(and why you should know about it!)
By Alannah Shinde
From April 6th through the 8th, a committee team from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC) visited the UH Hilo campus to review its accreditation that involved a day of public discussion and comments, a review period, and a final meeting that detailed their conclusions. The team rescheduled its visit from six months ago to this week in April after COVID-19 concerns.
Other than receiving constructive comments and suggestions to ways to improve the school, accreditation is vital to the majority of students on campus, as it is mandatory in order to participate in financial aid programs at both state and federal levels. It benefits all who receive Pell grants and other programs that help fund the costs of their education. For both transfer and aspiring graduate students, it is key to credit transfer and a requirement for many graduate programs.
Open meetings on April 7th offered confidential space for separate groups of students and faculty to share their thoughts with WSCUC committee members on the quality of the collegiate experience at UH Hilo. A private email was also made so individuals could also send in their piece on their own time, with the promise that each would be involved in the body of material for the board to review.
After the review period, the last day began with the committee thanking UH Hilo and all of its students, faculty, and educators for their contributions to the discussion and the beauty of their campus. Within the discussion period, they shared four commendations and eight recommendations as listed below.
- Its strong sense of place and the mindfulness with which it respects the institution's historical and situational context.
- Commitment to renormalizing and promoting the study of Indigenous languages and cultures.
- Building and maintaining strong program connections to the community and grounding the institution's scientific and applied work in the region's cultural backgrounds.
- Emphasis on high impact practices including service learning, Hawaiʻi Pan-Pacific courses, and global and community citizenship integrated into the requirements.
- Embrace authentic and transparent communication across the campus to improve shared governance that engages all constituents.
- Reconcile the 2021-2031 strategic plan with the UH Hilo community…Ensure the forthcoming academic plan is aligned with a reconciled campus plan.
- Develop a shared understanding of student success and track metrics that reflect this understanding to better support students and identify and address their barriers to graduation.
- Institutionalize a culture of data informed decision making and expand the capacity and role of the office of institutional research.
- Develop and implement a comprehensive enrollment management plan that reflects the institution’s mission and is based on research and analysis with current and prospective students.
- Continue the institution’s progress in program review and implement program learning outcomes assessment across all programs in order to make informed decisions to program improvement.
- Adopt a proactive approach to financial planning to ensure greater fiscal sustainability.
- Increase transparency process to communicate priorities and clarify the basis upon which decisions are made.
After three weeks of report finalization, its draft will be sent to Chancellor Bonnie Irwin, where it will be looked over for factual errors, to be reported within 10 days. Once that is done, the report will be sent that incorporates corrections to be met with UH Hilo’s formal response. All of which will be shared with the WASC commission before the 2022 meeting, of which Chancellor Irwin will be invited to sit on the panel. The committee action letter will be sent with a request for reaffirmation thereafter.