March 10, 2023
Thanks to Joseph Coulson, HMU President, for today’s post.
On February 17, the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) sent official notice of Harrison Middleton University’s renewal of accreditation through 2028.
The process of renewal or “reaccreditation” seems never a hot topic for discussion, but it represents, in the end, an important affirmation for our university, a benchmark that signifies the quality, efficacy, and integrity of the HMU experience. It also speaks well of the people that make the experience happen on a daily basis: faculty, staff, administrators, and especially the students—the lifelong learners that make HMU part of their journey.
Our renewal of accreditation comes as the culmination of a year-long process that began with a comprehensive internal review and the systematic creation of a Self-Evaluation Report or SER. This report, based on DEAC’s evaluative template, scrutinized every aspect of the institutional structure at HMU. We responded to a lengthy series of questions that focused on our mission, strategic planning, financial stability, business operations, marketing and promotional values, admissions, delivery of curricula through distance education, assessments to evaluate student learning, program outcomes, administrative leadership, faculty recruitment and qualifications, and, most importantly, student support, achievement, and satisfaction—and this, of course, is an abbreviated list! The SER in totality, not including its exhibits and appendices, came in at 291 pages and sought to demonstrate the ways in which HMU exemplifies the highest educational standards.
In the fall of 2022, we submitted the SER, and then DEAC assigned a group of external, subject specialists to evaluate our curricula and instructional methods. After that, on October 18, a distinguished group of educators and administrative leaders from other universities arrived at our administrative office in Tempe, Arizona, and, using the SER as their foundational text, conducted a series of in-depth interviews with HMU’s Humanities Advisory Council, administrators, faculty, staff, current students, and alumni. The site-visit team came with a purpose: to discover (in person and with access to all pertinent documentation) if the SER as submitted presented a true and comprehensive picture of the university. In other words, the visiting team wanted to know if what we say is, in fact, what we do.
Marcus Conley, Michael Curd, Rebecca Fisher, Lauren Guthrie, Alissa Simon, and Kathleen Sondrol were key players in organizing, writing, and editing the SER, an effort which received a special commendation from the Chair of the visiting team. Thanks to members of the Humanities Advisory Council, faculty, and staff who answered questions and shared their experiences during interviews. And special thanks to current students and alums who provided the visiting team with insights into HMU’s goals and outcomes.
The process of renewal that I’ve sketched for you here is no small matter. Accredited schools in fifty states, every five years, must reapply for accreditation. This is part of a regulatory system that guarantees academic quality and integrity for students, communities, states, and the nation—which is really the common good writ large. The Department of Education, in order to promote and guarantee the highest standards in schools and colleges, recognizes a network of accrediting agencies, some of which provide the necessary authority and expertise to evaluate institutions of higher learning. DEAC, with its specialization in distance learning, is one of these agencies. It works in concert with the Department of Education and other state and national organizations, such as the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), to monitor best practices and institutional stability, to ensure that students get what they pay for, and to provide students with confidence that institutions and programs have been evaluated and adhere to rigorous standards established by education industry professionals.
It should be noted that HMU has now been granted renewal of accreditation five times since its first accreditation in 2003. Every stakeholder in HMU should take pride in this accomplishment and, at the same time, recognize the absolute authority of our student-centered programs and instructional methods. We occupy a niche in higher education that, once again, has been upheld unconditionally by DEAC and its academic partners.
Congratulations and thanks to everyone in the HMU community.
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