haven’t touched at some point in my career,” Foster said. “But really what I like is the ability to make connections all over the place with a shared goal so people don’t feel like they’re doing something in isolation.”

The director of assessment’s purpose is to ensure the University takes responsibility for the quality of its educational programs and learning environments with a focus on continuous improvement. Foster will be responsible for leading assessment activities for academic affairs at CSU in accordance with best practices and will coordinate with the director of assessment in the Division of Student Affairs because student learning occurs both in and out of the classroom.

Foster will help the University design institutional processes and structures to support assessment. Additionally, she will work with faculty to develop assessment plans for the All-University Core Curriculum and Institutional Learning Objectives, research and suggest strategies, work collaboratively The Institute for Learning and Teaching (TILT) to curate faculty training and resources and support academic departments through the program review process.

“I always enjoy getting really close to what students and faculty are doing, so I’m really looking forward to getting to know the community and finding out what excites students and faculty,” Foster said. “I don’t want to just sit in this office, write emails and create some reports. I want to be with people and see what they’re doing because that informs my work, and it helps me support faculty better when I can see what’s important, what they’re doing, what they care about, what it looks like — that’s the best for me.”

About Stephanie Foster

Foster received her Ph.D. in higher education from the University of Georgia. She’s worked in universities for more than 20 years in several states and worked most recently at the University of Colorado Boulder as an assessment lead in the Center for Teaching and Learning. She was also previously the associate and interim director of the Office of Institutional Assessment at George Mason University before becoming their associate director of undergraduate education.