BY JANET SOMMERS, Ph.D., SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT FOR ACADEMIC AFFAIRS
On October 27, 2009, Northwestern reached an important milestone by achieving reaccreditation from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools for another ten years—the maximum term any institution can receive.
This professional stamp of approval demonstrates not only the high quality of education Northwestern provides but also the strength and viability of our institution as a whole. Giving thanks to God for His blessing on the accreditation process, President Alan Cureton declared, “This is a gift from the Lord as we are seeking to glorify Him through this institution.”
The accreditation process involved three years of concentrated work and afforded us the opportunity to participate as a community in an in-depth self-analysis, based upon five criteria established by the HLC:
- Mission and Integrity
- Preparing for the Future
- Student Learning and Effective Teaching
- Acquisition, Discovery, and Application of Knowledge
- Engagement and Service
Many members of the Northwestern community served on criteria teams that gathered, analyzed, and evaluated information pertinent to their criterion. Linda Ashworth, assistant director of experiential education and a team leader, observed that participating in this process had a positive impact on our community by facilitating a “better understanding of who we are, where we have come from, and where we are going.”
Based on information provided by each team, writers drafted chapters of a comprehensive self-study report, which was revised extensively by a writing committee before its submission to the HLC accreditation evaluators in spring 2009.
In April of last year, Northwestern hosted a five-member HLC evaluation team who conducted interviews over a three-day period to corroborate the findings documented in the self-study report.
The comprehensive report submitted by the evaluation team to the HLC acknowledged the hard work and success of our institutional analysis. The report stated, “The team was very impressed with the candor and comprehensiveness of the self-study process. It was obvious that many of those in the campus constituency had contributed to the data collection, analysis, and writing of the study.
At least two of the team members indicated that it was the best written self-study they had ever seen.” The report detailed how Northwestern met each of the five criteria, highlighted strengths and made recommendations for improvement.
As Northwestern enters the next decade, we will utilize the information generated by our own self-study and by the HLC evaluation team’s assessment to facilitate the process of continuous improvement. Recommendations from the accreditation reports, such as the need for enhanced institutional visibility, increased attention to diversity and multiculturalism, and the development of additional graduate programs, are being incorporated into the revised Long Range Strategic Plan to help ensure achievement of our goals.
The accreditation process has strengthened Northwestern’s commitment to providing high-quality Christ-centered education that meets the academic, spiritual and professional needs of our students and brings glory to our God.