Self-study Q & A
Spectrum Volume 20 Issue 04 - September 18, 1997
Q: Why is Virginia Tech undertaking a self study?
A. 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), a private, non-profit, voluntary association of institutions in 11 U.S. Southern states and in Latin America. Accreditation is important for many reasons, including (1) ensuring that our degrees are recognized throughout the U.S. and elsewhere, and (2) maintaining our eligibility for federal funds to support students.
Q: What is the difference between the two components of the self study?
A: The self study which we are conducting is based on a new model, only recently adopted by SACS. It includes an "institutional effectiveness" (IE) component and a "strategic" component. In the IE component we are required to document our compliance with nearly 500 "must statements"--accreditation criteria--that relate to virtually all of the educational and management functions of the university. In the strategic component, we are conducting a study of our own choosing, which is focusing on the current educational environment of the university, current information technology (IT) use, and possible future uses of IT to foster learning. IT is defined broadly as the use of computing and telecommunication devices to process and deliver information.
Q: What happens to the products of the self study?
A: The products will be combined into a single report that will be submitted to SACS by the end of the calendar year. A visiting team will come to Virginia Tech in mid-March. Part of the team will conduct an audit of the IE component; that is, they will check that we have accurate and complete documentation of our compliance with the accreditation criteria. The process might result in recommendations that would be binding on the university; we would subsequently have to confirm in writing to SACS that these recommendations were being implemented. The other part of the team will serve in a consulting role, helping the university to address the issues raised in the strategic component of the self study. It is important to note that they will not sit "in judgement" on the strategic component (as will the team members auditing the IE component). Ultimately, the team will advise the SACS Commission on Colleges on whether Virginia Tech's regional accreditation should be reaffirmed.
For more information about the self study, and an opportunity to provide feedback on the draft report, please go to www.vt.edu:10021/admin/provost/selfstudy/.
Information provided by W. David Conn, director of 1996-98 University Self-Study