The University is in the midst of the process of being reaccredited by the Higher Learning Commission — a non-governmental agency that ensures that colleges and universities throughout the Midwest meet certain standards and are of the highest quality.

The process of reaccreditation, which takes place every ten years, consists of two parts: an internal report by the University and a campus visit by a thirteen-person team of experts from the HLC, which will occur from March 15-17. Universities must be accredited in order to receive financial aid money from the federal government.

Each institution’s self-report contains five criteria mandated by the HLC each focused on different aspects of the University. The five areas of analysis are the University’s mission, its preparedness for the future, the in-classroom experience, out of classroom engagement and application of knowledge.

In addition, the University also got the opportunity to pick one topic for special emphasis study. For this portion of the assessment, the University has chosen to focus on internationalization.

In an interview with the Daily earlier this week, University President Mary Sue Coleman said she was looking forward to the HLC’s visit.

“It’s a lot of work, but I think that at the end of the day we’ll find some things that as a result, we can do better that are good,” Coleman said. “So I look forward to it. I think we’ve got a good story to tell. I feel really good about it.”

While the reaccreditation occurs only once every ten years, but the University has been preparing for the past three years. In 2007, University Provost Teresa Sullivan appointed Geology Prof. Ben van der Pluijm to head the University’s self study.

Though there is little doubt that the University will be reaccredited, Sullivan said in an interview on Monday that the process needs to be taken seriously as an opportunity for self-improvement.

“I’m really not worried about us being reaccredited, but it is important to me for us to use this opportunity and not just treat it as one more thing we’ve got to do, but really take advantage of it,” Sullivan said. “Ben van der Pluijm has done a really good job of digging in deeply and we were way ahead of ourselves in getting this report ready.”

Van der Pluijm said the biggest section of the report is the assessment of the learning environment at the University. He said as part of this, the committee came up with learning outcomes tailored to every school and college, which outline what is expected of students graduating from the University.

“We came up with a list of learning outcomes,” van der Pluijm said. “It’s a working document. It doesn’t lock us into anything, but it starts to identify what it means to be a student at the University of Michigan. What you expect for (students) to be when they leave here.”

Van der Pluijm said as part of the study, the committee also came up with a vision statement for the University.

“(The vision statement) is from Mary Sue Coleman and executive officers and it received input from a lot of other people on campus to try to describe how the University of Michigan is today,” he continued. “It’s an extension of our mission statement, but much more practical for our current activities and our current interests; it’s a living document.”

Van der Pluijm added the committee dedicated a portion of the report to explaining the University’s budgetary process.

“We put considerable effort into explaining why and how we do the budget,” he said, “and how we are in relatively good shape compared to some of our peers and give an explanation of that.”

Because of the University’s exemplary reputation, the HLC has allowed the University to select one topic for a special emphasis study. The HLC only allows institutions they feel will be adequate in each of the aforementioned categories, like the University, to produce such reports.

In 2000, the University focused the self-emphasis study on interdisciplinary cooperation. This time around, the study will concentrate on internationalization.

With over 4,000 international undergraduate students and an ever-increasing sense among the student body that the University is part of a global community, van der Pluijm said internationalization was a logical choice.

With more students traveling abroad Sullivan said the University chose this theme to advance the study abroad program.

“We’re thinking about different models,” she said. “I think the old model of spending one semester of my junior year in Florence isn’t what people want to do for study abroad anymore.”

“I think that they’ve got different ideas in mind. Maybe it would be three weeks in Beijing and three weeks in Nairobi and comparing and contrasting what you saw in terms of water treatment systems in those two places,” she continued. “There’s a lot more ways to make it relevant to your program and more than tourism.”

Sullivan said though many questions remain about what changes may need to be made to the University’s study abroad office, the University may consider consolidating the study abroad offices.

“Other Big Ten schools have a single study abroad office, we don’t,” Sullivan said. “We tend to have each school or college develop its own. That would be a logical thing to look at.”

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