THE ACCREDITATION TEAM: (Clockwise from left) Michelle Hunt, director of planning and analysis (fi nance) and self-study fi nancial author; Lynda Erickson, political science professor emeritus and self-study academic author; Glynn Nicholls, director of academic planning and budgeting and accreditation project manager; Louise Paquette, accreditation project program assistant, KC Bell director of special projects and primary self-study author.

Great Expectations

November 04, 2010

The work of each theme team is twofold: supporting the implementation of the goals set out in the 2010-13 academic plan and assisting the accreditation project team to complete the university’s self-study by carrying out the core theme assessment required for the NWCCU.

These activities are highly integrated with one another and are being approached as a single task broken into two pieces. But because the accreditation self-study is both compulsory and driven by a shorter deadline—March 15, 2011—it has top priority until it is completed.

Core Themes VS. Academic Themes

Although the descriptions of the accreditation core themes and the academic themes are a little different, they have a very similar focus. But because the core themes cut across all university faculties and jurisdictions they are necessarily broader than the themes set out in the academic plan.

Assessment of the SFU Core Themes for Accreditation

SFU has identifi ed four core themes that express the heart of its mission. Each core theme is refl ected in the academic plan, and the work of the theme teams in preparing for and carrying out the assessment of each theme will include considering how their assessment can be used to help implement the plan.

The fifth academic theme, Financial Sustainability and Institutional Strength, enables SFU to fulfi ll its mission and, although not a core theme for accreditation purpose, must be woven through our accounts of the other four.

SFU’s performance in achieving its core themes will be the basis for assessing the university’s success in achieving its mission. So the accreditation self-study must carry out that assessment by:

  • Identifying institutional goals, strategies and indicators for each core theme
  • Carrying out an assessment of our performance based on our self-identifi ed criteria
  • Reaching an overall conclusion about the degree to which we are fulfilling our mission.

Chapter 1 of the self-study articulates the goals, strategies and indicators SFU has identifi ed, as well as its reasons for believing them to be “meaningful, assessable and verifi able”. These were provided to each theme team by the accreditation team. Chapter 4 gives a detailed account of the university’s assessment process, what it has learned in the process, and whether and to what degree it is fulfilling its mission and this is where the theme teams’ assessments will be included.

The teams’ core theme assessments must be complete by March 15, with the self-study fi nished by April 30 so effi ciency in producing the assessments will be critical to achieving a quick turnaround. As a result, the teams are working closely with the accreditation team—Glynn Nichols, KC Bell, Lynda Erickson, Michelle Hunt and Louise Paquette— to ensure each teams’ assessments are incorporated smoothly into the self-study document and resemble the format of the other core theme teams. For example, the data sets will, wherever possible, cover the same periods of time, with the data coming from Institutional Research and Plannning unless it is externally supplied.

Three-Year Academic Plan Task

The academic plan identifi es fi ve themes, each with a number of associated goals, as well as number of supporting objectives and actions. As the plan runs through 2013, VP-academic Jon Driver has asked each theme team’s commitment to the end of the planning horizon.

The teams will decide how to approach their theme responsibilities, but they will communicate regularly with the VPA on signifi cant actions they believe are necessary to implement the plan. The teams will submit regular reports at the deans’ council to keep senior administrators abreast of progress.

The teams’ specific tasks include:

  • Communicating theme goals clearly, to make sure those concerned clearly understand the intended focus of the implementation and how it is to be conducted.
  • Drafting policy/papers/procedures to guide change where it is required
  • Integrating what the teams learn from the accreditation assessment process to inform and improve the implementation of the academic plan goals
  • Identifying possible barriers and potential solutions to achieving the goals
  • Keeping the theme and its associated goal on the agendas of those involved in the process.
  • Being recognized as “change agents”, “champions” and advisors with expertise in each theme.
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After a seven year, comprehensive and rigorous process, SFU is the first Canadian research university to be granted accreditation by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).  

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