Thirteen months from now the University of Maine at Fort Kent campus community will welcome a team of visitors from the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges to review the institution for re-accreditation, and for almost that many months UMFK has been preparing.
As part of the re-accreditation process, the university has been completing a nearly 100-page self-study report which thoroughly examines every area from the accuracy and effectiveness of the campus mission to UMFK's physical resources.
After months of work, a first comprehensive draft of the self-study is complete and has been posted on the university's web site for review by the campus community.
"A major theme threaded throughout the self study is institutional effectiveness. The self study is fairly comprehensive and organized around a description, appraisal, and projection framework, which endeavors to describe how the full array of standards is met," said Rachel Albert, UMFK associate professor of nursing, who along with Kurt Holzhausen, associate professor of psychology, is co-chairing the self-study process.
"The report provides an overview of how UMFK has progressed in the last decade toward fulfilling its mission and purposes with an eye toward continuous improvement. Additionally, documentary evidence to support assertions of quality made in the self study is integrated throughout the report," added Albert.
As exhaustive as the self-study report is in detail, the document itself is truly the product of nearly every faculty and staff member on the small campus. For nine months, eleven different committees, one representing each of the review areas set by CIHE, have been meeting to assess how UMFK is meeting each standard.
"Virtually no aspect of the working of UMFK is being ignored in this project. It could not be completed without the collective efforts of the entire UMFK community," said Holzhausen.
Many of UMFK's 130 employees have been involved in the process from the very beginning when the university held an initial campus-wide development day in January to introduce the self-study process and what it would entail.
Now, with the initial draft of the various chapters of UMFK's self-study complete, it is time to bring the entire campus community back together for feedback.
On Tuesday, October 12, faculty and staff will come together for a day-long series of sessions to provide input on the written drafts of each chapter.
"The open forum is an extremely important step of the self study process, as it will provide a medium for members of the campus community to have a say in the report. Widespread participation is strongly encouraged, as significant input leads to a strong commitment, which will provide the best possible results," said Albert. "By its nature, a self study is a complex project, which requires perspectives from various institutional constituencies to include faculty, staff, students, and the administration. Ultimately the work should represent the institution as a whole."
In addition to the October 12 campus development day, a number of other forums, at both the University and community levels, will be held throughout the fall to solicit feedback about the report.
"Feedback on the draft at this stage is very important. The upcoming forums will represent the last opportunities we will have to influence the self-study before it is submitted," said Holzhausen.
Albert and Holzhausen are aiming to have the final draft of the self-study document completed by the end of the calendar year. Shortly thereafter, the report will be forwarded to CIHE.
The Commission on Institutions of Higher Education (CIHE) of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, is the regional accreditation agency for over 200 colleges and universities in the six New England states.
The Commission consists of faculty and administrators from affiliated institutions and public members.
It is recognized by the US Department of Education and by the Council on Higher Education Accreditation as being a reliable authority on the quality of institutions of higher education.
Accreditation is voluntary, non-governmental, and self-regulatory. It serves the dual purposes of quality assurance and quality improvement.
UMFK received its last ten-year accreditation in 1995.
The current draft of UMFK's self-study can be found on-line at www.umfk.maine.edu/selfstudy.