A couple weeks ago, Hood students might have noticed quite a few less parking spaces available in the Whitaker lot for a few days.
While some students who tend to run late may have experienced some early morning panic, it was all for a good cause. Beginning March 26, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) visited Hood in an effort to keep Hood an accredited college. The team visited from Sunday until Wednesday at noon.
Hood College, like other private and public universities and colleges in the Mid-Atlantic region, is accredited by the MSCHE.
“It’s important to be accredited for a variety of reasons,” said Donna Bertazzoni, director of the Communications Arts program at Hood and co-chair of the committee who oversaw the reaccreditation process. “It certifies to employers and to graduate schools that our institution meets certain well-defined standards.”
She continued to stress the importance of this reaccreditation by saying that without it, Hood wouldn’t be able to give its students federal financial aid. Also, the college wouldn’t be eligible for the outside accreditation that it has for programs like education, nursing, computer science, business administration and social work.
“In other words, it’s a big deal,” Bertazzoni said.
Middle States is changing its accreditation cycle, and beginning this fall, all institutions will be reviewed on an 8-year cycle instead of the previous 10-year cycle, which Hood College just completed.
A couple years ago, Cindy Emory, the director of the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment, and Bertazzoni attended the “Self-Study Institute,” a workshop for colleges and universities that were entering the self-study review process. Emory and Bertazzoni were named the co-chairs of the Self-Study steering committee, which consists of a group of faculty, staff and administrators who oversaw the reaccreditation process.
“For the next 18 months, we undertook an extensive and intensive self-examination, looking at all areas of the College to ensure that it met the 14 standards outlined in the guidebook we were expected to follow,” Bertazzoni said.
Each of the standards was assigned to a group that included faculty, staff, students and administrators. Each group put together a detailed report that was reviewed by the entire steering committee.
Last summer, once the group reports were completed, Bertazzoni compiled them into a singular report that went through extensive editing and revisions by many across Hood’s campus.
“Their help was invaluable in crafting the final version of the report that was sent to Middle States and the peer review team in February,” Bertazzoni commented.
“In essence, a (MSCHE) team visit is a fact-finding mission,” she said. “The team spends the bulk of its time on campus meeting with various campus constituencies and getting any questions they may have answered.”
They interviewed members of the senior team and had open meetings with students and staff. They also reviewed the documentation that Hood provided to back up what was said in the report.
“I’ve been an evaluator and it is a very intensive process,” said Bertazzoni.
The team allowed students to meet with them in order for their compliments and concerns with Hood and its operations to be heard. The meetings were held on campus for approximately an hour, and the team members listened as students described their experience at Hood.
Overall, the team prepares a report that outlining whether the college meets certain standards and whether they have any recommendations or suggestions.
The team provided a feedback session for any faculty or staff member who could attend during the week.
“They cannot tell us whether they will recommend us for reaccreditation,” said Bertazzoni. “That information is shared only with Middle States. However, they do send us a report that outlines their broad findings and whether they had any commendations, suggestions or recommendations.”
The report has not gone to Middle States yet, but according to Bertazzoni, the team chair indicated the team felt Hood met all of the standards. They provided some suggestions and recommendations for the college as well.
The commission reviews all of the material from each of the colleges they visit at its meeting in June. Hood should know about its reaccreditation status in July.