The accreditation visit is over, and the news is good: 3 findings, all of them minor, by which I mean we expected them, and they're fixable. The accrediting team complimented us on our hospitality and on the accessibility of documents and personnel which made the visit go more easily.
I know that I am lucky in having the campus come together to work for this result--it could have been otherwise. I know that we have great faculty and students who are happy to be at our campus--that, too, helped propel us to a good outcome--and it could have been otherwise.
I also know that it could have been otherwise. We could have had a team arrive who was already in a bad mood. We could have had something dreadful go wrong that would have been held against us.
I am so grateful for all the things that went well. As I drove home yesterday, I thought of all we've accomplished since November, and I felt a moment of awe. We've written Program Effectiveness Plans, and we've rewritten parts of them. We've developed all sorts of materials to support our various documents. We've made copies of syllabi and teaching assessment materials. We've gone to a new way of documenting our externship process. We've gone through a lot to bring our faculty files up to standards; for example, back in November, most files had very little documentation to show evidence of faculty/professional development. Now we do.
Let me also praise the people who did other parts of the preparation, like the IT people who ran extra cords and plugs and computer access ports. My executive director of the campus set out little bowls of various candies around the room--an inexpensive touch, but one that always makes me happy when I arrive at a retreat and see it. We had bagels and a fruit tray the first morning, pastries and a fruit tray the second morning. We had a variety of snacks, from chips to nuts to energy bars. We had a small fridge stocked with every kind of drink (bottled water was most popular) and a Keurig machine with a variety of coffees and teas. We had a dessert tray that we delivered with lunches that they ordered when they arrived.
We are lucky that the visits to externship sites went well--no traffic snarls that could have soured the experience and a welcoming site when they arrived. We are lucky that the team let the Program Chairs choose the sites.
We were lucky in so many areas, but we were also well-prepared. Let me not downplay that. We looked through every single student file to make sure that everything was in order. We put lots of tabs and explanatory materials in binders so that everything was clear. We had faculty come to campus 45 minutes early. We went to every Thursday and Friday class in the weeks before the visit so that everyone knew about the accreditation visit. We answered questions from faculty and students. We made some revisions to our materials based on the accreditation visits at other campuses. We let the externship sites know that the accreditors might be coming to visit them.
Through it all, I tried to always keep a good sense of humor and a relentless optimism that everything would be O.K.--it's easy to do because I believe in what we're doing on our campus, and I have faith in our faculty and staff. I'm immensely grateful for that--I've seen from my experience in other schools that it could be otherwise.
I am grateful this morning. I am going to take some time to feel good about this accomplishment. And then it's back to the real work: continuing to improve student learning and outcomes.
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