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Self-study report completed; countdown begins to team visit

By David Conn, self-study director

Spectrum Volume 20 Issue 16 - January 15, 1998

As part of the process leading to reaffirmation of the university's accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), Virginia Tech's 10-year self-study report has now been completed. Accreditation is important for many reasons, such as assuring that other institutions recognize our degrees and maintaining our eligibility for federal funds to support students.
As previously mentioned in Spectrum, on this occasion Virginia Tech chose to pursue a nontraditional self-study model, comprising two components. In the institutional-effectiveness (IE) component, we documented our compliance with several hundred "must statements" or criteria for reaffirmation of accreditation. In the strategic component, we conducted a study examining how the learning environment at Virginia Tech is affected by the increasing use of information technology.
The IE component was carried out largely administratively. Its results will be subject to an audit by a visiting team in March and we will be held accountable for its content; in other words, if unconvinced that we are fully in compliance with the criteria, SACS can require us to make changes in policies and procedures as a condition of reaffirming our accreditation.
The strategic component differs significantly in that it was conducted primarily by faculty and staff members and students serving on a steering committee and four subcommittees. A subset of the visiting team will play the role of consultants in discussing the study and its outcome, and the university will not be subject to any binding recommendations relating to the study.
Drafts of the entire self-study report were made available to the entire university community during this past fall, and many helpful comments were received. All were considered carefully, and as many as possible are reflected in the final version.
The report has now been posted in both HTML and PDF formats on the Web at http://www.vt.edu:10021/admin/provost/selfstudy/. Paper copies are being prepared and will be distributed before the end of January to a list that includes deans, department heads, and members of the Advisory Council on Strategic Budgeting and Planning. Paper copies will also be placed on reserve at Newman Library and at the Northern Virginia Center Library.
Before the end of February, an addendum will be prepared that updates information contained in the full report and reports on progress made toward achieving full compliance with the SACS criteria (in those few areas where, based on the self study, we believe that additional steps might need to be taken).
Suggestions for items that might be included in the addendum should be sent to selfstudy@vt.edu, preferably by the beginning of February.
For several months a committee has been busily preparing for the reaffirmation team's visit from March 15-18. The team's efforts will be coordinated with those of an accreditation team from the NCAA, which will come to campus at the same time. More information about the combined visit will be presented in future issues of Spectrum.