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Benchmarks of Value – July 22, 2013

July 22, 2013

Hello everybody:

The Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), the accrediting body for universities and colleges in California, Hawaii, and several U.S territories, recently released a report by the WASC team that paid a special visit to WesternU in March of this year.

As part of my Benchmarks of Value series of messages to campus, I will devote this installment to these matters of accreditation.

WASC’s Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities asked WesternU to focus on the following five areas:

– Developing and implementing program review.

– Moving to the next level on student learning assessment.

– Building support for a culture of evidence.

– Planning and providing resources for institutional change and growth.

– Increasing the role of faculty in governance.

The special visit team’s report from March of this year acknowledges that WesternU has addressed each of these five issues, and noted “significant areas of progress since the last interaction with WASC for which to commend (WesternU).”

The report also recommends continued focus on creating an effective faculty governance model and enhancing a culture of evidence and quality assurance, and calls for a special visit by WASC in fall 2014 to assess progress in those areas.

WesternU appreciates the thoughtfulness and thoroughness of every WASC review, and takes away from each encounter with the Accrediting Commission a reinvigorated commitment to achieving educational and operational excellence on behalf of our students, faculty, and staff. We hold WASC’s recommendations in the highest regard, and reap the benefits of the Accrediting Commission’s wisdom and experience each time recommendations are made.

We also are reminded of the tremendous accomplishments at our University over the past several years, including:

– WesternU’s enviable record of success with the accrediting agencies for all of our programs, most of which grant our institution the maximum length of reaffirmation.

– High pass rates on national boards and licensing examinations for our program graduates.

– Maintenance of financial health during institutional growth, for which the Commission commended WesternU with these words: “The visiting team observed financial stability in the midst of national and local economic challenges, clear budget practices, maintenance of support staff levels, and governing board acknowledgement of space and infrastructure needs.”

– Improved mechanisms for collecting and utilizing data.

Additionally, WesternU continues to make progress based on findings from our own self-study and on recommendations from WASC. These include setting aside funds in the 2013-14 operating budget to directly address the goals and objectives contained in our new strategic plan; establishing a formal timeline for the University Data Standards Team to enhance our foundation for a culture of evidence; and engaging faculty, and the Academic Senate to coordinate governance among different colleges and to encourage faculty involvement in as many activities as possible, including participation in standing committees, modification of the faculty handbook, and modification of the Senate charter.

For the second consecutive year, WesternU also has been recognized by the Chronicle of Higher Education as one of its Great Colleges to Work For, with special recognition given to the University’s employee benefits and workplace environment. This designation was based on the results of an anonymous survey of WesternU faculty and staff conducted by The Chronicle.

As a graduate health professions university committed to preparing new generations of healers and to addressing major public health policy issues, WesternU prides itself not only on the technical and scientific excellence of its students, but on its ability to instill core values of interprofessional teamwork, humanism, caring, and compassion in every person who works and learns at our institution. The University appreciates the opportunity to underscore these values and skills by meeting the recommendations made by WASC and the Accrediting Commission, and embraces the collaborative spirit that seeks to produce the finest possible University graduates.

As always, I welcome your feedback on this topic and any others as we discuss WesternU’s Benchmarks of Value, and our plans. Please e-mail me with your thoughts at ppumerantz@westernu.edu, and feel free to share this message with your family and friends.

My best to you all,