An Every-10-Year Tradition: Our Reaffirmation of Accreditation
What is as regular as Death Valley’s ten-year wildflower “super bloom” or the U.S. Census Bureau’s decennial counting of the U.S. population? Vanderbilt’s ten-year reaffirmation of accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). This process allows us to participate in federal (Title IV) and state financial aid programs.
Of note, later this month, a visiting committee comprised of senior administrators and faculty from other universities will come to Vanderbilt’s campus with the sole purpose of assessing our educational quality, mission alignment and a host of other factors that contribute to our ability to provide students with a top-quality education.
For many, accreditation may seem like a bureaucratic process, left mainly to administrators to manage, but I’d like to share with you some less appreciated products of the process. In general, it provides an important time for reflection and a framework to critically review all facets of our operations: from learning resources, to governance, to educational programs, to financial and physical resources. It is also an opportunity to ensure that our efforts are aligned with both the university’s mission and the Academic Strategic plan. Through the accreditation process, we testify as to how, why and when we have adhered to the very best established approaches, and elaborate on where we have innovated, in order to propel us ahead in providing the best experience for our students and produce the most ground breaking research, scholarship and works of creative expression.
To be specific, reaffirmation involves several steps with two primary parts: 1) compliance of certification and 2) a quality enhancement plan or QEP. The compliance of certification assesses our alignment with 98 standards established by the commission. Yes, 98 standards. For this, we submitted an initial report in September of 2016 that was 697 pages in total and included information from all 10 schools and colleges. A committee of our peers reviewed the report and determined our level of compliance on the standards. Since that time, we have worked to further clarify questions raised and prepare for the campus visit this month. The visiting committee sets their own agenda and will meet with me, the Chancellor, one or more members of the Board of Trust, senior level administrators, faculty and students.
The second goal for the visiting committee is to evaluate the QEP which provides a specific area to assess for improvements in our student learning experience. For our reaccreditation 10 years ago, the Vanderbilt QEP was based on the Visions curriculum in the then new freshman living-learning community, the Martha Rivers Ingram Commons. This time around we selected the DIVE (Design as an Immersive Vanderbilt Experience) program as our new QEP. The program was identified and developed with substantial community input with submissions from faculty and students from all across campus. DIVE was born out of the Academic Strategic Plan and, more specifically, Immersion Vanderbilt. Immersion Vanderbilt, which is currently undergoing review by faculty governance committees, will ensure that all undergraduates participate in an intentional creative project as a formal part of their education. DIVE will be one of many Immersion pathways and programs available to students. Through curricular and co-curricular programs, DIVE will introduce students, faculty and staff to human-centered design thinking that can be applied across an infinite set of problems and disciplines. The beauty of the DIVE program is that it leverages our trans-institutional, One-Vanderbilt approach to discovery and learning, while engaging faculty, students and staff across multiple schools. The first extra-curricular DIVE opportunity starts with a Boot Camp March 25, which I’m proud to say is already at capacity! I encourage you to learn more about the DIVE program and how you can get involved.
The reaccreditation visiting committee will get an in-depth look at DIVE, analyzing everything from its roots in academic theory, to how all in our community will be engaged, to how we will measure success. As with the overall proposed Immersion Vanderbilt program, the goal is to create a truly impactful program that will further set Vanderbilt apart and will lead to meaningful experiences for all involved.
While our visitors will only be on campus for a few days, reaccreditation is a multi-year process that began in earnest two years ago and has involved countless faculty, staff and students from all across campus. The process will also continue after the visiting committee departs until the commission’s decision is announced in December.
I am most grateful to all who have devoted their focused efforts to this once every ten-year review and to all who ensure Vanderbilt continues to be a leader in higher education each and every year.
Susan R. Wente
Join provost for Open Dore On Location at Robert Penn Warren Center March 16
University Course students meet with legislators during visit to General Assembly
University seeks appropriate bargaining unit for non-tenured track faculty
Vanderbilt launches programming for total solar eclipse
New DIVE website launched
Wente, Pinson visit state leaders during Vanderbilt’s Day on the Hill