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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University November 10, 2003 | Vol. 33 No. 11
University Prepares for Reaccreditation

A formal evaluation of JHU takes place every 10 years

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

The university has entered the final stretch of preparation for its upcoming reaccreditation by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. The formal evaluation, which occurs every 10 years, will come in two phases, the first of which occurs this month and the second in March 2004.

The planning for reaccreditation typically takes two years, during which time the university has the option to focus on a theme in which it studies itself critically and identifies its effectiveness. The theme chosen for the current study is "The Challenge of Improving Undergraduate Education in a Research-Intensive Environment."

Officially, the reaccreditation process began in February 2002, when President William R. Brody and Provost Steven Knapp formally convened the Commission on Undergraduate Education.

In May 2003, CUE issued its final report and submitted it to the president and provost. The document contained the committee's findings and 34 specific recommendations intended to improve significantly the quality of the undergraduate experience at Johns Hopkins. This report forms the centerpiece of the self-study portion of the reaccreditation.

On Nov. 20, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education's site team chair, Brown University President Ruth Simmons, and selected other team members will make a preliminary visit to Johns Hopkins with the purpose of meeting with the university's senior officers, "getting a lay of the land" and identifying the main issues that will be covered in the March visit, said Paula Burger, vice provost for academic affairs at Johns Hopkins and chair of its 16-member accreditation steering committee [see list below].

Because Johns Hopkins has chosen the self-study model for reaccreditation, the upcoming site visit will feature a new wrinkle this go-round. In addition to preparing for their next visit, site team members will be presented with an exhaustive collection of documents that provides a detailed overview of the non-undergraduate parts of the university, including graduate divisions, libraries and administration.

"The documents we provide to them will serve as evidence that we are a well-run institution and meet all the standards," said Burger, who is also vice dean for undergraduate education and served as chair of CUE. "They are basically looking at whether or not we have in place all the mechanisms that would be expected to be in place in order for us to accomplish our mission."

Middle States uses 12 standards in its reaccreditation process. The Leadership and Governance standard, for example, looks at the roles of institutional constituents in policy development and decision making. Educational Offerings examines whether or not the curriculum displays academic content, rigor and coherence that are appropriate to the school's higher education mission.

"Another standard is Integrity, and we have to show evidence that we are sensitive to those types of issues and have enlisted the community to adhere to these policies," Burger said. "In terms of our students, we will have to show that we have all the proper support services, such as career advising, in place in order to help them achieve their goals."

The Middle States evaluation team is comprised of 12 senior administration and faculty at some of Johns Hopkins' peer institutions, including Yale, MIT, Stanford, Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania.

In March, the team will spend three to four days at Johns Hopkins focused on the five schools with undergraduates: Arts and Sciences, Engineering, Nursing, Peabody and Professional Studies in Business and Education. In the intervening months before the March visit, the university has to compile information from the five undergraduate divisions and complete the roughly 150-page self-study.

Burger said that one of the challenges of the entire reaccreditation process is that because Johns Hopkins is such a decentralized institution, there is great variation in how the divisions operate.

"Lots of the models that have been developed for institutional assessment are based on much more simple kinds of places," she said. "We leave each of the divisions to be responsible for a large part of its affairs, which is why it's such a special challenge to weave documents from all those groups into one."

In June 2004, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education will present a final report to Johns Hopkins that includes a summary of the group's findings, an overall university evaluation and, if applicable, a list of recommendations.

"The wonderful thing about the process is this extraordinarily talented group of people from whom we are going to get three or four days of their time. Seen in the best light, reaccreditation brings this incredible talent to look at how you're doing and to give you their best advice and counsel," Burger said. "They will point out things that are strengths of Hopkins and things they think are weaknesses."

Burger said that reaccreditation is not a pass/fail exercise. If the evaluation team has questions about one or more areas within the university, it may request an additional report or a follow-up visit before granting final approval.

"The entire process is very objective and formal, and the stakes are high enough that one certainly does not take it for granted," she said. "We have been at this for quite some time already, and there is still work to do."


JHU Reaccreditation Steering Committee

Sandra Angell, associate dean for student affairs, School of Nursing

Paula Burger, vice provost for academic affairs and vice dean for undergraduate education

Pamela Cranston, associate provost for academic affairs

Andrew Douglas, interim dean, School of Engineering

Ray Gillian, associate provost, director of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Programs

John Harrington Jr., associate dean for academic affairs, School of Advanced International Studies

Wolfgang Justen, dean, Peabody Conservatory

Joan Kub, assistant professor of professional education programs, School of Public Health; assistant professor, schools of Medicine and Nursing

Robert S. Lawrence, associate dean for professional education and programs, Edyth H. Schoenrich Professor of Preventive Medicine, School of Public Health

Theodore Poehler, vice provost for research

Fred Puddester, executive director of budget and financial planning and analysis, university administration

Edgar Roulhac, vice provost for academic services

John Shatzer Jr., assistant professor of health sciences informatics, SOM

Deborah Slingluff, associate director for library services, MSEL

Toni Ungaretti, assistant dean and director of Undergraduate Programs, SPSBE

Jim Zeller, associate provost for academic planning and budgets


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