The site visit team of the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) will be on campus Oct. 20-22, 2014, as part of the re-accreditation process at Southwest Minnesota State University.
“It is a review team that will come to look us over and their point is to reaffirm our accreditation for another cycle,” said Dr. Lori Baker, English professor and the HLC self-study coordinator. SMSU was previously re-accredited in 2004.
As part of the re-accreditation process, Baker is co-chairing, with Provost Beth Weatherby, a steering committee of 16 whose charge it is to create an institutional self-study document. “It entails a thorough examination of our own practices and processes, everything about the institution, and specifically looks at five criteria for accreditation,” said Baker.
The criteria include university mission; integrity: ethical and responsible conduct; teaching and learning: quality resources and support; teaching and learning: evaluation and improvement; and resources, planning and institutional effectiveness.
“The self-study looks at the institution with a critical eye,” said Baker. “Each criterion is broken out into sub-components. We have to demonstrate thoroughly we have reviewed ourselves according to the criteria. We can’t just describe our programs or offerings; we have to reflect on and evaluate what we do and what our plans are for continuous improvement.”
The self-study will be submitted to the Chicago-based Higher Learning Commission two months before its site visit in 2014.
The steering committee has been working on the self-study for two years already, and established criterion teams with members from across the university in fall 2011 to start the long process of gathering data. “It’s going well,” said Baker. “As part of the process, we’re conducting a survey of different groups of people,” she said.
The survey is being delivered via e-mail in February to various constituents of SMSU including alumni, regional employers, community members, faculty and staff. Its purpose is to gauge perceptions and attitudes as they relate to the quality of education delivered by Southwest Minnesota State University.
The self-study is the cornerstone of the re-accreditation process. From that, said Baker, the site visit team will “pick out parts of the self-study they want to follow up on. They can request to see any documentation they want, and will stop students and others and talk to them about the university. Their schedule is full, and we want to make sure we’ve done everything that’s expected of us prior to their visit.”
Page 2 of 2 - SMSU requested, and was granted, a one-year delay regarding the site visit. “That’s because we wanted to give the new president an opportunity to get settled in,” said Baker.