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Self-Study Surveys to be Conducted

Spectrum Volume 19 Issue 16 - January 16, 1997

Separate surveys will be conducted during the next few weeks to give all members of the faculty and staff an opportunity to contribute personally to the strategic component of the University Self-Study

As previously mentioned in Spectrum, we are required to conduct a self study every 10 years to have our regional accreditation reaffirmed by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). Accreditation is important for many reasons, including maintaining our eligibility for federal funds to support students.

The self study on which we have embarked is based on a new model, only recently adopted by SACS. It includes a "strategic" component, which we have chosen to focus on the topic of "Transforming Virginia Tech for the Information Age."

A steering committee and four subcommittees are leading an examination of how the learning environment at Virginia Tech is affected by the increasing use of information technology. Building on the recently updated University Plan, the Core Values study, and other inputs, the intent is to produce recommendations on how the university should position itself with respect to the use of information technology during the next five to 10 years.

The subcommittees have been working hard to define important issues and questions, to assess available data, and to collect new information. The faculty and staff surveys mentioned earlier are an important part of the new data collection. During the spring semester, most of the information-gathering and analysis will be completed, and a preliminary draft report will be made available to the entire university community. After revisions, the report will become part of the university's submission to SACS at the end of the calendar year and will be the subject of discussions with a "consulting" team that will visit Blacksburg in March 1998.

To inform the strategic component of the self study, several speakers were invited to make public presentations on relevant topics toward the end of the fall semester. These included: Jim Bowen (Veterinary Medicine); Anne Moore(Information Systems); Tom Head (Media Services), John Moore and David Taylor(Educational Technologies); and Steve Gilbert (American Association for Higher Education). Videotapes of these presentations are available for viewing on request at the self-study office (419 Newman Library). Additional presentations may be arranged during the spring semester, to be announced on the self-study home page (see below) and in Spectrum.

The self study also includes an institutional-effectiveness component in which we are documenting our compliance with nearly 500 "must statements"--accreditation criteria--that relate to virtually all of the educational and management functions of the university. Since last summer, individuals closely associated with these functions have prepared initial responses identifying the nature and location of appropriate documentation. These responses have been (or, in some cases, are still being) reviewed for accuracy and completeness by administrators in relevant oversight positions.

During the next few weeks, the responses will be forwarded for further review to appropriate university commissions and committees (all of which have received prior briefings) before being posted for scrutiny by the broader university community. Ultimately, the responses will be incorporated into a report that will be part of the university's end-of-year submission to SACS. Unlike the product of the strategic component, this report will be subject to an audit by a visiting team in March 1998, and we will be held accountable for its content.

More information about the self study is available from its director, W. David Conn (conn@vt.edu). Also, a new site on the World Wide Web is being constructed at http://www.vt.edu:10021/admin/provost/selfstudy/.