Accreditation, technically a voluntary process, is a means by which colleges and universities demonstrate that their degree programs meet minimum standards. Institutions of higher education in the United States are accredited by one of six regional accrediting bodies. The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) is the body which administers accreditation for Concordia University St. Paul. Concordia’s professional programs, such as accounting, education, and physical therapy, have their own accrediting agencies and processes. But the HLC oversees our comprehensive, overall accreditation. Accreditation by the HLC is issued for a ten-year period and ours was last approved in 2008.
Though there are many pieces to the process, fundamentally two are most important: an institutional self-study and a site visit by a peer review team. Recently it was announced that our site visit will be conducted on April 16 and 17, 2018. The site visit team, made up of educators from other colleges and universities, will be on campus those two days. By that time they will have digested our self-study document and will be with us for a first-hand look.
The year 2018 seems a long way off, but there is much to do. In fact, our preparation began already over a year ago. In June of last year, Dr. Miriam Luebke was named Associate Vice-President of Assessment and Accreditation and began organizing our re-accreditation efforts. Miriam is supported directly in this effort by Dr. Marilyn Reineck, Vice President for Academic Affairs, who, happily for us, recently helped lead Concordia University Chicago through its own re-accreditation process.
The vitally important self-study centers in the preparation of a 35,000-word document, with loads of supporting material. The document is organized around five Criteria for Accreditation. Early this summer Miriam and Marilyn identified teams to work on each of the criteria. The teams with their team leaders are:
- Mission Rev. Dr. Tom Ries
- Integrity: Ethical and Responsible Conduct Dr. Michael Walcheski
- Teaching and Learning: Quality, Resources, and Support Dr. Thomas Saylor
- Teaching and Learning: Evaluation and Improvement Dr. Jean Rock
- Resources, Planning, and Institutional Effectiveness Rev. Dr. Michael Dorner
An additional team focused on federal compliance issues is led by Dr. Eric LaMott. Each team is made up of six to ten faculty and staff members. Just this past August, all full-time faculty and many staff leaders met in small groups to begin identifying the evidence that demonstrates how Concordia University St. Paul meets the core components of each of the five criteria. Since September the teams have been working independently to expand upon that evidence, and begin drafting the various sections of the self-study document. Miriam calls the team leaders regularly to make sure we are on track. This process will consume the better part of the next 12 months.
We have a great deal to be proud of at Concordia University and much reason for optimism about the future. In addition, we have the capacity to be aspirational about what we might want to accomplish in the future. The re-accreditation process gives us the chance to review these blessings and demonstrate them to others. As with all important initiatives, please keep it in your prayers and participate whenever possible.
Grace and peace to you.