Visit from Middle States Team Chair

Last week, on November 10, our Middle States Team Chair came to campus in preparation for the March evaluation visit.  The Team Chair, Dr. Anne Skleder, met with key groups to advance our re-accreditation process to the next stage.  These included Faculty Council Executive Committee, the Student Learning Assessment Advisory Group, members of the Executive Team, members of the Board of Trustees, and student leaders, as well as the Middle States Steering Committee.  Dr. Skleder explained the accreditation process and gave a sense of how the March visit will go and what we can expect.  All in all, those who met with her found her to be a good listener, clear communicator, and experienced evaluator.

Dr. Skleder, who is Senior Vice President and Provost at Wilkes University, will lead a team of eight evaluators; the team arrives on March 26 and will be working with us until March 29.  Meanwhile, we await specific feedback from Dr. Skleder on our self-study.  Another round of revisions will take place based on her comments, before the final report goes to the team six weeks before the visit.


Middle States Thanks and Next Steps

Thank you to everyone who participated in the Middle States self-study feedback process.  We received useful comments and suggestions from faculty, staff, and administrators, both on the Main Campus and from the Schools of Law.  The attention to detail and the positive responses overall are much appreciated.

Next steps:  A final, revised version of the self-study report will be prepared by the tri-chairs, and then sent to our Team Chair no later than October 17.  Then, we will await feedback from the Team Chair while planning for the Team Chair visit, to occur on November 10.

Welcome Back from Widener Middle States!

We hope our colleagues (and steadfast blog readers) have had a productive and restful summer.  The Middle States team has been working all summer on multiple drafts of the self-study report, and we are just about ready to share the document with the campus community.

The Steering Committee met today to provide feedback to the tri-chairs, who will now commence preparing a new version for wide dissemination.  Once all Steering Committee feedback is collected by the tri-chairs (deadline: Monday, August 29th), a newly edited document will then be available to the campus community on September 1.

All members of the campus community are invited to a Town Hall to discuss the draft, to be held on September 8 from 3–4 (location TBD).  Feedback is welcome and encouraged.  Those who cannot make the Town Hall are invited to send any comments and feedback to Janine Utell by September 20.   At the General Faculty meeting tomorrow, August 25, Provost Wilhite will share additional news and updates.

As always, please get in touch with any questions!  Happy new semester!

Middle States: Spring and Summer Progress

We have met another important deadline:  the final drafts of reports from the working groups are coming in.  Our next step is to begin drafting the complete self-study report, synthesizing all the work from the teams.  The tri-chairs will meet several times over the month of April to review the working group reports and formulate a plan for writing.  The self-study draft will be available for review by the campus community at the end of the summer.

Professors Krouse and Utell will give a brief update at the next General Faculty Meeting on April 25.  In the meantime, if you see a member of a Middle States working group, make sure to say thanks!

Finally, in case you missed it, a student member of the team, Ashley Rundell, was featured in a home page story on the important contributions students make to the work of the university.  Ashley shared her experiences working on Middle States here on the blog a few months ago.  We’re grateful to Ashley, and to all those who contributed so much time, energy, and expertise to this process.





Working Group Draft Reports Are In

All of the Middle States Working Groups have submitted their first drafts.  These drafts are undergoing peer review by members of the Steering Committee. Committee members have been asked to comment on drafts, as well as consider these guiding questions as they read:

  • Are all self-study design questions for the standard answered sufficiently? If not, which questions need to be addressed?
  • Is sufficient evidence provided to affirm compliance with all criteria of the standard? If not, where is more evidence needed?
  • Are there any conflicting statements in the draft report with your own Working Group report?
  • Is the draft report reflective of all pertinent areas of the institution (eg, undergraduate, graduate, schools of law, or faculty, staff, and administration)?
  • Is the rationale for recommendations in the draft report sufficiently detailed in the report?
  • Does the draft report provide sufficient discussion of how assessment results are used in relation to the standard?
  • Are there additional exemplar examples that you would recommend adding to the narrative to reinforce compliance with the standard criteria?

The Steering Committee will be meeting in the several weeks before midterm break to share feedback on these draft reports.  Revisions to the Working Group reports are due April 1.  Members of the campus community will have ample opportunity to share feedback starting in August, once the first draft of the entire self-study is completed over the summer.

In the meantime, Professors Krouse and Utell will be giving a quick update at the General Faculty Meeting on February 22 — feel free to ask questions then, before, after, anytime!

PS: The Middle States Commission on Higher Education is working on putting together our evaluation team.  Interested in how that process works?  Read more here.

A New Semester, and a Deadline

Happy new semester!  We hope the holidays were restful for all.

The winter break continued to be a productive time for those of us working on Middle States.  Meetings for the tri-chairs and the working groups have been calendared, and we are looking forward to our next major deadline:  first drafts of reports from the working groups.  These are due on February 1, and we’ve got a pretty busy schedule of meetings through February so that those teams can get revisions done by April 1.

Interested in the process?  Here’s a closer look (grabbed from our self-study design):

The working group reports are essential for crafting the final self-study report. They provide vital input in terms of analysis and recommendations; however, they are not the final self-study report. The final self-study report is crafted through collaboration among the working groups and steering committee, and finally synthesized by the tri-chairs. The working group report drafts will be subject to extensive feedback from the steering committee and tri-chairs, and the final drafts will be edited for consistent style, voice, and format.

The working groups should see their purpose in writing to be analyzing the relevant documents to determine how well we are doing in achieving our mission and gleaning evidence thereof; and making recommendations which are connected to strategic priorities, and which are finite and manageable. The purpose is not to describe everything at the institution related to the standard, nor is it to provide a history. The strongest evidence and most representative examples should be chosen to illustrate how well we are doing in meeting the standard under consideration. We might think of the process of writing the working group reports and the final self-study report as analyzing evidence and drawing conclusions the way one might for a research article, and the drafts will be subject to a similar kind of “peer review” and editing process.

Once the working group drafts have been submitted, they will be read in a form of “peer review” by the steering committee. The steering committee is responsible for making sure the standards are addressed, solid evidence and examples are selected and interpreted, and that appropriate analysis and recommendations are included. The steering committee will make suggestions, note connections across reports from different groups, and review the strength of the analysis and the quality of the recommendations.  The working groups will then work on revisions, to be submitted to the steering committee for final review. The tri-chairs will then work on synthesizing the working group final reports, making any necessary revisions, and editing to create the self-study report draft.

Members of the campus community should, as always, feel free to get in touch with questions, either online or off — we’ll be available at the General Faculty Meeting on February 22 for updates and questions, too.  Have a good spring!

Telling Our Story through Self-Study

The Middle States working groups are making excellent progress on each of the standards that are guiding our self-study.  We are nearing the deadline for working groups to submit detailed outlines as a preliminary step towards their reports:  December 1.  This is an important step for each working group as they put together their reports, at which point we will begin compiling the final self-study document.  Janine Utell and Anne Krouse will be sharing more updates and taking any questions at the General Faculty Meeting on November 16.

Part of what the working groups are doing is collecting data from a wide range of sources, drawing from a number of key documents as well as interviews with faculty, staff, and administrators.  (We’ve seen the importance of the student perspective as well!)  In their reports, the working groups will analyze the documents for evidence that we are fulfilling our mission, and they will make recommendations, based on the data, for how we can move forward with strategic priorities.

Members of the working groups are looking for exemplary, robust instances of things we do well here at Widener.  These might be academic programs that evince coherence and rigor.  They might be findings from a well-designed program of assessment.  They might be documents that show a highly functioning system of governance and a commitment to leading with integrity.  They might be areas of student support that reflect a dedication to collaborating across units to facilitate student success, along with findings that show evidence of that success.

The final self-study report will draw on all of this and more, highlighting examples that show us meeting the standards in an integrated and intentional way.  Some of you reading may have already been contacted by a member of a working group to share insights regarding your program, your unit or area, or your work in governance.  What other instances of Widener fulfilling its mission and doing it well might serve as good examples?