Accreditation report gives UAA prospects for improvement

UAA has a plan. As may have been overseen by many students attending UAA in fall of 2009, an evaluative team from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) was assessing the University.  The University is currently in the process of renewing accreditation with the NWCCU, one of four institutions in the region, to help test out a new accreditation process.

Accreditation determines a school’s eligibility for participation in federal and state financial aid programs. Proper accreditation is also important for the acceptance and transfer of college credit.

“We were scheduled for accreditation every 10 years, but this year the [NWCCU] is changing the process and we volunteered to pilot that,” said Megan Carlson of the Accreditation Leadership Team.

According to Carlson, the new accreditation cycle takes seven years, but since UAA is testing it, the time is cut short.  So while on Sept. 1 of last year UAA submitted a response to a “Year Three” report, it was really done in about 18 months.

The process assesses how UAA applies resources and capacities toward a mission fulfillment.  The evaluative team met with campus leadership, held open forums for the community, and visited the Kenai Peninsula College campus.

“We found the report to be a thoughtful and accurate review of the resources, capacities and operations of the University of Alaska Anchorage,” said Tom Miller, vice provost of academic affairs, in reply to the Year Three report. “The perspectives and judgments of the evaluators are very useful.”

The report included recommendations for UAA, giving tips to move closer to the goal, which is to complete the mission.  These recommendations include refining its indicators and mechanisms for assessing how well it is achieving those objectives, developing and implementing a comprehensive and systematic evaluation of staff members, reviewing its financial policies to ensure adequacy, and connecting its enrollment forecasting and management activities more directly to its planning efforts in the areas of course offerings, budgeting, space, and personnel in order to ensure desired student access and success.

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The core themes of UAA’s mission are aligned with the five major themes of the University’s Strategic Plan.  Those themes include “Teaching and Learning,” “Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity,” “Student Success,” “UAA Community” and “The Public Square.”

The strategic plan includes a scheme for UAA’s mission statement.  For example, step one under “Priority A,” which is to strengthen UAA’s instructional program, is “ build depth, reinforce success and ensure sustainability in programs that support student success, general education, workforce development, preparation for high-demand careers, or respond to high student demand.”

What does this mean for the student?  There may not be too much noticeable change.

“I think [the University] may not change for most students, but part of the new process is trying to focus on achieving the mission, not just checking boxes on our resources,” said Carlson.

She said that after the completion of the mission, there will be more opportunities for students to be involved with the university.