WMU prepares for Higher Learning Commission visit
Nov. 1, 2005
KALAMAZOO--Western Michigan University's administration, faculty, staff and students will have a chance to meet early next month with a two-person team representing the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
In town to follow up on the commission's comprehensive accreditation visit of February 2001, the two consultant-evaluators will be on campus Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 7-8, for a mandated focused visit to review progress in the areas of institutional strategic planning and assessment of student academic achievement. Those were issues the 2001 team identified as areas in which WMU faced particular challenges and needed additional focus. The 2005 team consists of Dr. Sharon J. Hamilton, associate dean of the faculties at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, and Dr. Ralph J. Katerberg, associate professor of business administration at the University of Cincinnati.
WMU has been accredited by the North Central Association continuously since 1915. In 2001, a team of consultant-evaluators visited to assess the University's two-year self-examination, which is part of the regular reaccredidation process that occurs every 10 years. That visit resulted in WMU being reaccredited. In its final report, however, the 2001 team singled out institutional strategic planning and assessment of student academic achievement as particular areas of challenge for the institution and recommended a fall 2005 focused site visit to review progress on both fronts.
"Since that visit, the University has completed the revision of its mission and has been engaged in formulating a set of strategic goals and formalizing an assessment process designed to improve both student learning outcomes and the quality of our programs," says Dr. Eileen B. Evans, vice provost for institutional effectiveness, who has coordinated the preparations for this month's focused visit. "Since 2001, countless hours of Universitywide effort in these two areas have made us a stronger and more focused institution."
Evans, whose office and responsibilities grew out of the recommendations of the 2001 site visit, says planning to address the commission's concerns began immediately after the 2001 visit. In November 2004, a focused visit steering committee was formed, bringing together a dozen faculty members and administrators who also served on campuswide planning and assessment committees. The steering committee compiled a report on progress in those two areas, which was sent to the commission in preparation for the focused visit.
The report, which is also available at www.wmich.edu/poapa/HLC, details the University's re-examination of its mission and goals, implementation of the new mission statement, the current work being done to define and refine WMU's strategic plan, and implementation of assessment initiatives across the University. The report also details program changes resulting from assessment activities.
Using the committee's prepared report as a guide, Hamilton and Katerberg will examine the changes over the past four years by meeting with the president and members of the administration, academic deans and a number of campuswide committees related to assessment. They also will meet with faculty, staff and students in two open forums set for the afternoon of Monday, Nov. 7.
At the conclusion of their visit, the team will meet with President Judith I. Bailey and Provost Linda Delene to share its recommendations to the commission. The team's draft formal report is due to the commission in early December. The report will then be reviewed by a readers' panel, which will refer the recommendations to the Institutional Actions Council for decision and validation by the HLC Board of Trustees. WMU will then be notified of the HLC's decision.
The NCA's Higher Learning Commission is one of six accrediting agencies in the nation that provide institutional accreditation on a regional basis. The voluntary accreditation is based on an evaluation of the entire institution and is granted to the institution as a whole. In addition to institutionwide accreditation, WMU academic offerings are subject to more than 40 program accreditation or licensing agencies.
Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, firstname.lastname@example.org