Higher Learning Commission grades UWS

The Higher Learning commission, an independent organization that reviews colleges for accreditation, recently paid a visit to the UWS Campus for exactly that reason earlier this month.  Accreditation is something a campus like UWS seeks in order to hold more value as a collegiate level educational institution and more importantly help distribute financial aid to its students and also what courses can be offered on campus.  However, the preliminary findings of UWS brought forth both the strengths and weakness of the campus in the eyes of the commission.

The HLC released their preliminary findings as part of an exit interview. UWS has also performed its own self study examining its personal mission as a campus, the values promoted on campus and the promotion of UWS’s strong liberal arts programs. These values can be seen on posters throughout various areas of campus to help emphasize those key values.

The HLC took a tour of campus on March 4th through the 6th and created a brief overview of some of the strengths and weaknesses they found here at UWS. These findings were detailed in an exit interview with the HLC Peer Review Team Chair and are not the final assessments as that process will take longer and be released in a final report later this year.

Some of the strengths found here at UWS were the positive and active association we have with the community at large through student organizations and the how they relate back into UWS. Another key part of the UWS system that was praised by the Commissions was the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning and how it contributes to Facility and Staff development in order to improve the learning process here on campus.  UWS was also praised for its emphasis on diversity on campus through the Gender Equity and Multicultural Affairs offices.

However in pointing out the strengths here on the UWS campus they also observed some weaknesses that UWS Staff are addressing. One minor point addressed was the communication system on campus. They stressed it “needs improvement” in both internal communication systems as well as those trying to contact the campus from outside.  The HLC also pointed to a loss of collective bargaining and a need to include all employees in that process. They also placed a strong importance of the strength of academic syllabi and how different sections of the same course need to have the same goals and a correlation between what is expected from a class compared to content being presented.

Major problems they felt were necessary to solve where issues related to the general education goals fitting in with other Liberal Education Learning goals. This issue combined with an easement of Student Learning Outcomes and the need to communicate them to the entire campus with the information on how they may affect budgeting were listed as “More Serious” by the HLC. Additionally was the need to organize data usage on campus in a more strategic sense to help in making important campus-wide decisions.

The HLC will file a draft report and submit it to UWS with a more detailed examination of what need to be improved upon. They emphasized that representatives from campus attend an HLC meeting to gain more information about new processes in accreditation. UWs will receive a final report from the HLC around June 6 of this year.

Felicity Bosk -- The Stinger
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