Middle States Commission to evaluate University to reaffirm accreditation

Kathryn Cassavell

Faculty, staff and students are preparing for the decennial evaluation of the University this spring, a process designed to ensure that the University meets the standards necessary to reaffirm accreditation by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

The evaluation takes place every 10 years, and many members of the Villanova community spend over a year getting ready for the Middle States’ visit.  

The visit will take place in March 2011. Before then, Villanova needs to produce self-study reports that will be examined by the MSCHE.  

According to the MSCHE mission statement, “[Middle States] is a voluntary, non-governmental, membership association that is dedicated to quality assurance and improvement through accreditation via peer evaluation.” 

A draft of the University’s self-study report will be published for the Villanova community to see this October. 

A 20-member self-study steering committee overlooks the entire process.  Seven working teams are then responsible for making sure that Villanova meets the Middle States’ 14 standards of accreditation.  

Working groups include Mission; Goals and Integrity, Planning; Resource Allocation; Institutional Renewal and Research, Leadership; Governance and Admission, Faculty, Student Admission; Retention and student support services, and Educational Offerings; General Education and Related Educational Activities.  

According to John Kelly, co-chair of the self-study steering committee, those seven teams have completed their data collection and are about to proceed with analyzing and writing about the data.  That portion of the report is due May 1 to the MSCHE.

“The [desired] outcome is that we really continue to enhance Villanova as a wonderful University in its teaching and learning, and also in its support systems and its underlying structures and strengths” Kelly said.  

In order to achieve this goal, members of the self-study steering committee encourage students to get involved.  

Two students are assigned to each of the study groups generally.  Student steering committee representatives also play an important part in preparation for the decennial evaluation. They include sophomore criminal justice and psychology major Justin Lopez and junior business major Marjorie Bernarducci.

However, students who are not directly related to the committees can still get involved.    

“A draft of the self-study report will be made available in the fall,” said Sally Scholz, also co-chair of the steering committee. “Students will be invited to read and comment on the draft at that time.”

Additionally, the committee invites students to check out the Middle States’ Web site on the Villanova homepage to learn more about the process. 

The Web site has room for comments and questions from any member of the Villanova community. 

Such suggestions could help the working teams focus on the right issues.Kelley said that when members of the MSCHE visit, they will take the time to interview to some students on campus.  

He also said that students will be given the opportunity to attend community forums about the evaluation.

According to Kelly, committee members have looked at many studies and many reports, and have conducted well over 100 interviews with a number of focus groups.  

“I think we want to really keep that spirit of investigation and — since 10 years ago there have been a lot of changes — look at some new areas that have come about since then,” Kelly said.  

With seven working teams, 14 points of accreditation, a 20-member steering committee, over 100 people actively involved and 100 interviews conducted, the University is optimistic.  

Scholz believes Villanova is on its way to re-accreditation from Middle States.  

“Villanova regularly takes the time to examine what we do well and how we can improve the learning process,” Scholz said. “Such reflection helps us to remain a high quality university.”