Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I am Thankful for the Blessings of 2010: #2 -- Accreditation

[As the year comes to an end, I am listing a few of the things that happened during 2010 for which I am most thankful. The list is not in order of significance.]

I am thankful for the opportunity to contribute to the reaffirmation of accreditation for our seminary. Last summer the commission on accreditation for the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada reaffirmed the accreditation of our degrees for ten years. In December a year ago the commission of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools also reaffirmed our accreditation for ten years.

I directed our school through both accreditation projects as I had done ten years earlier. Only, in the first series we were able to combine the processes into one program. This time changes at SACS required us to complete two separate processes almost simultaneously. In both cases I gave four to five years of my life to getting our accreditation reaffirmed and in both cases I was publicly thanked, at least once.

Directing the reaffirmation processes is a little difficult to describe. When I was first assigned the task in 1995, God spoke very plainly to me that He had brought me to the Seminary at that time for that purpose. I accepted the role as a divine call with a corresponding sense of responsibility. Frankly, it was an enormous task. Although we were already accredited by both associations, we had not fully implemented the programs and processes needed to maintain that accreditation. We did not have “a culture of assessment and effectiveness,” the catchwords for accreditation. In other words, we had done what was needed to get accredited but we had not internalized the accreditation standards especially as it related to Institutional Effectiveness. While directing the reaffirmation process I was also designing and implementing an institution-wide program of planning and effectiveness in an environment that did not see the need for long-range planning. I injured my health in the process; it was an uphill battle to get us reaffirmed.

When the assignment came again in 2005 I didn’t feel the same sense of divine call. It was no longer my job to get us reaffirmed; my job was to direct the process that (1) reminded everyone of the accreditation standards, (2) designed a program for departmental self-assessment and reporting, (3) monitored and supervised progress, and (4) combined the efforts of others into two single reports. It was a lot of stressful work, but I was not driven to help the school meet the standards; my job was to supervise the comprehensive programs of self-assessment. I was no longer responsible for whether we met the standards or not; I was responsible for whether we met the standards relative to the preparation of institutional self-studies. The administrators and faculty are responsible for meeting the day-to-day standards. That is the way it is supposed to work.

In the end, our school came out very well with both associations, much better than I expected. I was certain we would be reaffirmed by both, but I expected multiple notations by both requiring a myriad of follow-up reports. We only had a couple with each association. Those who have been involved with accreditation will know that our's was an exceptionally good outcome. Most schools have multiple notations.

I am thankful our accreditation was reaffirmed and that I directed the processes. It is largely a misunderstood and thankless job. I got no extra pay for it, just a reduction in teaching load. I am confident my roll was critical to the process and my gifts were well used. I did a good job and that feels good. A large bonus would have been great, but I’m content with self aggrandizement.

Cleveland, Tennessee
December 15, 2010 (P.M.)

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