Once every 10 years since 1940 Washburn University has applied for accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission, and 2008 will be no different.
This spring will be the end of the 10-year period, and faculty and students have been working hard for the past three years to prepare.
Laura Stephenson, associate dean of arts and science, says reaccreditation is an important process.
“It’s very crucial because without accreditation [a university] is not eligible for federal funds, so students couldn’t get loans, couldn’t transfer credits to another school and wouldn’t be eligible to enter into graduate programs,” said Stephenson. “It’s a very critical element for the university.”
Nancy Tate, associate vice president of academic affairs, is part of the committee in charge of the self study. The self study is a report given to the Higher Learning Commission covering four criteria: mission and integrity, planning, student learning and teacher effectiveness, and acquisition of knowledge and service to the community.
By March 1 the self study will be posted online and will be sent, along with other materials, to the Higher Learning Commission, who will send consultant evaluators to visit the campus in May.
“Basically they [will be] here to confirm what we’ve said in our report,” said Tate.
Each criterion in the self study has an established committee dedicated to find evidence that Washburn fulfills every requirement. The first, mission and integrity, is important because its intention is to show that Washburn has integrity, that the brochures they provide are really showing what goes on and that everyone is working toward the same mission.
The planning section shows that Washburn has a goal it is working toward. Student learning seeks to verify that students are really learning what the teachers want them to learn and that they are thinking creatively.
“How do you evaluate whether students have learned to think more creatively?” said Tate. “It’s a little more difficult to show the evidence there.”
Each committee researched and gave their findings to Donna LaLonde, dean of the university honors program, Melodie Crystal, director of institutional research, and Tate.
“[The committees] gave us the initial mini-report. We took that and found the evidence that supports what they are saying, and then we wrote the self study,” said Tate.
The evaluation consultants will also point out areas Washburn needs to work on.
“In the 1998 report there were two areas that we needed to address, and one of those areas was to increase the support of the library, which we have done,” said Tate. “The other was to get a better handle on student assessment. We have been focusing on those two areas for the past ten years.”
Also, the reaccreditation criterion isn’t the same every time.
“The questions we answered ten years ago are very different from the questions we have to answer this time in terms of evaluating the university,” said Stephenson.
Stephenson is also part of the Rollout Committee, which has gotten some classes involved in the evaluation.
“Basically our purpose is to publicize the accreditation process,” said Stephenson.
This semester the Rollout Committee will work on coordinating meetings for when the site team from the Higher Learning Commission comes to campus.