What is COPLAC?

COPLAC is a consortium of public colleges and universities dedicated to superior arts and science education. Institutions of higher education, which seek membership must possess very specific characteristics and must submit an exhaustive application as evidence of these characteristics.

What are the defining characteristics of a COPLAC institution?

Each member institution must:

  • Have a central liberal arts mission
  • Have a free-standing identity and accreditation
  • Have a public governing board open to input
  • Have a moderate-sized enrollment
  • Be a four-year baccalaureate institution
  • Award 50% or more of baccalaureate degrees in the arts and sciences
  • Have 85% or more undergraduate enrollment

What distinguishes COPLAC institutions?

  • Superior liberal arts education
  • Small class sizes
  • Teaching innovations
  • Personal interactions between students and faculty
  • Opportunities for students to engage in faculty-supervised research
  • Affordable tuition
  • Cultural and intellectual diversity
  • Beautiful campus in a small-town setting
  • Recognition in national publications such as U.S. News and World Report, The Princeton Review, and the Fiske Guide to Colleges.

How did this happen to Midwestern State University?

In 2004, Dr. Samuel Watson, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, during deliberations of the Strategic Planning Committee of which he was a member, strongly encouraged the university’s membership in COPLAC. Yearly, COPLAC offers meetings for individuals representing the same discipline. In 2005, the discipline was English, and Dr. Lynn Hoggard participated. She too recommended that the university apply for membership. There was no resistance to this change by faculty or administration. All colleges were supportive and pleased to have a defined place in the academic community. In 2005, the provost, associate provost, and the dean of the College of Liberal Arts, attended the annual meeting of COPLAC. Upon their return, the application committee began its work under the direction of Dr. Robert Clark, associate provost.

What does membership in COPLAC do for Midwestern State University?

Usually, a university’s mission statement serves as the foundation for the strategic plan. In this case, however, the strategic plan resulted in a new mission statement. A new niche, or “brand”, for the university was established – “to be the liberal arts university of Texas” (Midwestern State University mission statement, 2005). In addition, membership in COPLAC would place the university among schools with very good reputations. More importantly, this solid definition may help to distinguish Midwestern State University within Texas and further strengthen its independence.

What are the effects of membership?

According to Dr. Friederike Wiedemann, provost, membership in COPLAC, “helps us give a clear direction to our activities”, and requires self-evaluation by each program and college. Academic core requirements must be re-evaluated as well. These assessments, coincidentally, will help with the next Southern Association of Colleges accreditation self-study. Additionally, the university will be able to use its membership in COPLAC in support of funding requests to government agencies as well as private donors. Support from other COPLAC member colleges will strengthen the university’s position, and membership in COPLAC will distinguish it from other Texas institutions. At this time, no other Texas colleges or universities are members. Other benefits include networking opportunities for discussing common themes of both discipline-specific issues as well as administrative position-specific topics either on the internet or during annual meetings. COPLAC provides a yearly data profile that compares data from each member college such as admissions, faculty, graduation, and retention statistics. This allows the university to compare itself to other member colleges and may help define areas needing improvement.

What are the long-term benefits?

The university hopes that by actively pursuing its mission as a liberal arts university, its definition will become more pronounced and refined. By working with other COPLAC member institutions, the university believes that its students will be better prepared and more attractive to the workplace. Selectivity of the students applying to Midwestern State University will increase and the on-campus Tutoring and Academic Support Programs will be strengthened. According to one faculty member, the new definition of the university will allow programs in the professional fields, such as the health sciences, to become more integrated with the more traditional, mainstream programs. “Finally we know who we are and where we are going. With the liberal arts colleges providing our students a solid foundation, the professional programs will be able to escape the technical/vocational training label, and proudly proclaim their position as professional, education programs”.

The university should also be able to compete with other colleges and universities listed in popular college ratings publications. COPLAC proudly advertises the placement of its member institutions in publications such as U.S. News and World Report, The Princeton Review, Barron’s, and Fisk Guide to Colleges. In fact, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has included in its strategic plan the goal of increasing the number of Texas public liberal arts universities ranked in the top 30 among the nation’s public liberal arts institutions from zero to two by 2010 and four by 2015 (THECB, 2005). If Midwestern State University is able to accomplish that goal, it will be further distinguished as an institution of importance for the State of Texas.

For more information about COPLAC, visit the website at http://www.coplac.org/