About The Gazette Search Back Issues Contact Us    
The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University March 8, 2004 | Vol. 33 No. 25
Site Visit for Reaccreditation Is Announced

14-member team will focus on undergrad programs

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

The Middle States Commission on Higher Education's evaluation team will visit Johns Hopkins this month for a series of formal and informal meetings with senior administration, faculty and students that will ultimately determine the university's reaccreditation outcome. For the university, the occasion marks the culmination of a two-year planning effort. [The Johns Hopkins self-study report prepared for the Middle States Commission on Higher Education is online here.]

The visit will take place from March 21 to 24, during which time the 14-person Middle States team will evaluate each of the five Johns Hopkins schools with undergraduates.

The reaccreditation process occurs every 10 years. The university had the option this cycle to focus on a theme in which it studies itself critically and identifies its effectiveness. The theme chosen for the study was "The Challenge of Improving Undergraduate Education in a Research-Intensive Environment."

Site team members will receive the voluminous self-study report that provides an overview of the university and detailed reports on the undergraduate programs in the schools of Arts and Sciences, Engineering, Nursing, Professional Studies in Business and Education and the Peabody Institute. They also will have an exhaustive collection of documents that provides a detailed look at the nonundergraduate parts of the university, including graduate divisions, libraries and administration.

Paula Burger, vice provost for academic affairs and vice dean for undergraduate education for the School of Arts and Sciences, said that the site team has much ground to cover in just three days.

"It's critical that we be well-organized and use their time superefficiently," said Burger, who has chaired the 16-member accreditation steering committee. "Between Sunday evening and Wednesday at noon, when the site team leaves, they need to make a formal evaluation of Johns Hopkins University and form the basis of their findings."

The Middle States evaluation team, chaired by Brown University President Ruth Simmons, is comprised of 14 senior administrators and faculty members at some of Johns Hopkins' peer institutions, including Yale, MIT, Stanford, Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania.

They will arrive on Sunday, March 21, and have an initial team meeting, followed later in the day by a reception and dinner with President William R. Brody and other senior members of the administration.

On Monday, the team will meet with deans, members of the Commission on Undergraduate Education and the board of trustees. In the afternoon and early evening on Monday, the Middle States group will divide into subteams — each focused on one of the five schools — and convene with faculty and students for a series of public meetings [see below].

Burger said that the open meetings are a chance for the university community to share their impressions of Johns Hopkins and to meet with a distinguished group of higher education leaders.

"We stand to learn a great deal from them. These individuals all come from institutions or have visited institutions that are dealing with many of the issues that we are confronting," she said. "I know the site team members will come to these meetings armed with many questions and ready to talk about issues they highlighted in the self-study."

The self-study report, Burger said, will serve as evidence that Johns Hopkins is a well-run institution, has all the mechanisms in place to accomplish its mission and meets all 14 standards Middle States uses in its reaccreditation process.

The report also highlights areas where the university needs to strengthen itself, whether it be building a stronger sense of community at its campuses, or improving the levels of faculty-student interaction.

"[The self-study] by design is supposed to be candid and self-critical," Burger said. "The evaluation team will flag things that they think are potential sources of concern or issues, or just things that they want to learn more about. Johns Hopkins is a very difficult institution to get your arms around because we do things very differently than some schools. Oftentimes there is no one answer to a question — the School of Nursing might do things this way, while the School of Engineering does it that way."

On Tuesday, March 23, the site team will meet with university vice presidents, Provost Steven Knapp and the accreditation steering committee and attend information sessions on research opportunities for undergraduates and the teaching/learning experience. The day also includes unscheduled time so that the evaluation team can meet with university officials of their choice.

"For example, they might want to spend 30 minutes with the dean of student life at Homewood, perhaps to see how students off campus are connected to the university," she said. "The unscheduled time is for them to probe into any areas where they wish to learn more."

The evaluation team will have an exit interview with President Brody and Provost Knapp on Wednesday, March 24, at which time the team will present their main findings and conclusions. Several weeks later, the team will submit a written report to the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Johns Hopkins will receive a draft of this report, to which the university will have an opportunity to respond.

"We won't have time to fulfill any recommendations they might have, but it will give us the opportunity to correct factual errors and clarify any misunderstandings," Burger said. "If they said that the School of Nursing is not doing enough for freshmen, for example, we would point out that the School of Nursing is an upper-level program."

In June 2004, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education will inform the university of its accreditation status and present Hopkins with its conclusions and any possible recommendations.

Looking back, Burger said that the two-year reaccreditation process has been invaluable. She said it has helped strengthen ties among the undergraduate units, allowed the university to be more data-driven in its approach to programming and be more intentional about undergraduate education.

"We have lifted the undergraduate experience up and given it a level of scrutiny it hasn't had before," she said. "It all began with the CUE report, and we have already made great strides with the recommendations called for by that committee."

"We are particularly fortunate," said President Brody, "that such a distinguished evaluation team has agreed to visit Johns Hopkins and give us feedback on how well we are meeting the important challenge of enhancing the undergraduate experience."

As for the visit itself, Burger said that she trusts the Johns Hopkins community to be both welcoming and upfront with the evaluation team members.

"I would hope that students and faculty would want to be candid about Hopkins," she said. "We're not perfect. We have fully declared that, and any institution that says it gets everything right is the first place I would start looking at hard. But we do have excellent people, excellent programs, and I hope all that we do extraordinarily well shines through."

The Johns Hopkins self-study report prepared for the Middle States Commission on Higher Education is available at


Open Meetings for Faculty and Students

Open meetings will be held on Monday, March 22, for faculty and students to interact with the Middle States Commission on Higher Education site-team members. Anyone interested in attending these sessions should reserve a space by sending an e-mail message to Michael Graham at

School of Arts and Sciences
Faculty: 4 to 5 p.m., Sherwood Room, Levering Hall
Students: 5:30 to 7 p.m., Multipurpose Room, AMR I

School of Engineering
Faculty: 4:10 to 5 p.m., Laverty Lounge, Krieger Hall
Students: 5:30 to 7 p.m., Laverty Lounge, Krieger Hall

School of Nursing
Faculty: 3:30 to 4:15 p.m., room 217
Students: 5:30 to 7 p.m., Carpenter Room

School of Professional Studies in Business and Education
Faculty: 5:20 to 6 p.m., main conference room, Columbia Center
Students: 6 to 7 p.m., main conference room, Columbia Center

Peabody Institute
Faculty: 1:30 to 3 p.m., Center Street Conference Room
Students: 3 to 4:30 p.m., Center Street Conference Room


The Gazette | The Johns Hopkins University | Suite 540 | 901 S. Bond St. | Baltimore, MD 21231 | 443-287-9900 |