Executive director of Northwest Commission visits campus
If only one word of advice could be given regarding a successful self-study, that word would be “analysis,” Dr. Sandra Elman, executive director of the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, told a group of BYU deans, directors and department chairs, as well as members of the President’s Council and BYU’s Accreditation Executive Committee, on May 3.
President Cecil O. Samuelson welcomed Dr. Elman, noting that she was visiting BYU to answer questions and further explain the accreditation process.
“The self-study is the map for the entire visit by the review team,” Dr. Elman said, acknowledging that although analysis is usually the most difficult part, it should be “the essence of your self-study.”
She advised about 150 gathered in the Harman Building to not be afraid to look for “problematic areas of concern,” cautioning that the review team would not expect BYU to be in a state of perfection but in one of analysis and improvement. “The self-study is all about allowing BYU to reach its full potential, as well as the fulfillment of its unique mission.”
Dr. Elman then explained the review process, which will involve a team of 15 individuals, chosen from institutions similar to BYU, who will spend two and a half days on campus. During that time, the team—or team members —will meet with university leaders, and will conduct an open meeting with faculty and another meeting with students. BYU’s visit is scheduled for April 23-26, 2006.
In keeping with Dr. Elman’s advice, her visit coincided with separate focus groups of the nine standards comprising BYU's self-study. Several weeks earlier at the spring President’s Leadership retreat, those in attendance had been given a draft copy of BYU’s study. Their assignment was to carefully examine a preassigned standard report.
During her day-long visit, Dr. Elman was able to step into each focus group, which included the chairs, their committees and a cross section of participants assigned from campus academic and educational support unit leaders. At the end of the day, she complimented the participants for their work, noting the good discussions that had taken place. This is the kind of appraisal that makes for a more worthwhile and effective study, she commented.
For the standard chairs and their committees, the analysis does not end with these focus groups, as each will be studying and acting upon the suggestions and comments shared. Many of the standard chairs are using additional focus groups to better analyze their areas and reports.
Gary Kramer, for example, a co-chair of Standard 3, has conducted two focus groups with BYUSA and Student Advisory Council officers, the latter also involving Ron Chapman, associate vice president of Student Life and co-chair of Standard 3, and Vern Heperi, dean of Students.
Heather Jacques, the 2004-05 SAC president, who helped gather feedback from the first meeting, said, “I always appreciate the administration giving students the opportunity to voice their views. It evidences an interest in student input and opinion at the university. [Students] have a unique perspective that should be taken into account.”
It is this kind of input BYU’s Executive Accreditation Committee hopes to receive from all members of the campus community. Copies of the self-study will be distributed during the annual University Conference on Aug. 23 and will be made available on the Web.
“We thank those who have worked so diligently over the past 18 months to analyze and prepare our BYU accreditation self-study to this point,” said Gerrit Gong, who is leading BYU’s review in his capacity as assistant to the president for Planning and Assessment.. “Now, we invite all our faculty, staff and students to engage with the self-study and accreditation process to help BYU comply, improve and shine.”