Kalamazoo College's Student Newspaper
Author of the Self Study Report
Assistant Professor of English and Journalism at K
A rare opportunity for students to have their say about Kalamazoo College will come 4th week, when the Higher Learning Commission will send a team to evaluate the College for reaccreditation.
The visit, from Oct. 1–3, is the culmination of a several-year process in which faculty, staff and students worked to produce a self study that examines the College’s ability to fulfill its mission, provides a greater understanding of the institution’s strengths and identifies opportunities for improvement.
While students have been included in the process from the start, every student is invited to attend an open meeting Tuesday, Oct. 2 from 11:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m. in the Olmsted Room. According to several people involved, it is imperative that students participate.
“At the heart of what the visit is about is coming to a conclusion about ‘is the college doing what we’re saying we’re doing?’” said Sarah Westfall, Vice President for Student Development and Dean of Students, and a member of the Self-Study Steering Committee. “Because the students are the focus of our work, it’s essential for the visitors to hear from them about their experience; they can’t get an accurate picture without input from the students.”
One student who sat on the Steering Committee agrees that students have a unique voice that needs to be heard. “This college is for the students, and the students are looking at this from a different perspective,” said Senior Biology Major Andrew Miller-Schelberg. “They can give different opinions.”
The purpose of the visit is to get an up-close look at us, says Chair of the Self-Study Steering Committee and Associate Professor of Mathematics Eric Nordmoe. “They’re not here to solve our problems,” he said. “They’re here to see what we’re all about and get students’ perspectives.”
In addition to meeting with students, the HLC team will interview and meet with faculty, staff, trustees, alumni and community partners in an attempt to get as complete a picture as possible about the College.
The 2012 Self-Study process looked in particular at how things have changed at K in the 10 years since the last Self Study. Central themes in the Report, which can be found online, include greater student centeredness and an increased culture of assessment, planning and action. In addition, the Report argues that the K-Plan and Mission are central to what we do at the College, that a K education has a positive effect and that engagement and service pervade K culture, among many other findings.
According to the HLC, accreditation “provides assurance to the public, in particular to prospective students, that an organization has been found to meet the agency’s clearly stated requirements and criteria.” And without accreditation, Kalamazoo College would not be eligible for many kinds of federal support, including federal student-aid programs.
To find out more about what reaccreditation is all about, students are invited to attend the Reaccreditation Information Session Thursday, Sept. 27 from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in Hicks Banquet Hall to learn more about why it matters and to prepare for the HLC team visit.
“It gives them a chance to learn about this centrally important process,” Westfall said. “It’s a unique moment in the life of the College, so that’s pretty cool.”
Miller-Schelberg added that this may be the only chance students have to make such an impact. “It’s a once-in-a-10-year thing,” he said. “I think it’s not something we’ll ever get to do again, to be able to give that input.”
And according to Westfall, there’s a significant payoff for participation. She said “What students have to gain from it is ultimately a better stronger K College.”