Middle States Accreditation Process Offers McDaniel a Chance for Reflection

Administrative Assistant Brenda Paulsgrove, Provost and Dean of the Faculty Thomas Falkner, Dr Debora Johnson-Ross, and Dr Gretchen McKay enjoy a quick lunch before discussing the reaccreditation process. Photo by Chris Bolesta.

It’s safe to assume that we’ve all had a class where the most fascinating thing in the room is the stink bug on the ceiling and all that our notebooks contain at the end of the lecture is an elaborate doodle or intricate plan of escape.

There have also been, however, days when we’ve sat in Red Square, heads tilted toward the sun, thinking, I never want this to end.

Starting soon, there will be a productive way for students to voice both qualms and gratitude regarding all elements of the McDaniel experience.

Every ten years, McDaniel goes through an accreditation process through the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, an association which assesses colleges and provides feedback about the school’s performance. Though this process will not be completed until the spring of 2013, the evaluation begins now.

First, we engage in a self-study, which involves faculty, staff and students. The self-study involves gauging our strengths and weaknesses based upon 14 standards provided by Middle States. Standards range from adherence to the school’s mission to studying the retention of students. This process is headed by a Steering Committee of 12 faculty members as well as five working groups which focus on specific standards.

“There are two students on each working group,” explains Dr. Gretchen McKay, Co-Chair of the Steering Committee. “Students will be asked to participate in focus groups also that will likely be convened in the fall of 2011 for more data on how we are achieving our mission and in compliance with the standards.”

Students will also be able be involved in the self-evaluation process by attending open meetings next year and visiting the website that will be constructed for the purpose of tracking the self-study process.

“This should be an open and transparent process,” states Dr. Johnson-Ross, Co-Chair of the Steering Committee.

After completing the self-study, we turn it over to Middle States, who sends a team to McDaniel to form judgment about the accuracy about our report. The baseline goal is to be reaccredited, but the results hold deeper significance as well.

“The reaccreditation allows us to get federal money for grants and loans for students, so it is important for that reason,” says Dr. McKay. “But it also gives the institution a chance to check our pulse and examine if we are really fulfilling our mission and purpose to the greatest extent that we can.”

Because a large portion of the self-study we provide for Middle States involves data collection, students should be aware that we may be asked to complete surveys on various aspects of the college. Dr. Johnson-Ross hopes that students will view this as their “civic duty.”

“This information will not sit in a dusty cabinet; it will be used,” she promises. “We want to find out if we are providing the education that we think we are.”

As students, we must open our minds to be picked and think of the Middle States accreditation process not as a foreign or convoluted process, a job only for faculty, or just another survey. It is an open forum, a metaphorical soapbox, a vehicle to give the thumbs up or to say, “We really need a change.”