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A promising road to accreditation

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The size of the Antioch student body doubled last week when 97 new students from the class of 2017 arrived on campus. But that wasn’t the biggest news at the college’s fourth annual community potluck on the Antioch campus on Friday. Nor was it the introduction of 11 new faculty hires, or the announcement of a potential new mascot for the college, which students narrowed down to either “The Horace Manatees” or kale.
Instead, a site visit next month from representatives of the North Central Association Higher Learning Commission — who could recommend Antioch as a candidate for accreditation — was described by President Mark Roosevelt as “the biggest moment in the history of the college’s re-creation.”

“It will be a huge step for the college,” Roosevelt said of Antioch’s potential candidacy, which would enable the institution to get federal financial assistance and work-study monies and accept international students as it works towards accreditation.
If awarded candidacy, Antioch would have four years to meet accreditation requirements, according to the Higher Learning Commission’s website.

The four representatives will visit campus from Nov. 11–13 to evaluate the college’s progress since reopening in 2009. The group’s report is then presented to the Higher Learning Commission’s Institutional Actions Council, which recommends a candidacy to the Commission’s board of trustees, the group that renders the final decision. A decision is expected in June 2014.

At the potluck, Roosevelt said he is optimistic the site visitors will see Antioch’s uniqueness, as they hail from colleges similar to Antioch in philosophy and endowment size.

“We have a site team of people who I think will come to this campus, understand the constraints, but understand that we’ve made incredible progress,” Roosevelt said. “I think it’s reason for optimism.”

Ahead of the visit, the college submitted a 14-month self-study evaluation along with more than 2,000 pages of documentation to the Higher Learning Commission. An executive summary of the self-study report is available at the college’s website. In addition a public comment period on Antioch’s candidacy runs through Oct. 11.

Roosevelt added that he is grateful for past support from the Yellow Springs community and hopes that villagers support the college ahead of the site visit.

“You all have done so much to keep this small college with its outsized ambitions …. to continue to prepare students and their much needed voices — often somewhat out of the mainstream — to a national dialogue in this country that has grown smaller and smaller as our problems have grown larger and larger,” Roosevelt said.

While Antioch continues to figure out how to measure its educational outcomes, Roosevelt shared some recent positive benchmarks. Antioch students taking Spanish and French achieved higher levels of language proficiency after one year of classes than many colleges hope their students reach after two years. In a survey of the first two classes, more than four-fifths of students say they have a more global view than when they arrived, can see the world from someone else’s perspective better than most, and don’t fall asleep in class.

The survey also revealed that 92 percent of current students would recommend Antioch to others, according to Roosevelt.

“We’re hunting down the other eight percent and we’ll strike them with a wad of kale,” Roosevelt joked.

Other good news on campus: Wellness center construction is underway with a projected opening in June 2014, theater renovations are beginning in a campus-community partnership, work will begin soon on the central geothermal plant — as Antioch aims to be the first college campus in America heated and cooled entirely by geothermal and solar sources — and the college raised a record $19 million last year ($50 million since it became independent from Antioch University) as 27 percent of Antioch alums gave, a rate far higher than the national average.

As he does at each state of the college address, Roosevelt summed up Antioch’s present state: “We have a lot of wind at our back and a great deal of momentum. I’m not saying it’s easy because it isn’t, but it’s an easier form of hard.”
New faces on the faculty

In July, Antioch hired 11 new faculty, bringing the total full-time faculty to 29. Antioch now has a 1:10.3 faculty to student ratio and 11 majors available to students, in addition to self-designed majors.

Kevin Mulhall, who taught music at Antioch for seven years until the college closed, is the newest reference librarian. Yellow Springs resident Brooke Bryan joined the cooperative education faculty. New tenure-track faculty members are performance professor Dr. Gabrielle Civil, psychology professor Dr. Deanne Bell and literature professor Dr. Jennifer Branlat. Other new faculty are Spanish instructor Dr. Eugenia Charoni, mathematics professor Dr. Barbara Sanborn, history professor Dr. Rahul Nair, political economy professor Sean Payne, visual arts professor Raewyn Martyn and French instructor Cary Campbell.

At the potluck Roosevelt praised the faculty for its central role and beforehand he shared a few “fun facts” about faculty members, including that chemistry professor David Kammler collects cutting boards, Vice President for Academic Affairs Hassan Rahmanian was the back-up goalie for the Iranian national soccer team and cooperative education instructor Beth Bridgeman can do an imitation of a barnacle.

“All joking on the faculty, everything we do at Antioch is built upon what they do and the fact that they are delivering a rigorous, quality education to our students,” Roosevelt said. “That’s the central component of this enterprise and we’re lucky to have them.”

Meanwhile, Valerie Webster, Antioch’s vice president of administration and finance resigned last week for personal reasons relating to a family matter. Webster, who joined the staff in March, said the experience was “wonderful” and that Antioch’s finances are continuing to improve.

“They are making fabulous strides at the institution, and I will miss everyone incredibly,” Webster said. “They have a plan and a strategy and are looking forward to being reviewed by the [Higher Learning] Commission and I feel very confident they will move forward as they have for the last three years.”


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