Reaccreditation Process Begins With Committee Selection
UConn is about to embark once again on the official reaccreditation process, a once-a-decade review by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges that assures students, parents, and legislators that the University is delivering a high-quality learning experience in an efficient manner.
Karla Fox, a business professor and special assistant to the provost who is chair of the reaccreditation effort, will lead the two-year self-study and data collection effort, which culminates in a visit by an NEASC accreditation team in November 2006.
"This is an excellent chance for our faculty, staff, students, and administrators to get a handle on where we stand as an institution of higher learning," says Fox, who served on one of about a dozen committees during the last reaccreditation process in the mid-1990's. "Our self-study will be really worthwhile.
We are a much different institution than we were 10 years ago, and have a much different way of looking at things. This effort will be very salutary."
The NEASC rates schools on 11 standards of excellence, including the quality of faculty and students, the University's infrastructure, financial resources, governance, academic programs, and information technology. Fox's first task, working with various University leaders, is to build individual committees to work on each of the areas of emphasis, including as many as three committees for the academic component.
Each committee will include faculty, staff, and students and, possibly, alumni. The provost, with the approval of University President Philip E. Austin, will choose the steering and institutional standards committees, with input from the deans and the Senate Executive Committee.
"Choosing the committee members is one of the most important tasks we have," Fox says. "We have to have people who are willing to commit the time necessary to do the job well, and who have a good perspective on the institution or are willing to develop that perspective."
Fox, who will serve as chair of the steering committee, said she hopes to have all of the about 14 committees in place by the end of the semester, and working on their tasks by the spring semester.
"That gives everybody one year to do their work and pull together their report. Then we'll have the summer of 2006 to put it into one comprehensive report, and have it finalized in time for the reaccreditation visit in November 2006," she says.
Fox says a website will be developed, offering access to reports and other materials, and allowing members of the community to contribute their thoughts and ideas. She also plans to convene several University-wide forums to collect input and distribute information. The draft standards are currently available on the NEASC website.
Most of the material requested in the organization's 2004 standards booklet is similar to the information UConn officials prepared
10 years ago; but the University has made much progress in virtually all those areas, and up-to-date information must be collected and communicated.
There are two new standards that will require extra diligence to prepare for: institutional effectiveness and assessment of student learning.
Fox welcomes the additions.
"The fact is, we're an extremely effective institution, we just haven't really laid it out on paper - communicated it - very much," she says.
UConn also does an excellent job with its students, Fox says, but developing a method to assess outcomes will require study. Several professional schools - engineering, education, and business - are mandated by their accrediting bodies to assess student outcomes, however, and will offer that committee a good place to begin their efforts.
"There is a very understandable and appropriate concern in Congress and legislatures across the country with accountability and efficiency and the effective use of public resources," Fox says. "We will have plans in place well before the accreditation visit that support our efforts in the areas targeted by these new standards."