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January 12, 2012

Comments sought on accreditation self-study

Members of the University community are invited to comment on Pitt’s self-study that was conducted as part of the institution’s reaccreditation process.

Pitt is evaluated every 10 years by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. The self-study forms the basis of the commission’s review; in addition, 14 institutional and educational standards must be documented. The commission allows institutions to choose from three models in preparing the self-study: “comprehensive,” “selected topics” and “collaborative.”

Juan Manfredi

Juan Manfredi

Pitt elected to focus on the selected topic of assessment. Juan Manfredi, vice provost for Undergraduate Studies and a member of the steering committee that authored the self-study report, said: “Our choice of assessment as the central topic of the self-study embodies our long-term commitment to using assessment to improve institutional effectiveness and to improve the student experience. The self-study ultimately demonstrates that the progress the University has made over the past 15 years or so has been driven significantly by the effective use of assessment — for example as a guide to planning and budgeting — and in making gains in student learning outcomes and in the quality of student experiences,” he said.

The accreditation self-study is posted online. To access the 100-page draft document, log onto the Pitt portal, go to the My Resources link and click on “Self-Study.”

The final document will be submitted to to the Middle States Commission March 1. Corrections and comments should be sent to Manfredi via email at no later than Feb. 6 — sooner if possible — to accommodate printing and binding time, Manfredi said.

At the conclusion of the reaccrediting process, the self-study will be made available to the general public.

The self-study document was prepared by the provost-chaired 20-member steering committee of senior administrators, faculty, staff and students, which drew on materials compiled by three working groups that focused on: assessment of the undergraduate student experience (student learning outcomes, student retention, satisfaction and graduation); assessment of institutional effectiveness (planning and budgeting, benchmarking and infrastructure investment) and demonstration of compliance with Middle States standards. Those materials are outlined and documented in the self-study.

The self-study draft was disseminated last fall to Pitt administrators, the Council of Deans and Faculty Assembly, as well as to the University Senate educational policies committee, the academic affairs/library committee of the Board of Trustees and various schools’ boards of visitors, Manfredi said.

“I did get a number of emails from people who suggested corrections. This did not surprise me because the University is very complicated,” he said. “That’s why it’s important that there are many readers.”

Manfredi noted that Middle States guidelines suggest a 100-page limit for self-studies. “So we had to make some choices of what to include; otherwise the report would be 500 pages. We really tried to have a conversation that reflects the good but to acknowledge that in some areas we have to do better and that we are committed to moving in the right direction,” with initiatives such as improving the timeliness and distribution of benchmarking data; supporting individual units in their assessment efforts, and increasing the focus on outcomes, he noted.

The reaccreditation process included a preliminary site visit by a Middle States evaluation team in November. An additional site visit is scheduled for April 11-14; a decision by Middle States about Pitt’s accreditation status is expected in the summer or fall.

John Sexton, president of New York University, chairs the commission’s four-member site visit evaluation team. Included in the site visit will be trips to the Bradford and Greensburg campuses, Manfredi noted. Pitt’s regional campuses are accredited globally under the Pittsburgh campus’s accreditation.

Pitt has been accredited by Middle States since 1921.

Manfredi said that while he was confident that Pitt will be reaccredited, there is institutional value in the self-study process in furthering the understanding of the ways in which units have integrated assessment into planning and how student learning is driving curricular change. For that reason, “we would like people to be informed about the self-study,” he said.

(For more details on the reaccrediting process, as well as the lists of members of the steering committee and three working groups, see Sept. 30, 2010, University Times.)

—Peter Hart

Filed under: Feature,Volume 44 Issue 9

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