GW readies for accreditation

As the University revs up to begin the process of renewing its accreditation status with the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, a representative from the organization spoke to students and faculty Thursday about what this means for GW.

The Middle States Commission conducts a voluntary accreditation program for degree-seeking colleges and universities in the Middle States region every 10 years to assess their quality of education. GW’s renewal date is set for 2008.

Robert Schneider, executive associate director of the Middle States Commission, said at the meeting Thursday that the reaccreditation process will include an intensive self-study by the University and an on-site visit by a team of evaluators. The evaluators from the Middle States Commission are expected to conduct a site visit at GW in April 2008 and will decide whether to grant GW reaccreditation status after that.

The self-study process requires a university to take an in-depth look at its operations and address its practices based on Middle States’ evaluation standards, which include a university’s mission, resources and faculty, Schneider said. He added that the reaccreditation process will be beneficial to the academic quality of the University.

“This process is a way for the university to improve,” he said. “The peer review coming from a steering committee made up of university faculty will provide for specific ways in which the University can improve specific standards within the institution.”

Schneider also explained that the Middle States Commission does not have strict or specific standards for accreditation, which helps universities identify their own goals.

“Rather than having strict policies, the Commission prefers to have flexible standards so that a university’s steering committee can decide itself the areas it wishes to improve upon,” he said. “Middle States asks a university to decide its missions and also a way to fulfill those goals.”

Administrators formed a steering committee this past fall to focus on a self-evaluation of the University’s academic programs and campus operations in preparation for the reaccreditation process. Political science professor Forrest Maltzman and Craig Linebaugh, associate vice president for Academic Planning, co-chair the committee.

Maltzman said during the meeting Thursday that the University’s steering committee will address many aspects of GW in order to implement the comprehensive strategic plan launched by University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg in fall 2001. The plan set specific goals of academic excellence and University services.

“The steering committee really wants to focus on implementing the University’s strategic plan. This calls for a variety of things, including an improvement of campus community and GW’s academic programs,” Maltzman said after the meeting.

Maltzman also emphasized that the steering committee will be evaluating high-profile issues on campus when conducting its self-evaluation.

“The steering committee will address student engagement with faculty, faculty recruitment and retention, the quality of GW’s doctoral programs and several other hot-topic issues,” he said during the meeting.

He also expounded on why this accreditation is important for GW.

“I think any institution benefits from being self-critical,” Maltzman said. “The steering committee is reflecting on ways to make the University better for students and faculty throughout this process.”

Since 1919, the Middle States Commission has accredited 503 schools. GW received its first accreditation from the commission in 1922 and was last reaccredited in 1998.

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