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Why ISU’s reaccreditation matters to alumni and students

ISU students work in a lab

Illinois State was last reaccredited in June 2005, for a 10-year period.

NORMAL — For two days this spring, seven VIPs will drop in and fan out across Illinois State’s campus, searching for the answer to one very important question:

What is our University doing to ensure student success?

They’ll be here because Illinois State wants to be reaccredited. The entire thing is voluntary, but that stamp of approval from the Higher Learning Commission (including its seven visitors in April) is a must-have for a top-tier university like ISU.

“It’s important for students who are here to know that we’re not resting on our laurels,” said President Larry Dietz. “We want to make sure we’re on the top of our game. Our students deserve to know that.”

For students and alumni, accreditation may sound a bit dry. Indeed, the years-long process is built around page-turning phrases like “assurances argument” and “criterion.”

Yet there are many reasons all Redbirds should be paying attention. Here are just a few:

BIG APRIL VISIT

Seven members of the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) will be on campus April 20–21 for a site visit. They’ll be validating a previously submitted report from Illinois State—our “assurances argument”—saying that ISU should be reaccredited based on HLC’s five different criteria and 27 standards.

Dietz says that opportunity for self-study—shaped by faculty and staff across campus—is invaluable.

“That’s probably the most telling part of this,” he said.

The escorted HLC visitors will meet with Dietz twice as well as Board of Trustees members, vice presidents, and other faculty and staff. Don’t be surprised if you see them around too.

Jim Jawahar

Associate Provost Jim Jawahar.

“You never know,” said Associate Provost Jim Jawahar, who chairs ISU’s reaccreditation steering committee. “As they’re walking through the Quad, they might run into a few students and just stand and chat with them. Or they might run into a faculty member, or staff member. They might want to have lunch in the Bone Student Center and run into somebody at Einstein’s and start a conversation.”

STUDENT and ALUMNI FEEDBACK

For the first time, all Illinois State students will have a chance to tell the HLC what they think of the education they’re receiving.

An online survey was emailed to students and will be open from February 9–18. Students will be asked if they’re satisfied with their professors, for example, or their ability to register for needed courses.

Alumni can weigh in now. Those “third-party comments” about ISU’s academic programs or the quality of the institution can be mailed in or submitted online at NCAHLC.org. They must be received by March 20.

“For alumni, when you graduate from a school, you still have a vested interest in the University even though you may not realize it,” said Jawahar. “The reputation of the university where you graduated from should continually increase. That increases the value of your own degree, even though you graduated years ago.”

TEAM EFFORT

Accreditation is a big deal, and it takes a big team. The process at ISU started two years ago.

In addition to the steering committee, there are seven different teams of faculty and staff—from teaching and learning, to ethics, to communication and PR—supporting the effort.

If all goes as planned, the HLC board is expected to render its decision regarding ISU’s reaccreditation, including any conditions, by September. ISU has been accredited since 1915.

“My hat is really off to all those folks on ISU’s accreditation team who’ve gotten us to where we are,” said Dietz. “They do it because they’re interested in our institution being of the highest quality it can be.”

Ryan Denham can be reached at rmdenha@IllinoisState.edu.

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