Trinity Begins Accreditation Process

President Jones has appointed a steering committee to oversee preparations as the College gets set to undergo a reaccreditation evaluation as required by the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education (CIHE) of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Accredited institutions normally go through comprehensive evaluations at least every ten years. Trinity’s last evaluation was in 1995; an extension was granted in consideration of the College’s recent presidential transition.

NEASC is a self-regulatory membership organization that serves the public and  educational communities by developing and applying standards that assess the effectiveness of elementary, secondary, and collegiate educational institutions. For the most part, CIHE’s work is performed by volunteers affiliated with member institutions in coordination with a small professional staff.      

Chaired by Associate Professor of English and American Studies Margo Perkins and Vice President for Planning, Administration, and Affirmative Action Paula Russo, the College’s steering committee comprises members of the faculty and administration; subcommittees to be formed in the future will include additional faculty and staff members as well as students. “It is critically important that we incorporate a cross-section of the campus community as we move forward,” explains President Jones. “We are embarking upon a serious, comprehensive self-study as part of this process. It really is an invaluable opportunity to focus our attention, in detail, on specific aspects of the College—especially as they relate to the Cornerstone Planning Process.” 

The self-study to which Jones refers is perhaps the most crucial element of the accreditation exercise. According to CIHE guidelines, “To become accredited, and periodically thereafter, institutions are asked to engage in comprehensive and rigorous self-examination … Usually lasting a year to 18 months, self-study involves the college or university community in measuring and verifying its achievements and identifying ways in which the fulfillment of institutional objectives can be improved.” Trinity’s self-study will concentrate on three areas of special emphasis: intellectual engagement and campus community, budgeting and planning processes, and urban and global engagement. All three areas are of particular importance to the ongoing Cornerstone project and a recent report by the President’s Budget Council identified them as priorities on which to focus during the next three to five years.                

“We are hoping that this process will allow us to gain some clarity and unity as to what our priorities are, and should be, as a college,” says Perkins. “There are so many great programs here that deserve support, and this self-examination process should help us to reassert the direction of the institution. We want to get buy-in from all areas of campus because, going forward, we’re going to have to make decisions that affect us all.”   

The findings of the self-study, as well as priorities and strategies for quality enhancement identified through the process, will be summarized in a self-study report. This document is submitted to CIHE along with certain specified institutional materials such as the college catalog and completed data forms provided by CIHE. Following its completion, the self-study report serves as a basis for evaluation by an on-site team of peer evaluators, who are administrators and faculty from other accredited colleges and universities. Typically lasting three days and following procedures outlined in the CIHE evaluation manual, the on-site evaluation will seek to assess the College in light of the self-study and eleven standards for accreditation. Those eleven standards are: mission and purpose; planning and evaluation; organization and governance; the academic program; faculty; students; library and other information resources; physical and technological resources; financial resources; public disclosure; and integrity. Representatives from CIHE are scheduled to be on campus in April, 2007.

“We have to address the standards for accreditation that are set by CIHE and adopted by the member institutions,” notes Russo. “That’s one part of the process. At the same time, we would like to build on the work that has already been done in the self-study portion of the process. We have people who were involved in other planning processes—like the Cornerstone Advisory Committees and the curricular review. We will be consulting people from every area of the College.”

For further information about the accreditation process, please go to: http://www.trincoll.edu/TrinityAZ/planning/reaccreditation/.    



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