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Institutional Effectiveness is Second Component of Self Study

Spectrum Volume 19 Issue 06 - October 3, 1996

The university's 1996-98 Self Study is a two-pronged effort with both components running concurrently. As discussed in an earlier issue of Spectrum. (Sept. 19, 1996), the newly established "strategic" component involves an in-depth study of the use of technology in the learning environment.

The second component focuses on "institutional effectiveness" (IE) and, in its intent, more closely resembles the kind of self study that has been conducted in the past.

IE gets at the heart of the accrediting agency's philosophy of accreditation. IE assumes that we are engaged in ongoing quests for quality and can demonstrate how well we achieve our stated purposes. It involves a comprehensive system of planning, with each program and unit establishing goals that derive from and support the purpose of the institution. IE also involves a comprehensive system of evaluation and use of the evaluation results in modifying resources, programs, and services in all major areas of the institution.

The IE component requires us to document our compliance with nearly 500 criteria or "must statements" that address most of the university's academic and administrative functions. President Paul Torgersen has stated that "at Virginia Tech, compliance will not be an issue." With broad oversight from the Advisory Council on Strategic Budgeting and Planning and from senior administrators, we have been working on this since early spring. A coordinating committee chaired by Dixon Hanna, interim vice provost for outreach, and Ann Spencer, associate vice president for personnel and administrative services, and comprised of David Conn, Marcia Harrington, Gerry McLaughlin, and John Muffo, has designed an iterative, fully participatory process to ensure the most accurate and complete response possible is developed for each must statement.

The IE process involves the efforts of more than 100 individuals in three distinct roles: respondents, who are closely involved with the activity referenced in each must statement, have been asked to develop the initial written response; reviewers , who typically oversee the major unit in which the activity occurs, have responsibility for validating this initial response; appropriate university commissions and committees are being asked to provide further review. The results will be combined in a document called Reaffirming Institutional Progress, drafts of which will be made available to the broader university community for additional feedback.

Currently, we are well on our way through the process. By mid-October, we expect to have most of the initial written responses ready to be sent to the reviewers, and by early spring we hope to have the IE component essentially completed. When the accrediting agency's team comes to visit in March 1998, it will conduct an audit of the IE component and provide consultation for the strategic component.