The time for the College's 10-year self examination will soon arrive and, with it, the opportunity for institutional improvement. Prep work has begun in earnest.
The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools evaluates degree-granting higher-education organizations, including Kalamazoo College, to ensure they meet HLC requirements and criteria.
Kalamazoo College was first accredited in 1915 and most recently reaccredited in April 2003. Evaluation is based on five criteria: mission and integrity; preparing for the future; student learning and effective teaching; acquisition, discovery, and application of knowledge; and engagement and service. The reaccreditation process includes the College's preparation of a written self-study report, which is reviewed by an HLC team of consultant-evaluators in advance of its campus visit. The team writes its own report based on that thorough and intensive visit. An HLC Readers Panel carefully considers the documents relating to the visit and then makes a recommendation regarding reaccreditation. An HLC Institutional Action Council takes action on the recommendation, and the HLC Board of Directors finalizes that action.
Possible outcomes? From "reaccreditation without contingencies" to "denial of reaccreditation." Between these poles: reaccreditation with four types of HLC monitoring, ranging in intensity from "progress report" (least) to "focused visit" (most). In 2003 Kalamazoo College was reaccredited and asked to address certain issues identified by the evaluator team. In November 2006 the College submitted its Progress Report regarding these matters; the HLC response to that report was very positive.
The next HLC site visit in the reaccreditation cycle is scheduled for sometime during the 2012-13 academic year, perhaps as early as October 2012. That may seem a long way off, but prep work has started with the formation of the Reaccreditation Planning Task Force. The RPTF is chaired by Eric Nordmoe, associate professor of mathematics and computer science. Other members are Lesley Clinard, assistant director of academic advising and institutional support; Anne Dueweke, director of faculty grants and institutional research; Ann Fraser, associate professor
"We identify opportunities to get better..."of biology; Patrik Hultberg, associate professor of economics; Michael McDonald, provost; Jim Prince, vice president for business and finance; Kathleen White Smith, professor of Romance languages; and Sarah Westfall, vice president for student development and dean of students.
As its name implies, the task force plans the self-study process, working with the administration and faculty leadership to form working groups to address the HLC criteria. The task force and subcommittees also identify issues for the self-study to "dig into," says Nordmoe. The process will culminate in a preliminary written draft (Fall 2011). During winter and spring of 2012 comment and input on the draft will be solicited even more broadly from various members of the "K" community, including alumni. The final self-study report will be completed and sent to the HLC in August 2012, shortly before the evaluation team's visit.
"It's a painstaking process, and the potential for self-improvement makes it very valuable," says Nordmoe. "We come to better understand our strengths, and we identify opportunities to get better at what we do."