Colleges Prepare for Accreditation Site Visit
Final preparations are underway at both West Valley College and Mission College for upcoming site visits as part of the colleges’ re-accreditation processes.
Each college is on a six-year accreditation cycle through the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges and although each college is reviewed and accredited separately, their accreditation site visits coincide. From March 17-20, MC and WVC will each have an accreditation team on campus to review documents, meet with different constituent groups and hold open forums to hear from the campus communities at large. The teams, made up of working faculty, staff and administrators from various community colleges, will essentially be visiting to validate what each college wrote in its self-evaluation and to ensure the colleges are meeting the standards set by the accreditation commission.
While the accreditation teams will let the colleges know of some of their findings during the last day of the site visit, the colleges will not know their status until June.
“I feel confident that we are doing all we can not only to meet the accreditation guidelines, but also to position our college for future growth, and to deal with the changing landscape that is higher education,” said Bradley J. Davis, president of West Valley College. “We viewed the self-evaluation not just as something we had to do as part of the accreditation process, but also as an opportunity to reflect and thoughtfully analyze what we do and how we can improve. The self-evaluation has been a collaborative effort of administrators, faculty and staff who have worked tirelessly for the past two years.”
At Mission College, Leandra Martin, vice president of instruction and accreditation liaison officer (ALO), said the process of preparing for accreditation helped the campus community engage in meaningful discussions about how well the institution is doing and how it can do better.
“I think we have a very well-run college here,” Martin said. “Yes, there may be some areas where we may need to do more, but this is a well-organized, methodical college. I feel very confident that when the accreditation team comes they are going to find that we are a very functional, well-run institution.”
The confidence at both colleges comes after the completion of self-evaluations, a massive undertaking that involved a collaborative critical review of everything the colleges do. The extensive written reports address specific standards in areas such as institutional effectiveness, governance, student learning and student services. The self-evaluation process, say officials at both colleges, was more than simply a required step in the accreditation process. Instead, it was a chance to analyze and reflect as well as to identify areas for improvement.
“It’s really an opportunity to showcase what we do really well,” said Heidi Diamond, WVC business faculty and Faculty Accreditation Liaison. “West Valley College has tremendous strengths in global citizenship, our entrepreneurial programs and we’re doing a great job with our integrated planning process. Overall, we’re a very collaborative and warm campus.”
Heather Rothenberg, MC nutritional science faculty and Faculty Accreditation Liaison, said Mission’s self-evaluation highlights improvements the college has made since its last accreditation, including changes to the program review process and making everything, not just classes, as accessible to students as possible.
“Our organizational structure has really tightened up and become more effective,” Rothenberg said, adding that the changes came as a direct result of the accreditation process last time. “Working on the self-evaluation is really a boost to work even harder and solve any problems even faster.”
Already, both colleges are making changes in response to the self-evaluations, which not only identified areas that could be improved, but also developed ways to improve them. Ensuring the accreditation teams are aware of the changes – implemented after the self-evaluations were submitted – by putting together a supplemental report, is an important part of preparing for the upcoming site visit. Officials are also meeting with different groups on campus to make sure the community is well-informed about the colleges’ goals, the accreditation process as a whole and the site visits in particular.
“The overall process has been a great opportunity for self-reflection,” Diamond said. “It’s always a good thing to think about what you’re doing well, doing effectively and work to continuously improve.”
Access WVC’s self-evaluation here: http://www.westvalley.edu/committees/Accreditation/.
Access MC’s self-evaluation here: http://missioncollege.org/gen_info/accreditation/.