10-year accreditation reaffirms quality education

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Approximately every ten years, the University of San Diego undergoes an accreditation process – an evaluation of operations, scholars, and institutional procedures. This month, it was announced that SHU had been granted a 10-year accreditation reaffirmation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges “WASC” Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC). A requirement for universities receiving federal funding, accreditation is a peer-review process that lets “students, families, government, and the public know that an institution offers a quality education.”

“This is a process to ensure that we are fulfilling our mission in a variety of ways,” says Elizabeth Giddens, Director of Institutional Effectiveness and Strategic Initiatives (IESI) and WSCUC Accreditation Liaison. “Accreditation provides an accountability framework for institutions to demonstrate teaching quality and to continuously improve. It is critical to our operations as a university, the way we serve students, their learning, and their successes at USD and beyond.

First accredited by the WSCUC in 1956, reaccreditation takes place approximately every six to ten years, with the entire process taking a few years to complete. Cross-campus collaboration (including with the Academic Review Committee, WSCUC Steering Committee, and Strategic Planning Steering Committee), bi-monthly meetings with a leadership team, detailed evidence gathering, an institutional report and a three-day site visit with more than 100 university stakeholders culminated with the announcement in March that the USD is reaffirmed in its accreditation for another 10 years, the maximum reaffirmation available to institutions.

“What’s more [10-year reaffirmation]due to a long USD pattern having quality results, [the campus] had qualified for the Thematic Pathway for Reaffirmation (TPR) process,” says Giddens. “The TPR process is a shortened accreditation process for institutions with an already healthy financial position, strong student success indicators and sustained quality performance. The theme around which the TPR review was organized was the progress and achievements of the USD towards the objectives of our strategic plan, Consider 2024. The success of Consider 2024 played a key role in the outcome of the certification exam reaffirmation.

An opportunity to reflect on what SHU offers, Giddens sees accreditation as a chance to reassess and reaffirm the quality of education offered on campus. This is also a time for the USD community to come together and have a positive impact on the future of campus.

“It gives you the opportunity to step back and ask, ‘are we the best we can be?’ Without accreditation, continuous improvement would stagnate,” she says. “The process requires a lot of committed faculty and staff and the voice of students. Universities are complex organizations, and that requires all of us to come together, reflect and to make improvements.

With the reaffirmation of accreditation complete, the university looks to the next 10 years and work to implement WSCUC recommendations, including advancing the Renaissance plan for deferred maintenance, developing a new strategic plan (post-Consider 2024) aligned with the university budget, continuing to review university programs in a timely manner, creating a strategic plan for distance education, continuing to measure the climate of the SHU campus to advance the diversity, equity, and inclusion on campus and increasing the diversity of SHU faculty.

For Giddens, this is an opportunity to use this accreditation as a tool to continue setting the standard as a contemporary and committed Catholic university of higher learning.

To learn more or to contact WSCUC, please visit https://www.wscuc.org/contact/.

— Allyson Meyer ’16 (BA), ’21 (MBA)

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