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April 13, 2006 • Volume 14 Number 15

University Readies for 10-Year Accreditation

Boston College's effort to renew its accreditation is under way, with the appointment of a committee of faculty and administrators to oversee a university-wide self-study that will be central to the process.

Special Assistant to the President Robert Newton, who chaired BC's previous reaccreditations 10 and 20 years ago, will again head up the University committee producing the self-study. That document will be completed by mid-January of 2007, in preparation for a formal visit next March by representatives from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) Commission on Institutions of Higher Education, which is performing the 10-year review.

The reaccreditation comes as BC is in the final phase of a major strategic planning initiative that will set out University priorities in academics and student formation, among other areas. Newton said elements of the planning initiative - and of the updated campus master plan also being developed - will be incorporated into the self-study as "areas of special emphasis."

"This is what we did for the previous NEASC accreditations in the 1980s and '90s, which both took place in the midst of major University planning efforts," said Newton. "The expectation for this process is that BC provide evidence that it is intent on continuous improvement; that BC is clearly defining what it wants to accomplish; that BC is collecting evidence on whether it is successful and is using that evidence to improve. "By taking this approach, we are able to demonstrate effectively how BC has set its priorities - not just as an institution but as a community. Both the strategic planning and master plan initiatives reflect considerable contributions from administrators, faculty, staff and students."

Some reaccreditation committee members will focus on the University's compliance with 11 NEASC standards, such as institutional mission and purpose, planning and evaluation, governance, library and other information resources, as well as the academic program, students and faculty.

Others will work on the special-emphases component, Newton said, with attention to the seven strategic directions outlined in the planning initiative: liberal arts and professional education, natural and physical sciences, student formation, research and BC's ambitions as Jesuit and Catholic university.

"Small groups will prepare reports on the seven strategic directions outlined in the recently published strategic plan and these reports will be presented as part of the BC self-study.

Newton noted that the NEASC visiting committee, which will be headed by Wake Forest University President and former Notre Dame Provost Nathan O. Hatch, will hold special forums while on campus, providing opportunities for faculty, undergraduates and graduate students to give their perspectives on BC.

"Reaccreditation is more than just going through a checklist and seeing how you measure up," he said. "It means a group of talented individuals will be coming here to look and listen, and to offer their expertise on BC's outlook for the future."

-Sean Smith

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