SUU In View (Alumni Magazine - Spring 2004)
University accreditation affirmed, with commendations
After a two-and-a-half year process, the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) has reaffirmed the accreditation of Southern Utah University.
While SUU has been an accredited institution for decades; this most recent process has been that of re-accreditation, which is required every 10 years.
Pursuance of accreditation by the University, and the achievement of it, is a statement of philosophy and objective of the faculty, staff and programs of the institution.
For students and alumni, this accreditation process is a statement of superior higher education.
For the friends and public, it is a statement of SUU’s sterling reputation, purpose and influence on the community, state and beyond.
A formal written report, with very specific detail, is forthcoming, however, during the concluding visit to the Cedar City campus in October, the Northwest team issued some specific commendations to SUU.
One of the most encouraging was the team’s acknowledgement that in a time of rapid change with multiple external pressures and sometimes contradictory expectations, SUU has stayed focused.
The team praised SUU for its evident personalized learning climate and student centered campus.
Additionally, they complimented the beauty and efficient maintenance of the campus, highlighting the standard operating procedures to regularly conserve water and energy, and the leading example set here for all other institutions in the state.
Interestingly, recommendations the team made were equally encouraging, because most were already being addressed and are in various stages of development. For instance, committees are well on their way in revising the SUU’s mission statement and vision & goals declaration. Two in-house teams made up of individuals representing all facets of campus are pursuing the development of University Marketing and Strategic Plans. Also, comprehensive fine-tuning of the catalogue that will make for more timely student academic planning is an assured dynamic.
“From the outset, we suggested that an ideal outcome would be our self-study report meshing with the conclusions of the NWCCU evaluators,” Dr. Earl Mulderink, associate professor of history, chair of the social sciences department, and chair of the Accreditation Steering Committee, explains. “And this appears to be the case. We don’t think there were any surprises to them or to us, which, again, is the goal of an effective self-study process and product.”
Dr. Mulderink continues, “This lengthy, massive campus wide effort over the past 2.5 years was successful because of the extensive work of many on campus, both officially and unofficially. The process and the 250-page self-study report were all executed in-house by our own colleagues and experts.”
Besides the report, SUU provided a mountain of documentation and evidence for the Northwest evaluation team, including exhibits, files, publications, templates, publications, etc. The team expressed appreciation for SUU’s “forthright” presentation of information and discussions with a range of University stakeholders.
Accreditation is a lot of things to many specialized units on the SUU campus. It is a total quality management initiative—good for everyone. Indeed, the ultimate objective of accreditation is to help build an ideal program that attracts quality students, and that requires a reputation equivalent to faculty, programs and graduates who are sought after. Accredit-ation enables a refreshed focus on challenges and a celebration of strengths, further equipping SUU to define and fulfill its destiny.
“It is an instance in which we learn, again, that change is continuous, as is improving ourselves as an institution,” Dr. Mulderink offers. “At a place where Learning Lives Forever, a philosophy of always examining how we can do things better is healthy, welcome, and practiced.”
Teacher education officially dons elite national ranking
After more than three years of grueling self-study and assessment to meet National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), standards and evaluation, the professional Teacher Education unit of the College of Education at SUU is now, officially, one of the most prestigious programs of its kind. NCATE is the authoritative teacher education accrediting agency in the United States.
In an e-mail to Dean Bruce Barker, NCATE Senior Vice President Donna Gollnick in Washington, D.C., wrote that NCATE’s Unit Accreditation Board met the week of October 20 to determine the accreditation status of 62 institutions, and that they were pleased to report accreditation has been granted for the professional education unit at Southern Utah University. The formal letter and action report is forthcoming in the mail.
The underlying structure of NCATE sets forth a vision of a teaching unit and provides a theoretical and empirical foundation for the direction of programs; courses; teaching; candidate performance; faculty scholarship and service; and unit accountability. The process is comprised of five elements, including: vision, theme and mission; philosophy; professional commitment and dispositions; performance expectations; and, a system by which candidate performance is assessed.
Dr. Prent Klag, associate professor of teacher education, and director of the Office of Graduate Studies and Field Services, says the accreditation process has been a productive exercise for the department. “NCATE has inspired us to identify our strengths and areas that need improvement. With accreditation, the bars have been raised on standards, and I believe this will be appreciated by students, especially in terms of their future.”
Accreditation is important for many reasons, including what it means to the public. In an opinion poll conducted by Pen and Schoen, 82 percent of respondents favored requiring teachers to graduate from nationally-accredited professional schools. NCATE accreditation meets the public’s expectation of colleges of education to produce teachers and other school specialists who require rigorous standards.
“We have achieved the zenith in this field and are competitive with any teacher education program in the country,” Dean O’Driscoll, SUU’s marketing and public relations director says.
That being the case, one might ask, “Where can we go from here if we have reached the ceiling in the industry?” O’Driscoll responds, “The answer is clear; there are no boundaries...now, we go everywhere.”
Klag adds, “It is our mission to develop dynamic teachers who constantly search for truth, excellence and knowledge through effective practice, collaboration and scholarship. And at the same time, we must adapt to the industry’s needs, and expand the options to make our graduates marketable for jobs.”
Finally, SUU President Steve Bennion concludes, “Our Teacher Education program distinguishes SUU. Teaching is our foremost legacy. Moreover, meaningful focused ways of teaching—what we can do to make our students the best practitioners—are what make our graduates critical forces in the educational industry.”