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Full re-accreditation for 10 years granted by Higher Learning Commission

The recent self-study performed at Miami for its 10-year re-accreditation process was deemed “a model for other institutions to emulate” by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

Miami began its self-study process more than two years ago and submitted a report to the HLC. Last Jan. 31-Feb. 2, a team from the HLC met with administrators, faculty, student government, trustees and staff in various departments; held open meetings with students and community members and visited regional campuses.

The team reviewed Miami's Web site, tuition plan, First in 2009 initiative, financial and construction plans, Senate Enabling Act, university plan for diversity and other documents. Its report came in two sections.

Assurance Section

The team said that reviewing documents and performing interviews validated information in Miami's report. It said the self-study process and report were found to be “very comprehensive and well-organized - a model for other institutions to emulate. … Without question, the best self-study read by any of the team members” and recommended full re-accreditation for 10 years. The recommendation was approved in October.

The HLC report says Miami adequately addressed concerns identified in a 1995 re-accreditation report, namely a need for strategic planning, increasing academic rigor, enhancing technology and improving diversity. The report acknowledges the university continues to address diversity, governance and communication issues.

Five areas were assessed, each with a set of core components:

The HLC noted that Miami meets the core components of its mission via inclusive and collaborative governance processes and legal, fair and responsible policies and activities and achieving widespread understanding of and commitment to the university's mission and values.

In preparing for the future, the HLC noted Miami's First in 2009 plan provided a framework of institutional goals to guide resource allocation, that it had a distinguished history of excellent resource management and innovative approaches to fiscal challenges, including the new tuition/scholarship plan, and that Miami had established a benchmarking process for evaluation. The commission said, however, it could not clearly identify feedback loops connecting assessment to institutional decision-making.

Regarding student learning and effective teaching, the HLC said core components were met with multiple campus initiatives supporting teaching as well as instruction assessment; small classes, active learning and strong faculty-student relationships; a library highly supportive of the learning environment; high graduation and retention rates; and developments in information technology. The HLC noted organizational work was needed in articulating student learning outcomes in some programs, connecting feedback to programmatic change and broadening the integration of student learning assessment beyond those academic areas with professional accreditation.

In assessing the area of acquisition, discovery and application of knowledge, the HLC said core components were met via an “impressive array of programs,” supporting undergraduate research; institutional support for an increased expectation of faculty productivity; self-studies of the Miami Plan bringing continued effectiveness for strengthening intellectual inquiry; co-curricular activities complementing desired learner outcomes; and many diversity initiatives helping prepare learners for a global society.

The fifth criterion assessed, engagement and service, was deemed as meeting core components via numerous avenues of service to external constituents; a wide array of cultural, artistic, intellectual and athletic events on all three campuses; advisory groups including community members and field practitioners; and partnerships with community leaders.

Even with a few items noted for more attention, the reviewers said “further attention to the areas noted will only strengthen an already strong assessment program.”

“I am pleased but not surprised at the Higher Learning Commission's praise of the university. Miami takes strategic planning very seriously, and our accreditation efforts were a natural outgrowth of this strength,” said Miami President Jim Garland.

No changes were recommended in conditions of affiliation nor status. No sanction nor adverse actions were made.

Advancement Section

In the role of consultants, the HLC team addressed areas of financial management, assessment, human resources, governance and research and scholarly activity.

The HLC team praised the university's financial management but cautioned Miami about the expense of a potentially more substantive research agenda. It similarly recognized the strong leadership in maintaining the campus physical plant but mentioned the difficulty of maintaining an “increasingly complex infrastructure” with possibly reduced future state funding.

In the area of assessment of learning, the HLC acknowledged improvements but made several suggestions for improving assessment, including benchmarking, reinforcement of the learning outcomes message and recognition of departments with advanced assessment programs.

After meeting with classified and unclassified staff, the HLC team advised reviewing the campus workplace climate, improving the documenting of personnel processes, normalizing compensation and recognizing excellence among staff.

The team acknowledged recent strides in shared governance but advised further review with emphasis on a structure that allows efficient and responsive decision-making in relation to rapid changes.

For purposes of increasing research and scholarly activity, the team said factors of teaching, research and scholarly activity and mentoring of graduate students must be applied uniformly across units and all faculty must be made aware of relative rewards for those factors. It suggested an increase in graduate assistantships to aid faculty involved heavily in research and scholarly activity.

The team cited infrastructure progress including IT and library enhancements and the new engineering facility, and encouraged even more progress in IT support, research space and equipment. Miami is encouraged to seek additional funding, co-ops, partnerships and other support for academic areas.

The team praised specifically the university's Honors and Scholars Program as a “bell weather of best practice at the university.” It lauded Miami's various efforts and “enormous investments” in enhancing diversity. And it cited the university's visible commitment to developing student-athletes in a high integrity program as a model of “best practices.”

Hundreds of Miami faculty, administrators, staff and students contributed to the self-study effort. The accreditation steering committee included Paul Anderson (chair), Sara Butler, Cheryl Evans, Raymond Gorman, Dennis Roberts, Jerry Stonewater and John Williams.

The next comprehensive visit will be in 2014-15.

The self-study report is online and the full accreditation report will be available there later this month at www.muohio.edu/accreditation/.

Date Published: 11/10/2005
Volume: 25   Number: 15

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