Bemidji State’s Continuing Accreditation Process
This is the third of five campus updates before our Site Visit in October 2019. Each update highlights some of the Core Components of the five criteria used by the Higher Learning Commission when evaluating whether an institution of higher education ought to be accredited. Accreditation signifies to the external community that our institutional standards are consistent with legal and customary expectations of what it means to be a university and that we conduct our operations in a way that is consistent with our Mission, Vision, and Shared Fundamental Values.
We are currently on track with the timeline we set out at the start of our self-study process. Our first campus update and second campus update give highlights from earlier in the process. With this update we are pleased to report that the five Criterion Committees have now completed their work outlining draft assurance arguments, collecting supporting information, and highlighting what our campus has accomplished. Our thanks to all who have participated so far, especially to the members of the Criterion Committees and their co-chairs.
What’s next? With the draft assurance arguments from the Criterion Committees in hand, our co-directors, Randy Westhoff and Marty J. Wolf, have begun drafting an integrated and cohesive assurance argument. This process will continue for the next several weeks. Later this semester, the assurance argument will be shared with the entire campus for comment and critique. With that information in hand, we will update the assurance argument with an eye toward finalizing it sometime this summer and completing it before the September 16 deadline. Even before we finalize the assurance argument, HLC will begin to form our site visit team which will be on campus October 14 and 15.
The big picture. While HLC evaluates the university in many ways, one of the primary things they evaluate is the pervasiveness of our institution’s Mission, Vision, and Shared Fundamental Values. Let’s call this collection our Mission Statement. On a large scale, we have made a good start. Our Mission Statement is available on our website. Our Strategic Plan puts the Mission Statement into action in that each of its five priorities reflect some aspect of the Mission Statement. Our Master Academic Plan also calls on faculty, staff, and academic programs to pursue changes and improvements that are consistent with and reflect our Mission Statement.
Why, yes, you can help—especially in little ways. Faculty and staff can help, too. Become familiar with our Mission, Vision, and Shared Fundamental Values and incorporate them into your work routine. Look for interdisciplinary ways of approaching student learning. Encourage students to pursue the liberal arts to expand their thinking. Celebrate learning something from students about a culture that is different than yours. Share a “only in Northern Minnesota” experience with a student who may not have had a chance for that experience. Do those little things in your job that a good steward of the environment would encourage.
Have you made changes to a Liberal Education course? We are still looking for examples of courses in Liberal Education where faculty have made changes in response to assessment data. If you have made such changes, can you please let us know? An email to firstname.lastname@example.org will get the ball rolling. Thanks!
Criterion Committee Update
Each of the five criteria has several Core Components that we must address. The Criterion Committees have identified ways that Bemidji State University is meeting the requirements for continuing accreditation. Here is a brief update on four Core Components and our success in each of those areas.
1.B. The mission is articulated publicly.
Our Mission, Vision, and Shared Fundamental Values are easily found on our website. More than that, they were developed over a two-year process that involved a working group of over forty people from across campus. They were developed in consultation with representatives from the broader Bemidji region. People from the region and state, and especially our students, understand the nature of the university. Our focus is not that of a research institution — we educate people to lead inspired lives.
2.B. The institution presents itself clearly and completely to its students and to the public with regard to its programs, requirements, faculty and staff, costs to students, control, and accreditation relationships.
Long before they set foot on campus, potential students can learn a lot about the university with information on our website and with materials sent to them in the mail. They can learn about our admission requirements, academic programs, and academic requirements. Information about the cost of attending BSU is readily found on our website. In addition to our online staff directory, everyone can find contact information for our programs and faculty by visiting individual program websites. As part of the on-boarding process, faculty are automatically added to their program’s list of faculty. The Leadership page on the BSU website clearly outlines the structure of the University, noting that BSU is a member of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, as well the fact that Academic Affairs, Student Affairs, Finance & Administration, and the BSU Alumni & Foundation work collaboratively to support our mission.
3.A. The institution’s degree programs are appropriate to higher education.
The review of new programs and changes to existing programs that occur on campus and via Minnesota State’s policies and procedures ensure our programs and courses belong on our campus and support our mission. We have processes and procedures in place that provide evidence that courses, regardless of where or how they are offered, meet the same learning outcomes and that student learning is assessed in consistent ways.
5. D. The institution works systematically to improve its performance.
We have procedures in place to collect and analyze data about the performance of the institution. These data inform the development of pertinent strategic plans. Strategic plans are implemented and as part of the process, new data are collected and analyzed. We monitor how well we are recruiting students, with special emphasis on improving how we recruit American Indian students. We monitor student success by using Starfish and a follow-up system to prevent students from “falling through the cracks.” Housing and Residential Life collects and analyzes data to identify areas for improvement each year.
We want to hear from you!
The self-study and site visit process involve the entire campus. Please contact email@example.com with your comments or to become involved in the process.