Published February 28, 2023
UB’s decennial reaccreditation process is a vital, campuswide initiative to secure reaccreditation through the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. UB’s institutional reaccreditation co-chairs discussed the institutional reaccreditation process with the Faculty Senate at its Feb. 21 meeting, and they also plan to meet with the Professional Staff Senate on March 23.
UBNow recently sat down with co-chairs Ann Bisantz, dean of undergraduate education; Craig Abbey, vice provost for institutional analysis and planning; and Carol Van Zile-Tamsen, associate vice provost and director of the Office of Curriculum, Assessment & Teaching Transformation, to learn more about the process.
Bisantz: The Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) is an independent accreditor recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. U.S. institutions of higher education pursue accreditation as a requirement for eligibility in programs such as federal financial aid — but more importantly, as a demonstration that we are meeting our institutional missions in education, research and service.
Through the self-study and accreditation process, we can demonstrate how the myriad of activities that happen each day at UB are tied to and support our mission and goals. In the self-study, we make these connections across seven broad areas described in the MSCHE standards. These encompass (1) UB’s mission and goals; (2) how university policies and processes are in compliance with applicable laws and standards; (3) the design and delivery of the student learning experience; (4) how the student experience is supported; (5) assessment of educational effectiveness; (6) university processes related to planning, resources and institutional improvement; and (7) our governance, leadership and administrative structure.
Abbey: As an institution committed to academic and operational excellence across the board, it is extremely helpful to us that we have an external perspective to help us reflect in relation to our own unique goals and challenges, as well as to the various challenges and opportunities that we share with our peers. At UB, we engage in continuous cycles of improvement — perhaps the most important of which is this opportunity at holistic self-reflection and assessment under our guiding colleagues at Middle States.
For our institution, this is not simply a chance for us to demonstrate that we are doing relevant, high quality and impactful work as a campus. Rather, this process is essential in helping to ensure that we are prepared for the oftentimes uncertain future and that we are always striving to improve to ensure our continued success.
Van Zile-Tamsen: There are a variety of committees with institution-wide representation involved in preparing for our reaccreditation, helping to complete the tasks involved in this lengthy and intensive process. The Executive Committee — including the president and the provost — provides oversight for the reaccreditation process. The Reaccreditation Steering Committee consists of subject matter experts with regard to areas addressed by the Middle States standards. The Organizing Committee is coordinating self-study development, and five self-study working teams have been tasked with reviewing evidence and preparing the self-study document.
It should be noted that this work by the self-study teams was preceded by an earlier group of UB professionals who gathered evidence in support of each Middle States standard. These groups have been working together to ensure delivery of a comprehensive self-study.
The broader campus community will be regularly apprised of progress — through articles like this, as well as through presentations to key campus constituency groups like the Faculty Senate and Professional Staff Senate. In addition, members of the campus community will have a chance to review the self-study draft before it is finalized and shared with Middle States.
Van Zile-Tamsen: Fortunately, we are in the later stages of preparing our reaccreditation materials. In early 2022, UB’s self-study design was submitted to MSCHE and serves as the guide for the remainder of the self-study process. The working teams, charged in March 2022, have now completed their evidence review and their sections of the self-study document. In January 2023, the organizing committee began compiling the first full draft of the final self-study, which will be shared with the other committees and finalized before sharing with the campus community.
For more information on this process and timeline, interested constituents can visit our reaccreditation self-study timeline.
Abbey: UB has continuous assessment built into the fabric of its operations. We are committed to data collection, and subsequent organization of this information, for regular reporting purposes, as well as for ensuring that we have the means to call upon this critical data. From food service to comprehensive program review within academic departments to university-wide information technology infrastructure, as well as student learning, UB is committed to regularly scrutinizing and improving all aspects of the institution. Increasingly, every department and corner of the university relies on the effective collection and analysis of critical information in order to move forward on a path that has a high likelihood of success.
Bisantz: The accreditation process includes both submission of the institutional self-study report, as well as a campus visit by a team of peer evaluators from other institutions of higher education. In the fall, we will host a preliminary site visit from the team chair, and the self-study draft will be reviewed and finalized. The final draft of the self-study will then be due to MSCHE at the start of 2024. The full site visit of the peer evaluation team will occur during the spring 2024 semester. At this visit, the peer evaluation team will supplement its understanding from the self-study by meeting with campus leadership, key administrators, and faculty and student groups.
In the last meeting on the last day of the site visit, the review team will report to us on its visit. We will receive a formal written draft of the report within a few weeks of the visit, and our university’s president may then write a response to Middle States if there are any factual errors or any specific items we would like to address.
The commission will meet later in June 2024 to review all reports and determine the outcome — i.e., accreditation status, recommendations, any potential warnings, additional follow-up, or monitoring reports. A formal report from the commission will then be shared with us within a few weeks to notify us of the outcome. They will also add that letter to our institutional profile page on their website.