John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education

Linking the Foundations of Excellence® to Accreditation by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education

Betsy Q. Griffin, Ph.D., Senior Associate Vice President

John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education

Of the 197 institutions that have participated in the Foundations of Excellence® (FoE), 31 are from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education region.  Among its models for institutional self-study Middle States includes two approaches that allow institutions to select a special emphasis, which might include a focus on the first year of college. The comprehensive model requires institutions to address all fourteen standards, but this can be done with an emphasis on one or more issues that are addressed in relation to appropriate standards. The selected topics model allows accredited institutions to devote concentrated attention on topics they select.  However, Middle States institutions don’t have to select one of these approaches to link their FoE work to accreditation. Middle States institutions have found many ways to link their FoE work and their accreditation self-studies regardless of the model they selected. The following brief summaries of the connections made between the two self studies were compiled from descriptions provided by FoE process leaders at the institutions.

Nazareth College of Rochester was one of the Founding Institutions that participated in the 2003-2004 pilot of the Foundations of Excellence. The FoE timing dovetailed nicely with Middle States accreditation self-study, which was occurring at the same time. The FoE self-study was referenced in the following narratives:  1- Mission, Goals and Objectives, 2- Planning, Resource Allocation and Institutional Renewal, 8- Student Admissions, 9- Student Support Services, and 14- Assessment of Student Learning. The Middle States Review Team was also provided with the complete Phase 2 FoE report with attachments. FoE was extremely valuable to the Nazareth Middle States Review, as the process provided data and in-depth analysis of areas that may not have been available otherwise.

Georgian Court University participated in the Foundations of Excellence as part of the 2006-2007 four-year cohort. Georgian Court described its participation in FoE in several areas of the self-study for its spring 2009 Middle States review. FoE was included as part of the institutional assessment process in compliance with standard 7 and in the chapter on standard 8 (admissions and retention). The FoE finding that many of the first-year courses are taught by adjuncts and the recommendation to increase the proportion of full-time faculty members teaching those courses were included. The Georgian Court Middle States report also discussed many of the recommendations generated for the FoE report regarding improving the first-year experience and retention, including improving academic advising, implementing an early warning system, and developing a master schedule.

Tompkins Cortland Community College was a part of the 2006-2007 two-year cohort. They conducted the FoE study at the same time as their Middle States self study. Tompkins Courtland integrated the FoE findings and recommendations into the Middle States self-study discussions of the standards and the final chapter recommendations. In particular, three recommendations, Continue Residential Campus Development , Improve and Expand Student Transition Programming, and Increase Student and Community Connections, from the  final chapter of the Middle States report integrate the FoE recommendations.

Gallaudet University participated in the Foundations of Excellence as part of the 2006-2007 four-year cohort. Their final FoE report with action recommendations was developed in fall of 2007. The FoE findings and plan of action set a standard of using evidence to make recommendations and decisions and guided and supported many aspects of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education report. The FoE process and subsequent evidence based recommendations were central to the response to Middle States, particularly in regards to those standards relating to educational effectiveness: Standards 8- Admissions and Retention, 9- Support Services,11- Educational Offerings, 12- General Education and 14- Assessment of Student Learning. The Foundations of Excellence self-study provided Gallaudet with an excellent planning process for accreditation, strategic planning, and helped to lay the foundation for continuing improvement throughout the entire undergraduate experience.

Suffolk County Community College participated in the Foundations of Excellence as part of the 2008-2009 cohort after completing their Middle States review in 2007. After the completion of their FoE process Suffolk County Community College began pursuing a Title III grant and some other federal grants. One of the anchors in this grant preparation process was making a clear and direct link with the FoE recommendations and the Middle States review. Through the College’s review process, they were able to identify 3 to 4 themes that connect the FoE self study with the Middle States process. These themes represent recommendations from the FoE self study that link very directly with recommendations from the Middle States review.