University to Assess New Vision of Itself for Reaccreditation
Over the next academic year, The New School will undergo an intense “self-study process,” during which it will take an inward look at itself and ultimately produce a State of the Union-esque report about the university’s strengths and weaknesses. This process, and the resulting report, are both being done to satisfy requirements for Middle States, an association that will evaluate The New School for reaccreditation in 2012.
While accreditation is important — it gives a university credibility and, more importantly, allows its students to receive federal financial aid — the most important part of the Middle States review is the process leading up to it — the “self-study process.” This is an exercise in self-reflection that will force the university to ask the dreaded question: What is The New School?
A university-wide steering committee will attempt to answer this question during the coming year. The committee, which will include students, faculty and administration, will be meeting with different members of the university community to hear their concerns, suggestions and opinions on the state of the university.
McWelling Todman and Ron Kassimir, co-chairs of the steering committee, both said that the self-study is more than just a checklist of what The New School is doing right and wrong. While there are certainly some requirements for reaccreditation, Middle States is more concerned about whether or not a university is trying to improve itself.
“I think Middle States hopes this will be a tool for institutions to look really hard at themselves,” said Todman. “It’s intended very much to be a formative exercise, not just simply a checklist.”
Rather than hone in on specific problems at the university — like space or customer service — the self-study will focus on broader issues, like academic quality and innovation, said Kassimir. By assessing such topics, the committee hopes to analyze how The New School is doing as a whole and figure out where it needs to improve.
Part of this began last June, when the assessment of student learning committee was formed. The committee, made up of faculty and administrators from around the university, is looking at how to measure academic quality at The New School.
“We are being asked to step back and try to determine if our programs and majors are meeting their broader goals, and graduating students with the skills and knowledge and capabilities that we have identified as essential,” said David Morgan, an assistant professor of physics at Lang and a representative on the committee, in an email. “We’re being asked to come up with a plan for self-assessing our effectiveness as degree programs.”
By figuring out ways to assess student learning at The New School, the committee will hopefully be able to pinpoint each department’s strengths and weaknesses. This will contribute to the university’s overall self-assessment and plans for improvement.
The self-study process and resulting report from Middle States has the potential to transform The New School. When the university was last reviewed for reaccreditation in 2003, for example, one of the major issues identified by Middle States in its 19-page report was the need for integration among the eight colleges.
“New School University is an important constellation in the academic universe; each of the eight stars shines brightly,” says the report in its introduction.
The lack of integration among The New School’s colleges is still an ongoing problem, but it has made much headway since 2003. This year’s self-study report will include what The New School has done in that area, how well it has worked, and what remains to be done, said Kassimir and Todman.
“The idea is essentially to use the background information to tell a story about where we were, where we are now and where we hope to be,” Todman said.
“Being able to tell the story, both tell it and get feedback on it from outside, is going to be really valuable for the institution,” added Kassimir.