In anticipation of an on-site visit from the Higher Learning Commission October 29-31, Capital University has made public a report on the findings of the most extensive, data-informed and collaborative examination of the fulfillment of its mission in nearly a decade.
Two years in the making, Capital’s comprehensive self-study report is more than a means of demonstrating continuous improvement. It’s a celebration of the learning community’s proud history, identity and accomplishments, entwined with a realistic look at its challenges and a bold vision for achieving its desired future.
Prior to the HLC site visit, during which a team from the accreditor will be on campus for several days of scheduled and spontaneous conversation about how Capital is fulfilling its mission to “transform lives through higher education,” all students, faculty, and staff should think about how the work they do is connected to that mission. All faculty and staff are especially encouraged to read the self-study report so they can be prepared to answer questions that the site visit team might ask about Capital University and the self-study.
|“Institutional accreditation provides external validation of the education that Capital University delivers and is an important signal to employers and graduate programs.”
– Andrea M. Karkowski, Ph.D.
For 91 years, Capital has been accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, and it’s seeking to reaffirm that accreditation for another decade.
The site visit is one of five steps institutions must complete to fulfill the HLC’s Program to Evaluate and Advance Quality, the method by which Capital maintains its status as an HLC-accredited institution. Completing the two-year self-study and reporting on the findings was the first of those five steps. All of this demonstrates the Capital’s continuous improvement and compliance with the commission’s criteria for accreditation.
Colleges and universities seek accreditation voluntarily because it’s an independent confirmation of the rigor and effectiveness of the education they offer. Institutions are evaluated every 10 years to prove they are still worthy of accreditation.
“Institutional accreditation provides external validation of the education that Capital University delivers and is an important signal to employers and graduate programs.” — Andrea M. Karkowski, Ph.D., co-chair of Capital's HLC steering committee.
Given that the university’s preparation for reaccreditation began just as work on creating its strategic plan finished, President Denvy A. Bowman took advantage of the synergy to propel the university forward. In announcing the start of the self-study process during a February 2010 Faculty Senate meeting, Dr. Bowman drew a clear connection between the report and implementation of the university’s emerging strategic plan, Our Focus. Our Future.
That spring, upon returning from the HLC Annual Conference, a delegation of faculty and administrators explored the possibility of petitioning the HLC for a special emphasis self-study, to formally infuse the re-accreditation with implementing the strategic plan.
In early fall 2010 Provost Richard Ashbrook convened a core steering team, which worked in tandem with members of the President’s Cabinet and other institutional leaders, to develop the design of the self-study, articulate the rationale, and establish a timeline for the self-study’s completion. The HLC granted the request in March.
Shortly thereafter, the core steering team aligned the HLC Criteria for Accreditation with the strategic directions identified in the institution’s strategic plan, and charged those compiling data for the report to demonstrate not only compliance with accreditation standards, but also a clear connection to the strategic plan.
Following months of data collection, refinement, regular meetings of the core steering team, a summer of writing followed by community forums and online surveys soliciting feedback, and final editing, the document is now complete.
Our Focus. Our Future. Capital University’s Comprehensive Self-Study offers readers a holistic, university-wide perspective — reflecting on the past; studying the present; and planning for the future.
“This report is both a celebration of the work that Capital has done during the last decade and a guide to what we will do during the next decade,” Karkowski explained. “As the outcome of broad community participation, the self-study report captures and articulates the many diverse perspectives and experiences of Capital students, faculty, and staff.”
In addition to the ultimate outcome — producing a valuable self-study report — the innovative approach of aligning the self-study with strategic plan implementation, and the rigor with which that work was carried out, fueled new ideas for programs that will strengthen the student and alumni experience.
“We identified ways to better connect students to alumni and the community. These mentoring networks with alumni will promote student learning directly and extend learning beyond graduation for Capital alumni. Having students engaged in the community will help to prepare students to live and work in a diverse society.”
The work also led to the University’s participation in the Foundations of Excellence program, a nationally recognized program that helps colleges and universities create learning environments that support student engagement and degree completion.
It led to the discovery that Capital students, faculty, and staff are (often too modestly) engaged in innovative teaching, scholarship, and service, along with new ways or recognizing those endeavors, like the recently announced Celebrations of Excellence series.
The self-study also highlighted a shared commitment to tenants of higher education in the Lutheran tradition that can be found in the earliest days of Capital — student learning, fostering critical thinking, and diversity — along with characteristics of the Capital education that have emerged through the years — students’ personal and professional development, providing a supportive environment for students, and engaging in experiential learning, and conducting scholarship and research.
“These are shared values that help make a Capital University education distinctive,” Karkowski said.
The report is segmented into nine sections, five of which address in great details Capital’s compliance with the five criteria for accreditation:
- Mission and Integrity — The organization operates with integrity to ensure the fulfillment of its mission through structures and processes that involve the board, administration, faculty, staff, and students.
- Preparing for the Future — The organization’s allocation of resources and its processes for evaluation and planning demonstrate its capacity to fulfill its mission, improve the quality of its education, and respond to future challenges and opportunities.
- Student Learning and Effectiveness — The organization provides evidence of student learning and teaching effectiveness that demonstrates it is fulfilling its educational mission.
- Acquisition, Discovery and Application of Knowledge — The organization promotes a life of learning for its faculty, administration, staff, and students by fostering and supporting inquiry, creativity, practice, and social responsibility in ways consistent with its mission.
- Engagement and Service — As called for by its mission, the organization identifies its constituencies and serves them in ways both value
It also introduces readers to Capital’s rich history, its growth, progress, and recent accomplishment, and provides a snapshot of the institution, from demographics of the student body and the faculty to recruitment and admission, financial aid, and retention and program activity.
Download the full report here (6.9 M/PDF). Please note: The self-study report contains many links to other documents that provide the evidence supporting the report's claims. Consistent with the self-study practice at many universities, some of these documents are on publicly accessible webpages while other links lead to documents in Capital’s internal SharePoint site, CapPoint. The documents in CapPoint are available to all Capital University employees and to the Higher Learning Commission site visit team — login information is required to access these internal documents.
If you have questions or wish to offer feedback about Capital’s Self-Study report, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.