University of North Dakota Faculty/Staff Newsletter

About UND’s upcoming HLC reaccreditation

Most faculty and staff are very familiar with program accreditation. Institutional accreditation processes and criteria can seem comparatively distant—almost irrelevant—in comparison to the immediate, day-to-day standards set by program accreditors. Yet, institutional accreditation, which ensures that the institution itself functions according to essential quality standards, is a prerequisite for program accreditation. If an institution lacks support for quality teaching and learning, doesn’t pay attention to assessment and improvement, and functions without transparency, all programs within that institution are compromised. That’s why about 150 faculty, staff, students, and administrators from across UND have spent the past 36 months preparing for reaccreditation by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), UND’s institutional accreditor.

HLC Site Visit

Members of the HLC site-visit team will be on campus October 28–30 and are contacting various UND units to set up meetings and events. Every member of UND’s community should be prepared. Here’s why:

  1. Once team members arrive and begin discussion of their comments and concerns (based on reading our self-study), additional needed information will become evident. It is highly likely that they will either ask us to arrange additional meetings—or simply stop in to visit a department and peruse materials they have determined would be helpful to review. You need to be prepared for that likelihood.
  2. Visiting teams normally hold open meetings to hear from a wide range of UND constituencies. We need faculty, staff, and students to be informed about the HLC process and the self-study findings, and attend those meetings.
  3. Most important, we know that a site-visit team spends a few days on campus, but we live with this University for many years. President Kelley and the entire team of UND administrators have pledged to use the findings of the self-study as they continue to guide the University toward the Exceptional UND vision. Everyone should be aware of the strengths—and needs—identified in that self-study in order to continue playing a role in charting UND’s future.

How to Learn More

You can find the entire self-study report on UND’s Higher Learning Commission website, however, you might prefer to read the Executive Summary. You’ll see how the self-study was done, what the five criteria for reaccreditation are, and bullet-point findings regarding UND’s strengths and weaknesses by criteria.

Some criteria may be especially relevant to your own work. For example, Criterion 4 on Teaching and Learning: Evaluation and Improvement summarizes assessment progress made (and weaknesses still evident) in each of UND’s colleges. Criterion 2 on Integrity discusses UND’s record of clarity and transparency in matters of policies, research ethics, and information provided for students. Criterion 5 on Resources, Planning, and Effectiveness provides more information than you ever expected to know about UND’s fiscal and facilities resources. The Executive Summary bullet points can help you see which of those criteria may be worth more detailed attention.

Gathering all the information and analyzing it for the self-study was a major undertaking, but the value becomes clear upon reading the final document. It’s helpful to see the areas where individual programs—or the institution as a whole—have needs that should be addressed. And it is extremely satisfying to see the areas of strength which are demonstrated by the evidence collected. Please read!

If you have questions, members of the HLC Steering Committee would be happy to visit with you about their work. Or contact one of the self-study coordinators—Joan Hawthorne, Pat O’Neill, or Donna Pearson—for more information.

-- Joan Hawthorne, Director of Assessment & Regional Accreditation.