Antioch University receives reaccreditation
- Published: December 26, 2013
After three years of hard work on a self evaluation, Antioch University received news last week that it is fully reaccredited with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. While university leaders were confident that the accreditation that first Antioch College, and later the university, has maintained since 1927 would be renewed at the regular 10-year interval, they are glad the work is complete, University Chancellor Felice Nudelman said last week.
“None of us was ever in any doubt, but this is really nice,” she said. “Now we can move forward into what is really an exciting time for us.”
The accreditation review involves a self study that included everyone at all five of the university’s campuses, Midwest in Yellow Springs, New England, Seattle, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. The university wanted to use its expertise in information technology to show that its five campuses are all connected and fully capable of collaborating with each other to offer all of its programs to students in any location around the world. According to Nudelman, the head HLC reviewer said the electronic self study presentation was the “best she’s ever seen.” The reviewer asked the university to present the collaborative process with their IT team at the HLC’s annual conference. And Educause, a nonprofit IT support network for higher education, used Antioch University’s digital report as its first model case study on electronic accreditation.
“Our IT team and our academic self-study teams came together to create a virtual exhibit hall with very sophisticated use of technology that showed how we use all the resources within the university to find the most appropriate approach to do what we need,” Nudelman said. “It’s a very transparent and community-based process — and they found that was indicative of who we are as an institution.”
While the university declined to provide a copy of its accreditation report, it did provide selected excerpts.
The HLC evaluates all of its member higher learning institutions on five basic criteria of being guided by a clear mission, ethical conduct, support for high quality teaching and learning, systems for evaluation and improvement, and resource planning and institutional effectiveness. The university’s self-study teams were managed by Laurien Alexandre, special assistant to the chancellor, and Iris Weisman, vice chancellor of academic affairs, led the internal investigation of the university systems, its programs, enrollments, budgets and staff and student opinion. Then over the past year a team of about five educators from peer universities made several visits to the university and each of its five campuses to evaluate the assertions made in the self- study and make a recommendation to the HLC.
According to Nudelman, Antioch met the requirements in every area of compliance. Specifically, the HLC found that the university’s mission “is pervasive and widely understood by faculty, staff, students, boards, and the larger community. There is institutional pride in the mission and a sense that it is a major differentiator between the institution and others.” On ethical conduct, the HLC wrote that “AU has expended great effort to ensure that the appropriate ethical policies and procedures are institutionalized. The history of AU and its commitment to social justice and community engagement have created a culture that supports open dialog and critical reflection.” And on resource planning, the reviewers said that the university “has a well-organized and structured annual budgeting and monitoring process, as documented by annual budget guidelines, budget calendar, campus budget process summary spreadsheet, and documented finance committee and board of governors oversight.”
The struggle with enrollment at Midwest has stabilized, according to Nudelman, who said that the downturn that campus experienced during the recession was similar to all universities in the region. Though Nudelman said that current enrollment numbers were not available, the fact that the rest of the institution was able to support Midwest through that period was evidence that the system as a whole is healthy, she said.
With the weight of the review off its shoulders, the university can return to growing for the future. The university is currently preparing for the spring launch of Antioch University Connected, its first online bachelor degree program. The school is also working with media studies professionals in Jordan to explore the possibilities of developing a media studies institute at Antioch. And the university also plans to create an office of institutional effectiveness, an assessment department that Nudelman hopes Antioch can use to become “extremely responsive” about emphasizing the things that work and changing the things with less impact.
“Students constantly say that Antioch is a transformative experience,” she said. “Well what does that mean? And how do we know we’re creating that?”
The renewed accreditation also allows the university to offer its Ph.D. programs, previously restricted to individual campuses, from any campus of the university. The system includes four doctoral programs in environmental studies, leadership and change, clinical psychology and marriage and family therapy. The university’s campuses offer undergraduate and masters programs in environmental studies, psychology, management/leadership, health/social sciences, education, and arts/humanities/liberal studies, as well as a field study program known as Antioch Education Abroad with programs such as Brazilian Ecosystems, Buddhist Studies in India, and Community Development in Cameroon.
The thrust to offer more of its programs online or at any campus has made the university more flexible and more available than ever before.
“We can offer exciting programs at every campus at any time,” Nudelman said last week, validating a statement she made in the reaccreditation press release: “We come out of this as a stronger and more integrated university.”