Anticipating Accreditation

Facing the accreditation of a school is not easy.  It’s a demanding process of review, discussion, fact finding and introspection and it is simply daunting.

I spent a day high over Michigan Avenue in Chicago listening to the teams of AEJMC reviewers report on the accreditation visits at 23 universities yesterday.  It began at 8:30 in the morning and they got to the last one at 5:00 as many ran to the airport for flights to university campuses across the country.  I had not looked forward to the day – I knew it would be long and somewhat tedious.  I did not expect it to be so enlightening.
I heard comments about curriculum, tenure, scholarship and skills.  I listened to the narratives of journalism programs fighting for support from administrations, of budget woes in state systems on opposite coasts, of the difficulties in shaping more diverse faculties.  It became fascinating to hear about other campus’ struggles and successes.  We all get caught up in our own strategic needs and plans for the future, but we have much in common.
I felt very lucky as I heard about some of the problems committed faculty face on other campuses.  I felt more lucky when I heard about some schools’ less than impressive scholarship or failed attempts at strengthening its underrepresented faculty numbers.  I realize how much we have in Chapel Hill and what a strong foundation this school is building upon.
That doesn’t mean the next six months will be easier as we drill down into data, articulate our strategic initiatives and prepare for a comprehensive analysis of our assessment of student learning.  This is not easy to do – but after listening to hours of discussion about the power of an academic program and thought about its importance in the lives of our graduates, I decided it is time well spent.

As the J-school at UNC, we have spent a year talking about direction, shaping a strategic plan called The Path Forward, and we are now challenging our curriculum to make sure it stretches our students.  I’ve decided we can expect nothing less from our graduates than they invent modern media – whether they are in news or advertising or strategic communications.

The phrases that will energize me as we systematically review our ideas and program: Is it working?  Is it consistent?  Is it assessing real growth?  Is it about learning? Is everyone involved?  Can we be better?

If it was a long day in a hotel conference room in Chicago yesterday. I realize it will be a longer year preparing and focusing staff and faculty on the process.  I look forward to next year this time when I can look back at it all. At least now I also know it will be a process that will be powerful and that can energize all we are already about.


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