- Taking Ownership of Accreditation
The American College Personnel Association, in an effort to focus on the role of student affairs in promoting student learning, sponsored the Student Learning Imperative Project (Shroeder, 1994). As a result of that initiative, the student affairs profession has emphasized a responsibility we share with academic faculty to create conditions that cause students "to spend time and energy in educational-purposeful activities" (Schroeder, p. 38). The Project, [End Page 482] in identifying the characteristics of administrative units committed to student learning, stated that "Student affairs policies and programs are based on promising practices for the research on student learning and institution- specific assessment data" (Schroder, p. 39). While this is hardly the first time assessment has been presented as a challenge, tying it to student learning presents it as a core responsibility. It is in that regard that Taking Ownership of Accreditation has value.
California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB), a relatively new institution in the California State system, was seeking initial accreditation through its regional accrediting body, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), at the same time that Association was attempting to link scholarship to practice through a methodology termed "design research." The Association was experimenting with ways to base the accreditation decision on measures of institutional integrity and educational effectiveness and invited California State University Monterey Bay to participate in an experimental approach to institutional accreditation. Taking Ownership of Accreditation, edited by Amy Driscoll and Diane Cordero de Noriega and written by institutional members who were also active participants, is an insider's look at how an institution used the regional accreditation process to assess both faculty engagement and student learning. That insider perspective becomes, in effect, a guidebook and a resource tool that holds promise for student affairs practitioners who are interested in developing institutional specific assessment rubrics consistent with the recommendation of the Student Learning Imperative Project.
The first two chapters of the book, authored by Driscoll, provide context for CSUMB and the WASC and serve to outline the processed used in both environments to develop an innovative approach to institutional accreditation. Instructive in this discussion is the decision by the institution to link the process of accreditation to assessment, with the aim of both being institutional effectiveness. CSUMB adopted Pascarella's (2001) indicators of institutional effectiveness, which are evidence of student learning and the use of best practices. In the third chapter, Cordero de Noriega presents a meaningful discussion of the process used at CSUMB to identify the core values, mission, and vision of the institution. The sense of purpose expressed by the mission, values, and vision became the filter through which measures of institutional effectiveness were gained. This chapter provides helpful suggestions on how decisions such as resource allocation, planning, and programming are guided when an agreed upon sense of purpose is firmly in place. The next chapter, written by Salina Diiorio, dealt with logistics and how the institution configured itself in preparation for accreditation. This is a discussion of committees and communications that includes an important consideration of how assessment results are fed back into the institutional planning process as a way of dealing with the concern that evidence is often collected but seldom used. Program review is a concept that is frequently met on college campuses with considerable distain; Seth Pollack, in his chapter, deals with that negativity by explaining how at CSUMB program review was made into a meaningful process. Unfortunately, his model represents academic programs without any discussion of how student affairs units handled program review, but the model is adaptable. As accountability becomes a common currency for all of higher education, student affairs units would do well to initiate program reviews; the information in this chapter suggests ways to begin that process. The chapter by Annette March expands the program review discussion by applying the concept to a particular program. Her use of [End Page 483] both an ethnographic methodology and Astin's (1991) Input-Environment-Output framework serve as indicators of how readily adaptable program review...