Photo by Hilary Padavan
Drake has been accredited for an additional ten years by the Higher Learning Commission, according to a Drake press release on Feb. 22.
This process has been going on for the past several years and has been led by English professor Craig Owens and director of institutional research and academic assessment Kevin Saunders. Owens said the motto throughout the process has been “small footprint, big impact.”
“We did our best to integrate the work of accreditation reaffirmation into the routines of individuals, offices, departments and administrative structures already in place at Drake,” Owens said. “While each year, there were approximately 25 individuals whose responsibilities as members of accreditation oversight groups increased significantly.”
Drake provost Sue Mattison said the process was time-consuming and strenuous for all involved.
“This is an incredibly time-intensive process that requires input from every unit on campus,” Mattison said. “The product of these past five years is a self-study document – an assurance document – that demonstrates with evidence the quality of Drake as a university.”
Members of the HLC went to Drake this past October to examine the institution, which took much preparation ahead of time.
“By fall 2016, we had begun assembling a team responsible for hosting and facilitating the site visit, which required not only working closely with university representatives who would be meeting with the site team visitors, but reserving rooms, arranging transportation and accommodation,” among other things, Owens said.
Mattison also said Drake trustees were involved in the process and showed “solid commitment” to the University’s quality.
Over the past 100 years, Drake has been continuously accredited by a commission.
“To have an external agency validate what we at Drake say is true about the quality of the institution is incredibly meaningful,” Mattison said.
Mattison said the continous accreditation has allowed Drake to pursue opportunities not afforded to other universities.
Because of Drake’s longstanding strength as an institution, the school was allowed the option to take part in a unique aspect of the accreditation process called the Quality Initiative (QI), Mattison said. The QI is an opportunity for the campus to try a high-risk initiative.
“The University developed a plan to address a pervasive problem that challenges all of higher education and society at large to create a more welcoming and inclusive campus through self-assessment and thoughtful change,” Mattison said.
One result from this has been the creation of Dr. Erin Lain’s position, Associate Provost for Student Equity and Inclusion, and she “has been working to develop infrastructure and processes to support increased diversity and a more welcoming campus,” Mattison said.
Overall, the HLC praised Drake for its reputation as a mission-driven university with an excellent reputation, strong academic programs, committed and accomplished faculty and dedicated staff. It also made mention of the sound and transparent fiscal stewardship, improved initiatives in the area of diversity and inclusion and improvements in communication, transparency and accountability.
A couple of areas the HLC noted Drake could improve on are the processes of record-keeping pertaining to performance reviews and employee qualifications, for which Mattison said a plan “is being developed, and progress will be reported to the HLC.”
The HLC’s approval for the accreditation of Drake is important in a couple of ways, Mattison said.
“Reaffirmation of accreditation is external validation that the University is meeting high standards of institutional practice,” she said.
Owens echoed similar sentiments.
“It’s impossible to overstate the importance of comprehensive institutional accreditation, particularly at a time when students, their family and governments are so keenly examining the quality of America’s institutions of higher education,” Owens said.