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The Journal of General Education 52.4 (2003) 317-334

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Assessing General Education Skills in an Undergraduate Business Degree Program

West Liberty State College (WLSC) is a baccalaureate-general state college situated on 290 acres in the village of West Liberty, West Virginia. In the fall 2002 semester, the College reported an enrollment of 2,571 students. The College contains four academic units: the School of Business Administration, the School of Education, the School of Liberal Arts, and the School of Sciences. WLSC confers four bachelor's degrees within 10 departments and 24 programs/specializations. Located in a rural area approximately twelve miles north of Wheeling, West Virginia and roughly fifty miles southwest of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, WLSC is the only four-year state institution of higher education in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia.

The College is the oldest institution of higher education in West Virginia; it received its initial charter from the state of Virginia in 1837. The College was originally established as an Academy created to respond to the need for higher education west of the Appalachian Ridge, and it has provided access to higher education in the region for 165 years. In 1870, an act of the legislature of the new state of West Virginia renamed the Academy, West Liberty Normal School; the institution became West Liberty State College in 1943.

This article examines the integration of general education skills and knowledge into the major fields of study at West Liberty State College with a specific focus on the School of Business Administration (SBA). Assessment of general education goals in the Business program and the development of a Primary Trait Analysis instrument to measure general education outcomes in this field of study are discussed in this paper. [End Page 317]

The SBA, one of four schools at WLSC, offers a Bachelor of Science degree with twelve specializations that prepares its graduates for professional careers or graduate study. The SBA established its own assessment committee comprised of the Dean, two Department Chairs, eight faculty members, and two SBA students to enable the school to develop and implement an assessment plan for the School's Business Degree. The SBA Committee works in conjunction with the College's Assessment Committee to create a campus-wide assessment program.

The SBA faculty identified five student learning outcomes that graduates of the Business Program should possess based on the College's Mission Statement and Student Development Goals. The SBA outcomes that correlate with general education essential skills state that students will develop critical thinking, decision making, and problem solving skills in the application of appropriate business principles and practices, be proficient in computer applications, and demonstrate verbal and written communication skills.

Institutional Support of Assessment of Student Learning

WLSC began addressing assessment issues in the early 1990's; however, most of the College's assessment activities have been developed and implemented in the past four years. Assessment of student learning is a major component of both the West Liberty State College's 2001 Strategic Plan and the Compact with the state of West Virginia that identify specific actions relating to assessment. The documents state that WLSC will implement a comprehensive program to assess student learning. The College will create assessment instruments to assess and measure students' essential skills and general knowledge acquired in the programs of study and to evaluate current students', graduates', and employers' satisfaction with the education process and academic programs at the College.

In October 1997, WLSC appointed its first Director of Institutional Research and Assessment (IR&A). With the guidance of the Director of IR&A, the College redesigned the assessment process and implemented an institutional-wide, faculty-driven [End Page 318] assessment program to effectively measure student learning outcomes. In 1998, WLSC established a college-wide Assessment Committee (CAC) consisting of the Provost, IR&A Director, faculty, and administrators from the four Schools, a student representative selected by the Student Government Association, and personnel from Academic Affairs and Student Affairs. The CAC sponsors an annual symposium featuring faculty presentations of epartment...


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