California State University Channel Islands gained accreditation in a record four years and as soon as allowed, after the graduation of the first class in May 2007. Many universities take twice that long. How did they do it?
The WASC Process
Gaining accreditation is a multi-step process where institutions are judged based on their capacity to offer their intended academic programs and the educational effectiveness of their ability to do so. The Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) requires an initial application, and four reports, each addressing four overarching WASC standards, and 23 criteria. After each report, intensive site visits follow from a team of five representatives from peer campuses representing expertise across broad areas.
WASC approved the University’s initial application and accreditation work began in fall 2002. With the advent of more faculty on campus, the University developed a very inclusive process.
“If we are to weave assessment truly into our fabric, then each of our faculty must be part of the spinning and must touch a piece of the loom,” said University President Richard R. Rush.
Rush made WASC accreditation the top priority for the campus and invited all University faculty, staff, and administrators to participate. The campus response was amazing, and more than 50 individuals from across the University volunteered to serve on the committee, including students and community members. Dennis Muraoka, interim associate Provost, was appointed the Academic Liaison Officer, taking over from Ted Lucas whose duties as Provost demanded more of his time. Muraoka, along with a cross-campus Steering Committee of faculty and administrators, lead the effort soliciting assistance from 50 task forces that compiled the numerous reports and documentation.
The completion of task force reports literally involved the entire campus community.
The University successfully completed its first report in spring 2003 and the second in fall 2004, with WASC granting Candidate for Accreditation Status in February 2005. In granting Candidacy, the Commission acknowledged the collective good work and the distance the University had come in just a few short years since it opened its doors. They recognized that much of the University’s progress was attributed to members of the initial faculty and staff who worked overtime to ensure the University’s strong beginnings. The team report stated it well:
“Over a four-year period CSUCI has conceived and launched a new university with a unique philosophy and character through the extraordinary efforts of a small community of dedicated and visionary faculty, administrators, and staff. Together they have built a university from the ground up: they have given the University shape and definition, opened its doors, taught courses, and conferred degrees. The WASC team was impressed with the accomplishments of this fledgling campus and how much has been done in a few short years.”
The Final Reports
Utilizing the same campus inclusive format, the University developed the third report in 2004-05, submitting the report in December 2005. This time 80 volunteers answered the call. The subsequent report once again received praise from the WASC visiting team. Channel Islands had met each level of the accreditation process successfully and only the last Educational Effectiveness Report remained. The tradition of campus involvement resulted in a volunteer committee of more than 100 faculty, staff, administrators, students, and community members who helped prepare the report. This translated into about 25 percent of the University’s employees who took personal responsibility for helping the University gain accreditation. This report was submitted in fall 2006.
A key component of this report was the assessment of student learning outcomes and how those assessments were used to improve curricular and co-curricular programs.
Channel Islands prepared for the final site visit in March 2007 to coincide with its first, campus-wide President’s Annual Celebration of Excellence. This event featured a collection of 97 posters showcasing the assessment activities and accomplishments of many campus divisions and organizations. Members of the campus community joined with local community members from education, government, and business for the celebration.
“It was a festive event. Colleagues shared in the wonder of all that their co-workers had accomplished and there was a palatable sense of pride in the air,” Rush said.
The visiting team report commended the University for its outstanding efforts. They were impressed especially with the students and alumni, and their understanding of the institutional mission, objectives, and student learning outcomes, along with the University’s “Seven Year Plan for Assessment.” They encouraged Channel Islands “to claim a role as a campus of experimentation and innovation…a place that will export proven practices of effective student learning to others.”
They concluded that: “CSUCI has developed...learning centered practices that place it far ahead of many much older and mature universities. We commend the faculty, staff, administration, students, community supporters, and CSU administration for this commitment...”
To view CSU Channel Islands WASC Accreditation Reports and documentation, please go to http://www.csuci.edu/accreditation/ .