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Sunday, May 9, 2021

Western gets a report card

An analysis of Western’s staff and faculty will be the final test to determine if the institution passes.

That is, in the eyes of the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

Western conducted a confidential faculty and staff forum last Monday to accrue  data on the performance of teachers and staff, with the assistance of accreditors from the commission.

Susan Kalina, chair of the evaluations committee, said Western has gone through a seven-year accreditation cycle to determine the quality of Western as an institution. Right now, the committee already determined Western to be fully accredited.

“[Western], at the end of seven years, is requesting to have accreditation reaffirmed, and the evaluation committee comes on behalf of the commission to see how it’s doing,” Kalina said.  

According to the commission’s website, they are a nonprofit organization that evaluates colleges based on a set of standards using accreditation and self-evaluation.   

Kalina said her evaluation committee consists of eight members from different colleges  and works with multiple institutions across the country.

Steven VanderStaay, vice president for undergraduate education and the accreditation liaison officer, said the faculty and staff forum is kept confidential at the discretion of the committee accreditors to make sure they are comfortable enough to speak freely.  

Over the past seven years, Western took part in a self-evaluation program with the committee. During which, Western is measured against a set of standards that the committee sets.

One of the methods Western and the commission use to accomplish this is a comprehensive evaluation of its own staff, as this year the committee starts visiting Western to do a cumulative status report of the institution.

According to the commission’s website, there are 55 standards colleges must meet.

“What we are looking at is [whether] the institution meets the standards. [Western] responded to that in a self-study report, we read the report, and then we come to campus to more fully understand how the institution is meeting those,” Kalina said.

VanderStaay said the final accreditation report will be posted to Western’s website by June 2017.

“I think we are an exemplary institution within our region both because of our strong student performance and because we tend to get many commendations in our accreditation activities,” VanderStaay said.  

But VanderStaay also said Western’s faculty and staff could improve on fixing what he calls achievement gaps where a specific group of students excel far more than students of another group, such as students with low and high incomes.

“Faculty are already working to try to correct for that and I think we can all do a better job in serving those [low-income] students,” VanderStaay said.  

According to the commission’s list of standards, Western needs student services that help students of all groups to succeed.

Western does have services and programs that cater to all students such as Prevention and Wellness Services and the Scholarship Center, according to Western’s website.  

Both the faculty and staff evaluations occurred at the Old Main Solarium. The open staff forum ran from noon to 12:45 p.m. and the open faculty forum with the accreditors ran from 1:15 to 2 p.m.

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