By SUSAN JONES
The lengthy Middle States Commission on Higher Education accreditation process kicked off at Pitt on Sept. 30 with a virtual visit from Robert Bonfiglio, vice president of institutional field relations for the commission.
During a public forum on Zoom, Bonfiglio presented an overview of how the process will work, and the co-chairs of Pitt’s self-study steering committee — Dean of Students Kenyon Bonner and Joseph McCarthy, vice provost for Undergraduate Studies — were introduced.
Bonfiglio, who met the previous day with Chancellor Patrick Gallagher, Provost Ann Cudd and members of the Board of Trustees, said accreditation is important because, “It is an affirmation of the quality of the institution.”
Pitt last went through the Middle States process in 2010-12. That report, along with details of the current process, can be found on a new section of the provost’s website. The site also lists members of the steering committee and the working groups who will look at the four areas Pitt has identified as its institutional priorities. Bonfligio said Middle States expects members “to use the opportunity to do a deep dive into some of the things that are most important to them.”
For Pitt, the priorities are:
Inclusive excellence in education
Research and innovation
Embracing today’s world: Local to global
These priorities mirror those in the current strategic plan and in the new five-year plan that’s under development. The new strategic plan was supposed to be completed this year, but in July, Chancellor Gallagher put the plan on hold so Pitt could figure out how to better address systemic issues affecting Black people.
The self-study process will involve the working groups, which are made up of faculty, staff, students and administrators from all of Pitt’s campuses, looking at how each of the University’s priorities meets the Middle States accreditation standards, requirements of affiliation and verification of compliance with accreditation-relevant federal regulations.
The accreditation standards fall into seven categories:
Mission and Goals
Ethics and Integrity
Design and Delivery of the Student Learning Experience
Support of the Student Experience
Educational Effectiveness Assessment
Planning, Resources, and Institutional Improvement
Governance, Leadership, and Administration
The steering committee has already submitted the design of Pitt’s self-study to Middle States, which can be found on the provost’s website. Starting now, the working groups will gather information about each area and submit interim reports to the steering committee in February.
Early next year, Middle States will select the team chair for the group that will evaluate Pitt. Bonfiglio said the chair will be from a school similar to Pitt but not from the immediate region. Pitt can reject the selected chair if they think that person has a conflict with the University.
March-September 2021: Steering committee develops draft self-study, which is then reviewed by the Pitt community and the Board of Trustees
September-November 2021: The evaluation team chair receives the draft self-study and makes a preliminary visit to Pitt.
December 2021-January 2022: Self-study, evidence inventory and institutional federal compliance report are revised and finalized.
February-April 2022: Pitt submits final reports for review by the evaluation team, six weeks before the team visits campus. The evaluation team, which includes six or seven more volunteers from other schools, will then deliver its report to Pitt, which has a chance to reply to anything it thinks is incorrect.
June 2022: Receive reaffirmation of accreditation from Middle States.
Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-244-4042.
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