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Campus readies for accreditation process

Stig Lanesskog
Click photo to enlarge

Stig Lanesskog

In preparation for a visit this fall from the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association, the Urbana campus is preparing a draft of its self-study report. The report, “Access and Excellence,” uses the five goals of Chancellor Richard Herman’s Strategic Plan for the Urbana campus as the framework for a comprehensive self-analysis of how the campus met or exceeded the HLC/NCA’s criteria for accreditation.

Accreditation is a voluntary process of critical self-analysis and internal and external quality review that the UI undergoes every 10 years. The UI was first accredited in 1913, and its most recent review was in 1999. The NCA is a membership organization of colleges and schools in 19 states and one of six regional associations.

The Higher Learning Commission, an independent member of the NCA in Chicago, is the organization that accredits degree-granting institutions of higher education such as the UI.

Four goals that guided the self-study process:      

  • Secure re-accreditation

  • Integrate the HLC self-study process with the newly developed Strategic Plan

  • Raise awareness of the importance of ongoing planning and assessment to the success of the institution

  • Use the self-study process to identify the strengths of the university and opportunities for improvement

Five working teams, comprising about 70 faculty and staff members appointed by Provost Linda Katehi, examined the units, activities, policies and procedures associated with each of the five Strategic Plan goals. A seven-member working team chaired by Vice Provost Richard Wheeler developed the draft self-study report based on the committee’s findings.

“We think it’s a good process that allows us to sit back and assess what’s happened over the last 10 years and see what opportunities we have going forward,” said Stig Lanesskog, associate provost for strategic planning. “We think that doing this around the strategic plan is a great way to capitalize on the momentum from our having a strategic plan and has allowed us, in a very structured way, to assess the strengths and ongoing challenges of our institution.”

The self-study report provides an overview of major administrative, personnel, facilities, infrastructure and business system implementation changes that occurred since the last report in 1999. And there have been many. The past decade has brought the campus all new leadership – two new chancellors, a new provost, and all new senior administrative officers – as well as a new president for the university.

Between 1999 and 2009, the campus adopted new budgeting practices, new business- and information-management systems, a strategic planning process, inaugural labor contracts with graduate employees and with visiting academic professionals, and retired Chief Illiniwek. The landscape on the south campus was transformed from barns and pastures to a hotel/conference complex and a thriving Research Park that is home to more than 50 companies that employ more than 1,000 people in high-tech industries.

In the 1999 review, the NCA team had concerns in four categories – resources, management, diversity and governance – and the draft self-study indicates how the campus is addressing them, such as implementing the student-paid Academic Facilities Maintenance Fund Assessment fee to fund building repairs and renovations in the wake of declining state appropriations for capital projects, and strengthening programs for recruiting and retaining faculty members from underrepresented groups. The report also recaps policies, processes, values and goals that support the university’s missions.

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