College begins reaccreditation process

by Eileen Brady | 1/26/18 2:30am

The College has begun a two-year self-study project in pursuit of reaccreditation under the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. The accreditation process, which takes place every 10 years and includes a five-year interim report, will be completed in 2020.

While NEASC accreditation, a self-regulatory peer review process that helps ensure a school’s academic quality, is not mandatory, it does affect the allotment of some federal funding, according to associate provost for institutional research Alicia Betsinger, who is serving as Dartmouth’s accreditation liaison officer. Accreditation also provides the College with an opportunity to examine its strengths and weaknesses and the framework through which to craft a plan for the future, Betsinger said.

The first step in being reaccredited is for the College to complete a self-study process. According to Betsinger, the self-study began in fall 2017 with the establishment of a steering committee composed of administrators and an initial compilation of data related to students, faculty and student learning outcomes, among other things.

The goal of the self-study is for the College to draft a 100-page report measuring its compliance with NEASC’s nine accreditation standards, which include categories such as “The Academic Program” and “Teaching, Learning and Scholarship.” The report is also meant to address special emphasis areas outlined by NEASC in its response to the College’s last five-year interim report. For Dartmouth, these areas include creating financial plans for the College to improve its facilities, creating a sustainable financial model for the Geisel School of Medicine and implementing previously recommended changes to the undergraduate curriculum.

This report will be written by a small implementation group and overseen by the steering committee, which is chaired by Dean of the School of Graduate and Advanced Studies F. Jon Kull ’88. Nariah Broadus, Dartmouth’s accreditation project director, emphasized the importance of keeping the voice of the report consistent.

“My role is really to just help us create a first draft of the self-study as quickly as possible and to ensure that the first draft, as much as possible, is in one voice and conveys a sort of overall tone for the institution,” Broadus said.

Betsinger said that in order to do this, the implementation group will be altering its process in response to feedback from peer institutions by adopting a more collaborative writing strategy.

“The way we’re approaching it this time, which differs from the last 10-year comprehensive evaluation, is that we have an implementation group ... a small, nimble group of individuals who will be writing to the standards and to the special emphasis areas, and then others who will be going out into the community and gathering additional information for the narrative,” Betsinger said.

Throughout the writing process, the steering committee will have an oversight role, according to Kull. Members of the committee, which includes deans and heads of different College organizations such as libraries, departments and graduate schools, will also likely help gather data related to the report and circulate information, Kull said.

“It’s a pretty interesting process, really, because it allows us to look at what we’re doing, make sure we’re being effective, assess our programs and then also identify that we might want to strengthen and then use that as a guideline to look at the next five to 10 years,” Kull said. “I don’t think anyone doubts that Dartmouth will be reaccredited, but it’s still a useful process to go through.”

The first draft of the self-study report is scheduled to be released to the Dartmouth community in October 2018. A two-month public comment period will follow. The final draft will be shared in late August or early September 2019, followed by an on-site visit by an external evaluation team made up of senior officers from peer institutions from Oct. 27 to 30, 2019. That team will publish a report on the visit, after which the College will respond. NEASC will make a final decision on accreditation in spring 2020.