Jessica Giannone, General Assignment Reporter:
The New England Association of Schools and Colleges Self-Study Steering Committee at Southern held a meeting last Friday to discuss the reaccreditation process in preparation for the 10-year comprehensive evaluation that the university will undergo in the fall of 2011.
A self-study is being conducted by the Steering Committee to analyze Southern’s effectiveness as a teaching and learning institution.
The evaluation is done by the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges to assess the extent to which the university meets the 11 standards for accreditation.
“Our timeline is moving along for our reaccreditation process,” said Marianne Kennedy, the associate vice president for Assessment, Planning and Academic Programs.
As explained by Kennedy, accreditation is “a status granted to an educational institution or a program that has been found to meet or exceed stated criteria of educational quality.”
According to the NEASC website, accreditation is based on the focus of helping universities develop “trustworthy and useful ways” to understand what and how their students are learning. Universities are expected to work toward improving
their quality and strive “toward excellence.” It is a voluntary, non-governmental, peer review, self-regulatory process but is required to obtain federal funding.
The standards for accreditation, as presented on the website, are: Mission and Purposes, Planning and Evaluation, Organization and Governance, The Academic Program, Faculty, Students, Library and Other Information
Resources, Physical and Technological Resources, Financial Resources, Public Disclosure and Integrity.
Kennedy said the standards are “mission-centric,” which means that each college responds to the standards in light of their own mission. She said the standards are aspirational, and it is understood they are not always met 100 percent.
“We’re very conscious,” said Kennedy, “as we prepare the self-study to talk about [the question of] ‘how do we know’ [how the university is doing].”
The self-study, according to Kennedy, is an 18-month to two-year process involving steering and writing committees, widespread participation
and work groups for each standard which interview, survey and gather information to evaluate what needs to be done.
Kennedy described the study as “a holistic and integrated document that reflects the totality of one institution.”
The final report to be submitted to the commission includes institutional characteristics, an introduction which describes the self-study process, an overview, a narrative and data forms. Kennedy said the narrative is about 100 pages with one chapter for each standard.
Analytic framework is presented which provides a description of what is being done, an appraisal of how well the institution is doing in achieving the aspired improvements, and a projection of the commitments the university makes. Kennedy said most of the data collected will go in the appraisal section.
“This is not a one person job,” said Kennedy. “It’s a campus responsibility.”
She said they have to report not only what is being done on campus, but report what is being done off campus and with online programs as well.
“[The university is] focused on institutional effectiveness. We have to talk about how we assessed it and how we can manage the quality of it,” said Kennedy.
She said they have to show that they are proceeding with the process thoughtfully and are not just collecting information, but are using it.
Students and faculty were surveyed on areas the committee felt they needed more information on, and what could be improved.
Brandon Dorfman, a freshman pre-medical major, said he thinks the advisement process could be improved. He said he doesn’t have a set advisor, and is referred to different people to get a pin number.
“We kind of come in here like we’re just thrown in,” said Dorfman.
Joshua Levitan, a freshman exercise science major, said he thinks students should receive more direction, and that he didn’t understand what he had to do when he first came to Southern.
Kennedy said advisement is a big issue the university is continuing to work on. She said a respectable amount of information has been collected that is representative of the school, and there have been a number of changes over the past 10 years.
Changes such as academic programs, student assessment and budget planning have been addressed, according to Kennedy.
She said it is important to know what the university’s priorities are in this economic time and to get as many people involved as possible.
“Not only can we demonstrate to the public that we’re doing a good job,” said Kennedy, “but we look at where we can improve.”
Reaccreditation process continues
Jessica Giannone, General Assignment Reporter: