In an interview with campus media yesterday, University President John DeGioia discussed Georgetown’s approaching re-accreditation process, for which the University has been preparing for over a year. DeGioia commented on the “intense experience” that re-accreditation is for the University:
We go through a formal accreditation this spring, and we do that every ten years. The chair of our visiting team was here in November, was here for a two-day visit, and the whole team will come on the first of April, and so we’re looking forward to that. I have some experience being in that role- I’ve chaired two accrediting teams in the last three years. I chaired the accreditation last year for Villanova University and the year before that Harvard University. So these are intense experiences, whether you’re on the visiting team or the university being visited. We’re ready and we’re looking forward to it.
Earlier in the evening, Associate Provost Marjory Blumenthal and Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson hosted a town-hall meeting to present and discuss findings from the university’s self-study for their upcoming re-accreditation by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
The self-study focused on four areas: planning, institutional assessment, general education, and assessment of student learning.
In regards to planning, Blumenthal said that Georgetown has no singular strategic planning document, which made assessment more difficult. Instead of one document, Georgetown expressed its mission and values in the planning and executions of its initiatives. Recently the university has been collecting more data to support its planning, according to Blumenthal. For instance, Chief Operating Officer Christopher Augostini uses the Hoya Roundtables and Hoya Innovation to collect data for the departments under his watch. Also, the university has a new Office of Assessment and Decision Support headed by Michael McGuire to help institutional analysis of administrative planning.
Speaking of, under institutional assessment, the steering committee assessed the university in terms of several key themes. The first theme was strengthening the university’s research profile, which is distinct from peer institutions. For example, most of the university’s federally-funded research comes from the Medical Center, and a large portion of the other research centers concern policy and inter-religious understanding.
Another topic under institutional assessment is “educational excellence,” meaning how well-defined, cohesive, and effective academic programs are. The university is trying to have majors clearly define their goals and how each required class fits into the goals. For instance, 90% of syllabi now have course goals listed on them, although sometimes they describe course content instead of learning objectives.
Vice President for Mission and Ministry Kevin O’Brien added, “The goals is to create a culture of accountability among the professors who haven’t had formal education training.”
For the general education requirements, Olson announced a new standing body of faculty from all four undergraduate schools that will continuously look at the general education requirements (theology, philosophy, and writing). The steering committee saw three areas that needed the most work: oral communication, writing, and math and sciences.
Regarding writing, Blumenthal announced that they are in the discussion phase of reconceptualizing the writing program to make it less dependent on one department. For math and science, the steering committee sees the new science center as an important step in expanding Georgetown’s science capacity. One hope is that after the faculty is expanded, they will be able to offer a wider array of courses for non-science majors (and not just STIA).
Finally, regarding assessment of student learning, Olson mentioned the university’s high-impact practices that bridge student’s curricular and co-curricular lives, especially undergraduate research. In comparison with other universities, Georgetown has a low participation rate in undergraduate research. As increasing participation in undergraduate research is one of the university’s clear goals for the coming decade, according to Olson, the steering committee recommended the creation of a Center for Undergraduate Research and Inquiry.