University Politics

Middle States accreditation committee urges community feedback in information sessions

Satoshi Sugiyama | Asst. News Editor

Syracuse University community leaders participated in information sessions on Tuesday hosted by Middle States Reaccreditation Steering Committee.

Syracuse University is in compliance with Middle States Commission on Higher Education standards and federal regulation, working group representatives under SU’s Middle States Reaccreditation Steering Committee said on Tuesday.

During information sessions held inside Goldstein Auditorium in the Schine Student Center, dozens of SU students, faculty and staff learned about the university’s effort to earn reaccreditation. The sessions signify the official beginning of the self-study phase of the process, which requires seeking community feedback.

Working groups set up their tables in a U-shape inside the auditorium for attendees to browse for further information. Those working groups are mission and goals; ethics and integrity; design and delivery of the student learning experience; support of the student experience; educational effectiveness; planning, resources and institutional improvement; governance, leadership and administration; and compliance.

Every eight years, the university has to carry out a self-study of its academic and co-curricular programs and operations to maintain Middle States accreditation. SU started the reaccreditation process in fall 2015.

The accreditation serves as a benchmark in educational quality and institutional accountability to peer institutions and stakeholders. It is mandated in order for SU students to qualify for federal aid.

Middle States institutions have to comply with 15 requirements pertaining to Middle States affiliation and eight accreditation-relevant federal regulations.

In the morning information session, Vice Chancellor and Provost Michele Wheatly said the university is in “good shape” to submit a final report on accreditation by December. The steering committee has to submit its report by Dec. 22 for a review by Middle States peer institutions in March 2018.

“(Accreditation) is a way of evaluating how well Syracuse University is really doing to achieve our stated mission and vision,” Wheatly said. “And it holds the university accountable to our students, to the public and to the larger academic community.”

Rochelle Ford, one of three chairs of the steering committee and professor and chair of the public relations department in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, discussed a “4+4 model” during a presentation.

The model, Ford said after the session, showcases what SU undergraduate students should be able to demonstrate regardless of major. The model is composed of four reasoning skills — creative reasoning, critical reasoning, quantitative reasoning and scientific reasoning — and four abilities to apply: applied and collaborative learning ability; civic and global abilities; information and technological ability; and communicative ability.

“These were terms that employers say they want, they want students to be able to communicate, they want students to think critically and creatively,” Ford said. “We are telling the world that Syracuse University, not only we are great at 44 in athletics, but also we are amazing at four approaches to reasoning and four skills and abilities.”

Under Middle States accreditation requirements, a university needs to have either a general education program that is universal to all majors or a common set of learning outcomes, Ford said. SU fulfilled the requirement by creating the Academic Strategic Plan, which also developed the 4+4 model.

Dozens of students from an introductory strategic management class joined the session and visited the booths inside the auditorium afterward. Danny Lan, a sophomore accounting and information management and technology dual major who was visiting the 4+4 model station, said the information session was important to him.

“It talks about how things are implemented and how the university is following regulation and standards. Things like this, I think, students would like to know about,” Lan said.

Ford said she was happy about the student turnout, adding that students have been part of the accreditation effort in working groups and the entire accreditation work is for the sake of students. The report has been uploaded online for feedback between April and September.

“Taking ownership of this process is very important,” Ford said. “ … We want to hear what students think about the report.”

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