By MARY BURGER – STAFF WRITER
Every ten years Centre College participates in the reaffirmation of accreditation. This allows the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), through which Centre is accredited, to ensure that the school is following all standards.
These standards are best addressed through the SACSCOC mission statement:
“Accreditation by SACS Commission on Colleges signifies that the institution has a mission appropriate to higher education, has resources, programs and services sufficient to accomplish that mission, and maintains clearly specified educational objectives that are consistent with its mission and appropriate to the degrees it offers, and that indicates whether it is successful in achieving its stated objectives.”
Specifically at this time, Centre must submit a Compliance Report, due on March 2015, and a Quality Enhancement Project Report (QEP), due on August 2015.
The Compliance Report aims to prove Centre’s compliance to SACSCOC’s standards and requirements, and will be thoroughly reviewed by a group of peers. “Once the Compliance Report is submitted, there is a team of peers who will go to Atlanta, and review our report and the evidence supporting our compliance,” Vice President for Academic Affairs & Dean of the College Stephanie Fabritius said.
“They will identify which of the standards they can tell we meet, and which require more evidence. In November of 2015, a different team of our peers (the On-site Reaffirmation Committee) will gather and come to our campus for about 2.5 days,” Dean Fabritius said.
While on campus, the group of peers will look through files, evidence, and conduct interviews with individuals in order to determine whether there is sufficient evidence for compliance on those issues that required further review. All of those involved in the peer reviews work at other private colleges in the South.
While the Compliance Report focuses on meeting basic standards and requirements, the QEP focuses on aspects of student learning.
“Right now the QEP committee is getting campus feedback about how to focus the plan on creative thinking,” Dean Fabritius said. This allows Centre to come up with goals and spread them out over a five year timeline.
“This is an opportunity for Centre to articulate a vision for a project that would transform the student educational experience in a positive way, and we are focusing this QEP around the theme of ‘Creative Thinking,’” Special Assistant to the President and Co-Chair of the Leadership Team Patrick Noltemeyer said.
“Virtually all colleges and universities in the United States go through a similar process, though the schedule may vary. There are regional accrediting agencies that work with institutions to verify their compliance, and Kentucky is in the southern region,” Noltemeyer said.
“These reviewers will work with us to make sure that our governance structure is adequate to support the college mission, that we are providing appropriately credentialed faculty to teach in the classroom, and that we have enough staff to meet the needs of our students, among a host of other compliance points. The process occurs every ten years in an attempt to provide institutions with the opportunity to propose and implement changes and measure the results of those changes before reporting them to an external agency.”
The process of reaccreditation will involve the whole campus, according to Dean Fabritius.
“Faculty members across campus will participate in one way or another. For example, faculty annually review their student learning goals for their academic programs, and assess how they are doing in meeting those goals. The General Education Committee does so for our general education and basic skills requirements. Faculty members on various committees are also being asked to submit information that will go into the Compliance Report,” Dean Fabritius said.
Vice President for Finance and Treasurer Bob Keasler; Assistant Professor of Chemistry Dr. January Haile; Professor of Religion, and Associate Dean of the College Dr. Beth Glazier-McDonald are part of the SACSCOC leadership team. Associate Professor of Dramatic Arts Matthew Hallock and Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning Sarah Lashley are the co-chairs of the Quality Enhancement Project.
The QEP committee will report to the leadership team, but both of these groups together make up the Reaffirmation process.
The student voices on the QEP are juniors John Coogan and Jeanie Corbitt. These students will represent the student body within the committee, and also help facilitate conversations with other students who are not directly on the QEP committee.
“Attempting to provide valuable input to a group of individuals, the majority of which have a Ph.D., is a nerve-racking endeavor,” Coogan jokes.
“However, it has become increasingly apparent to me the scale to which this commitee can make changes to the institution and having the opportunity to brainstorm with faculty on how best to do that has been a highly valuable and engaging experience.”
Coogan also urges students to pay attention and be involved with the conversation.
“Students should care about this process because the decisions made by this committee will have a direct impact on their Centre experience and the experience of those who come after them.”
Although the process of reaccreditation happens every ten years, Centre is always working to improve. It happens that this evaluation is the same time frame in which academic programs participate in a self-study and evaluate their majors.
To Dean Fabritius, this process, though mandatory, reflects Centre’s larger commitment to constantly improve.
“From my perspective, I think it is important that we are always asking what our goals are, whether they are consistent with the mission of the College, how we can best test whether we are meeting our goals, and if we are not, thinking about what changes we need to make in order to do so,” Dean Fabritius said.
“We can’t afford to stand still, and this process (whether mandated by our accrediting body, or just through internal mechanisms) is important to keep us on track and to always be improving.”