The Student Life Committee (SLC) met with Director of Academic Assessment Leah Adams-Curtis during its regular meeting Tuesday to address the ongoing process of assessment in the context of student life.
Accreditation is generally regarded as an academic matter, but as is often said during SLC meetings, student life is part of the academic mission of the college and Adams-Curtis said that questions about student life would not be far-fetched.
“I would put large amounts of money that the next time the HLC (Higher Learning Commission) comes back for a full accreditation visit, they are going to be looking for how we assess the contributions of student life to our student outcomes,” Adams-Curtis said.
Much of the discussion was geared toward explaining what accreditation is and why it is important, and Adams-Curtis said it is important for an institution to identify and to be able to articulate the goals for its students.
“Assessment is, in a nutshell, ensuring that students at academic instutitions learn and do the things that we say they learn and do,” Adams-Curtis said.
Professor of Theatre and SLC chair Elizabeth Carlin-Metz explained how SLC can play a role in the accreditation process and that it should be conscious of that role. She said the committee should not be the “primary instrument” for the process, but it should have a voice in the process and serve as a “conduit for information.”
Adams-Curtis told student members and attendees of the committee about how the accreditation process can be valuable to them and to the organizations they represent.
“For those of you who represent various student groups, a lot of times you’re interested in these data because it helps you inform the rest of the college community how your activities are valuable to its members,” Adams-Curtis said.
Although questions about student life are not at the forefront of the accreditation process, Dean of Students Debbie Southern said, the Office of Student Development (OSD) is “running alongside” it and paying attention to the process, so that when those questions are imminent, her office will not be caught off-guard.
Southern also expressed to Carlin-Metz how SLC can assist OSD during the accreditation process, citing conversation and prioritization as ways to help give the process some more validity. She said most of the information gathered by members of OSD is largely “anecdotal” and should shift to the more “concrete.”
“I think this committee should provide independent critical analysis of what’s going on,” committee member and Professor of Biology Stuart Allison said. “I think the strength of the committee is the combination of faculty and students … coming together, we might be able to understand better what’s going on from both perspectives.”
Adams-Curtis said the committee should largely help to “frame the big questions” that are asked throughout the accreditation process.
SLC meets every Tuesday at 4 p.m. in Borzello Hall 116. Its meetings are open to the public.