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Higher Learning Commission assesses UW-River Falls

November 14, 2018

The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) paid a visit to the University of Wisconsin-River Falls campus on October 15th and 16th. The HLC assessed whether or not the university met its criteria, and criteria of the Department of Education in order to be reaccredited.

As part of the onsite visit conducted every 10 years, the HLC examined if the university had a clear mission statement, operated with ethics and integrity, offered high-quality teaching, worked to improve and evaluate teaching strategies, and directed students to the appropriate resources.

This evaluation took place in the form of several public meetings, where the HLC staff asked questions to varies faculty, staff, administrators and some students. The HLC staff is a mixture of administrators, people from student affairs and academic affairs. This HLC team met with the chancellor, the cabinet, the team who wrote the assurance argument, and the team who wrote the federal compliance argument. There were also a handful of others they met with, including some students.  

Registrar Kelly Browning commented that the experience was a good chance to show what is being done on campus. “This process allows us to look at what we currently are doing on campus and shows us our opportunities to improve,” said Browning. Many left the meetings with the HLC with optimism for a positive outcome.

“The team was very thorough and asked a lot of good questions,” said Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affair and Graduate Studies Wes Chapin. These questions covered things like how the university assesses it’s programs, it’s co-curricular activities and it’s courses. The HLC spent a large amount of time talking about online learning, the fiscal environment of the university, as well as general education assessment.

The HLC held special sessions focused on advising, and on general education assessment. These were issues the university had prepared for and expected. According to Chapin, there was a good number of people who attended and helped answer questions. “Overall I think it went really well,” Chapin comments.

“I was pleasantly surprised to see how many faculty and staff attended all of the open sessions with the representatives from HLC, and how many different faculty members and staff members from across the campus shared very specific examples of the kinds of learning activities that we engage in here  to help students learn and be successful,” shared the Dean of College of Arts and Sciences Dean Yohnk.

Attendance was only low for the student meeting. Two women met with the students in the University Center Ballroom and asked about student issues on campus. Student Government Association Student Body President Rosemary Pechous brought up parking, campus safety, and sustainability. Though, Pechous mentioned that the women gave no comments or input on anything the students shared. No response to what she said.

A non-traditional expressed concern about some of the lack of resources on campus to non traditional students, however, Student Senate has since addressed these issues.“Student Senate has made this our first priority,” Pechous said.

The HLC had until the end of October to write a report, which is then sent to an HLC liaison who spends one to two weeks reviewing it. After this review, the university receives a confidential preliminary report, which the university can review and respond to any issues of fact within two weeks. Chapin explained that issues of fact are typically minor things. “It’s likely we won’t hear anything officially until early 2019,” Chapin commented.

“I think it is a great time to reflect as a university on the things that we are doing well and the opportunities for growth,”  said Executive Director for Admissions & New Student and Family Programs Sarah Nelson.

In four years, the university has another check-in with the HLC, this time without an onsite visit. Though this visit went well, meeting these criteria is an ongoing process, and the university must continue working hard towards improvement.

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