Syracuse University Magazine

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Comprehensive Self-Study Aims at Reaccreditation

For the past nine months, more than 140 members of Syracuse University’s faculty, staff, and student body have been scrutinizing nearly every aspect of University programs, operations, and services in pursuit of institutional reaccreditation by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). The review, conducted every 10 years, is designed to determine how well the University meets the standards and requirements of reaccreditation and how it might do even better. Successful accreditation serves as a public indicator of quality and accountability for all University stakeholders. “This Middle States reaccreditation review is an exhaustively complex process,” says Vice Chancellor and Provost Michele Wheatly. “But it is absolutely critical to our standing and sustainability as a university. Especially today, as colleges and universities nationwide are increasingly held to account for their promises, reaccreditation signifies for all that we are actually doing what our mission and vision say we do—and, more importantly, that we have the evidence and data to prove it.”

The MSCHE is one of seven regional higher education accrediting organizations in the nation that are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and/or the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. Colleges and universities must regularly maintain accreditation with their group to be eligible for any federal monies, including federal financial aid dollars for students.

Now at the midway point in the multiyear process, the University must submit a comprehensive self-study report by December. That report will serve as the foundation for a site visit by a team of evaluators from peer institutions in spring 2018. The visit is designed “to bring the self-study report to life and ensure that it accurately reflects what the site team finds when it comes to campus,” says Jeff Stanton, associate provost for academic affairs, who co-chairs the reaccreditation steering committee with Libby Barlow, assistant vice president for institutional research and assessment, and Rochelle Ford, professor and chair of the public relations department at the Newhouse School.

The report will be based on the findings of the University’s seven self-study teams—coinciding with the seven standards laid out by Middle States—and an eighth team focusing on federal compliance. The seven Standards for Accreditation that comprise the bulk of the self-study report are: Mission and Goals; Ethics and Integrity; Student Learning Opportunities; Support of the Student Experience; Educational Effectiveness Assessment; Planning, Resource, and Institutional Improvement; and Governance, Leadership, and Administration. 

“The people serving on these committees—faculty, staff, and students—have put a tremendous amount of work into this fact-finding phase, and I am so grateful to them,” Ford says. “For those not involved in the process, it’s tempting to dismiss the Middle States process as nothing more than a bureaucratic exercise. But the fact is, successful accreditation serves as a public affirmation of the University’s quality and standards. And it is a powerful vehicle for helping us better track our progress toward more fully achieving our mission and vision.”

The first draft of the report is available to the campus community for feedback until September. That feedback will help to shape the final report before its December submission to the MSCHE. “This is a rigorous, multistep process,” Barlow says. “But we are making great progress. The next phase will be to get as much feedback as possible from members of the campus community during this open review period. That is the best way to ensure that our final report not only reflects what we are doing right by Middle States standards—but also what we can do even better, to more fully meet the desires and expectations of such a vibrant, and vibrantly diverse, campus community.” Carol Boll

 


For more information on the reaccreditation process, or to read the weekly Middle States blog, go to middlestates.syr.edu.