Middle States Accreditation
The Middle States Commission on Higher Education accreditation process began fall semester 2013 with the appointment of the Self-Study Steering Committee, cochaired by Beau Breslin, Dean of the Faculty and Vice President for Academic Affairs, and Sarah Goodwin, Professor of English, Kenan Chair of Liberal Arts and Faculty Assessment Coordinator. The members of the Steering Committee were chosen to reflect the institutional nature of the accreditation process, and working groups were convened to draft chapters. Drafts were submitted in late spring of 2015, and over the summer were stitched together and edited to create a coherent draft. Comments on the draft versions were solicited from the Skidmore community during the fall of 2015, and the final self-study was sent to the MSCHE and the evaluation team in early January, 2016. Details of the document and the process are outlined below.
Timeline for the Re-accreditation Process, Fall 2015-Spring 2016
- September, 2015: Self-study draft distributed to Skidmore faculty, staff, and students
- September 25: Institutional Planning Day at which the 2015-2025 Strategic Plan, CEPP's proposed general education revisions, and the self-study are discussed
- October 5: First of three open meetings held to get feedback from the Skidmore community
- October 7: Self-study draft sent to the Board of Trustees
- October 15: Updated self-study draft sent to the Evaluation Team Chair (Janet Riggs, President of Gettysburg College)
- October 22: Board of Trustees meeting
- October 27: Second of three open meetings held to get feedback from the Skidmore community
- November 2 - 3: Evaluation Team Chair and Generalist Reviewers visit Skidmore to review documentation to ensure that we meet the standards for accreditation
- November 16: Third of three open meetings held to get feedback from the Skidmore community
- Early January, 2016: Final, copy-edited version of the self-study sent to Middle States for the Team
- March 6 - 9, 2016: Middle States Team Visit
- Late spring, 2016: Decision from Middle States
The Self-Study: Integrative Learning
The Steering Committee decided in December, 2013, to pursue a selected-topics model for the self-study, and chose Integrative Learning as the topic. This topic is important to us for several reasons:
- It arises directly from our mission statement and thus relates to some of the College’s historical strengths, including our tradition of creative integration across traditional boundaries.
- It addresses a number of initiatives that are currently under way for which we would do well to gather more information and build a stronger consensus in the College community.
- It relates directly to both the Strategic Planfor 2005-2015 and to the new Strategic Plan, “Creating Pathways to Excellence: The Plan for Skidmore College, 2015-2025”
For the purposes of this study, our concept of integrative learning relates directly to creative thought. It encompasses students' learning across disciplinary boundaries; across time as they progress through their education; across the boundaries that traditionally separate the curriculum and the co-curriculum; and across the border between the campus and the world beyond. As the AAC&U’s VALUE rubric on Integrative Learning states:
Integrative and applied learning is an understanding and a disposition that a student builds across the curriculum and co-curriculum, from making simple connections among ideas and experiences to synthesizing and transferring learning to new, complex situations within and beyond the campus. ... [It] is one of the most important goals and challenges for higher education.
Working groups were convened in the spring semester 2014, and several began meeting over that summer to make plans and begin the process of drafting chapters for the self-study based on research questions included in the self-study design. During the 2014/15 academic year the working groups met with faculty, staff, and students to gather information; met regularly as groups to draft the chapters; and met with the members of the Steering Committee to talk about their progress.
The five working groups completed their drafts in the spring of 2015. The five chapters that comprise the self-study are:
1. General Education Review and Reform. How might we best reform the curriculum to encourage integrative learning? This chapter describes the rationale behind Skidmore's efforts to reform the general education curriculum from one that relies mostly on distribution requirements to one that is truly integrative. The authors provide data to support the need for a change; they worked closed with Skidmore's Committee on Educational Policy and Planning in drafting the chapter. It focuses broadly on the general education curriculum, as well as specifically on changes in specific requirements.
2. The First-Year Experience, the Sophomore Experience, and Beyond College. This chapter explores the various integrative experiences available to Skidmore students, both curricular and co-curricular, over the arc of their time at Skidmore and into their post-college lives. Do students take advantage of these opportunities to draw connections between theory and practice, between the college and the world, and between their own past, present, and future? What is working best, and where could we do more?
3. Physical and Digital Spaces for Integrative Learning. We realize the importance of providing spaces that encourage integrative learning. This chapter investigates the possibilities provided by various spaces on campus and describes our plans for new spaces. Are our older buildings still working for us? Did recent renovations improve the spaces? Will new buildings live up to their promise? How do digital spaces integrate with physical ones for our students’ learning? Do our spaces support creativity?
4. Diversity and Inclusion. Goal II of the 2005-2015 Strategic Plan called for us to "...challenge every Skidmore student to develop the intercultural understanding and global awareness necessary to thrive in the complex and increasingly interconnected world of the 21st Century." How well did we do? Where does our students’ integrative learning about intercultural understanding and global awareness take place, what works, and what could we be doing better?
5. Responsible Communities: Civic Engagement, Sustainability, and Values and Ethics. Responsible communities concern themselves with the greater good. This chapter addresses Goals III and IV of the 2005-2015 Strategic Plan, and current planning initiatives have strengthened our commitment to these principles. Can we follow through with the promise of integrative learning to build responsible communities?
We encourage you to read the self-study and provide us with feedback or to pose questions.
For more information about the re-accreditation process, please contact Lisa Christenson.