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CAS up for reaccreditation

February 21, 2008

UW-River Falls is going through the reaccreditation process and University officials want everyone on campus to be informed about the University.

  “Every so often, about every seven to ten years depending on the institution, every institution of higher education has to receive accreditation,” Brad Caskey, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences said.  “This basically states that [the institution] is doing its job of educating students.”

  On April 21 and 22, members of the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) will be visiting UWRF to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the University.

  “Their job is to [evaluate] what we do well across the board,” Caskey said. “Academics, student services, facilities, financial aid—everything and anything you can think about.”

  The HLC Web site goes into more detail about the reaccreditation process. The HLC evaluates an entire educational institution as a whole, and, in accordance with the aspects Caskey mentioned, it also evaluates the institution based on governance, administration, institutional resources and relationships with internal and external constituencies, according to the Web site. 

  The tangible form of the reaccreditation process is a document that is about 275 pages long.

  “What we do is prepare a report and we address some issues laid out for us,” Caskey said. “We have just completed a two-and-a-half year process of writing this document that says ‘here is what we are doing, here is what we think we are doing well and here are where the challenges lie.”’

  Caskey had been directly involved in the writing of this document along with other UWRF faculty, students and staff. Jennifer Willis-Rivera, an associate professor of communication and theater arts, is another person who has spent time working on the reaccreditation process.

  “I’ve had multiple roles in this process,” Willis-Rivera said. “I started out as one of about 50-some people gathering information on assessment. Assessment means being able to show that you’re learning what you’re supposed to learn [as a student].”

  The process of getting UWRF ready for reaccreditation allowed Willis-Rivera to become more familiar with the campus.

  “Before I started going to these meetings, I had no idea what HLC was or what reaccreditation meant,” Willis-Rivera said. “During this process I have come to appreciate so much more everything that this University has.”Willis-Rivera has also served on a committee for campus awareness of the reaccreditation efforts. That committee has come up with ideas to get students and staff involved in the reaccreditation process.

  “One thing we’re going to be doing over the course of the next two months is an awareness campaign that focuses on students, staff and faculty awareness of what’s going on,” Caskey said. “Jennifer [Willis-Rivera] and I have come up with five particular contests that students are going to be involved with.”

  The contests will start on the week of Feb. 25 and will involve such activities as a word find in the reaccreditation document and a scavenger hunt around town, Caskey said. Prizes will be awarded to the students who win each particular contest and all of the students that complete at least one of the contests will have their name placed in a drawing for the grand prize.

  “The ultimate goal is to get the whole campus educated about reaccreditation,” Caskey said. “It’s not unlikely that one of the visitors [member of the HLC] could walk up to anyone on campus and say ‘tell me about some assessments that are going on in your classes,’ or ‘what do you think about the facilities here?’”

  Caskey and Willis-Rivera stressed that being an accredited institution is extremely important and it has a profound impact on students and everyone else at the University.

  “No accreditation [means] no federal financial aid for students,” Caskey said “No federal financial aid [means] no students. No students, no University.”

  Caskey, Willis-Rivera and all of the other people who have worked over the past two-and-a-half years on the reaccreditation process do not foresee UWRF not getting reaccredited, but they want everyone to be informed about the University.

  “I’m grateful to know that the whole University is working towards reaccreditation because it not only assists me in trying to get into grad. schools, but it also gives me the simple satisfaction of knowing that I’m getting a quality education at UWRF,” student Jeff Milliren said.