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Chancellor’s Message: WASC accreditation report: UH Hilo is going in the right direction

The overall impression of the review team is that we know where we are going and we are going in the right direction.

By Don Straney

WASCLast fall, the accreditation team from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC) made their scheduled visit to the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo and conducted an on-site review. We have now received the team’s report, and I’d like to share with you some thoughts about the findings and recommendations.

The visiting team found our campus very welcoming and engaging and they thoroughly enjoyed their visit. Impressed by the level of commitment and passion exhibited by our students, faculty, staff, and alumni, they commended us on knowing our mission and vision well and in using both to inform what we do.

The overall impression of the team is that we know where we are going and we are going in the right direction. But they did identify several areas they thought we could improve.

While the visiting team was greatly impressed with our applied learning activity, they felt we could improve by hiring a coordinator and adopting campus-wide guidelines. It was our alumni’s enthusiasm for our “living-laboratory” campus that really showed the reviewers that this is the feature at the heart and soul of UH Hilo and what makes us different from many other institutions.

We need some fine tuning in the areas of curriculum, institutional research capacity, and distance learning:

  • Faithful adherence to the published program review schedule, and see that departments receive constructive feedback on the quality of outcomes, assessment plans, and studies. Departments can then use this feedback to improve student learning.
  • Extend assessment of the core competencies outside of the general education program and incorporate in the disciplines and majors through continued assessment and review. This will allow us to better understand the competency level of our graduates and to improve teaching and learning across campus.
  • Develop a strategic and long-range plan for institutional research, and create a campus data warehouse that both interfaces with the UH system and meets local needs.
  • Develop a clear strategy for distance learning, specifically for online courses and degrees, with special attention to adequate resources to support faculty and learning.

The review team encourages us to focus our attention on retention. We are making progress and will continue with our efforts, particularly for transfers and continuing students. (See  cover story in the January issue of the Ka Lono Hanakahi to learn more about current retention efforts.) Next steps include examining more about demographic factors that affect retention and graduation rates and why.

Many people on campus helped with the WASC review. I want to give a special mahalo to the people on UH Hilo’s WASC Accreditation Committee who worked hard preparing the institutional report that served as the basis for the visit. Special thanks to Seri Luangphinith who serves as accreditation liaison officer.

I also want to thank our alumni who met with the team. Their description of UH Hilo as a “transformative educational experience” greatly impressed the review team.

I encourage you to read the entire Report of the WSCUC Visiting Team. I will schedule several “town hall” meetings over the next several weeks to consult with the various campus communities about how we will proceed to address the team’s recommendations.


Don Straney