Accreditation, Assessment, and Factbooks, Oh My!

Lindsey Graham Guinn is Director of Assessment & Institutional Research at Washington & Jefferson College.

eAIR: Your institution, Washington & Jefferson College (W&J), will have a 10-year accreditation visit in 2018-2019 from the Middle States Commission. At a high level, as a Co-Accreditation Liaison Officer, how will you prepare your college for that visit?

Co-Chair and Accreditation Liaison Responsibilities

  • Appoint a 12-person diverse steering committee with equal representation of faculty and administrative staff, which began its work in early spring 2016.
  • Set the agenda for steering committee meetings and provide oversight of work group activities.
  • Select and appoint seven work group chairs and members for each of the standards.
  • Develop a timetable for the self-study process, which is key to producing a coherent and effective self-study report.
  • Prepare a self-study design and documentation roadmap following the format provided by MSCHE.
  • Set the agenda and host a self-study preparation preparatory visit by our staff liaison at MSCHE.
  • Communicate with the community and key stakeholders throughout the entire self-study process.
  • Provide opportunities (open meetings, surveys, focus groups, etc.) for faculty, staff, students, alumni, and trustees to offer input and feedback on self-study issues.
  • Meet with the chair of the evaluation team to go over logistics about the team visit.
  • Coordinate the writing process.
  • Complete the report on compliance with accreditation-relevant federal regulations the semester before the evaluation visit.
  • Review the self-study for final submission (President and Trustee approval).
  • Submit the final self-study.
  • Coordinate the logistics of the team visit.
  • Host the visiting team.
  • Provide an institutional response to the visiting team’s report.
  • Acknowledge receipt of MSCHE action and if warranted a response to a follow-up report.

Generally, an institution begins planning two to three years before re-accreditation by the Commission is scheduled to occur. In 2016, the President of W&J officially appointed a senior faculty member and me as co-chairs to coordinate every aspect of the self-study process at W&J, as reflected in the duties to the right.

eAIR: What are some key points you could suggest to those tasked with creating and implementing a college-wide assessment strategy and plan?

Assessment at W&J has taken on many forms in our 230+ years of existence. Historically, W&J had data collection practices; however, upon my arrival to the college in 2015, we needed to regularize our assessment strategies and ensure they were consistent and centralized. One of my first tasks was to lead the process in developing a comprehensive college-wide assessment plan.

General tips for implementing a college-wide assessment strategy and plan:

  • Develop an assessment committee structure so that you can work collaboratively with faculty and staff.
  • Offer educational workshops to both faculty and staff to provide education opportunities on the assessment processes and practices.
  • Develop an assessment manual for faculty and staff so that all instructions, how-to guides, and institutional rubrics are located in a centralized place.
  • Communicate regularly with faculty and staff and provide updates on the process.
  • Ensure that your assessment strategy and plan is sustainable since you do not have to assess everything every year.
  • Consider attending a number of assessment conferences to learn how other institutions go about assessment.
  • Develop yearly assessment report templates for faculty and staff so that there is a structured process for annual reports.
  • Work with senior administration to be sure that assessment is tied to the budgeting and planning.
  • Share assessment data regularly with the entire community.
  • Most importantly, do everything you can to support the faculty and staff in the assessment process at your institution.

eAIR: As the author and producer of the Washington & Jefferson Institutional Factbook, what would you tell someone who is tasked with this type of project? Why is it important, and how might they get started?

I produced the first ever W&J factbook in 2015, and I update it each year. The purpose of the factbook is to serve as a comprehensive summary of statistics and information for the W&J community.

​​Advantages of preparing a factbook
  • All data and information is located in one centralized​​ document.​
  • It provides data and information of interest to faculty, staff, students, alumni, and trustees.
  • It minimizes data requests from the community.
  • It helps other offices who report or share data provide consistent and accurate information.
  ​Suggestions for developing a factbook
  • Make a list of data that campus offices typically request on your campus.
  • Consult with campus offices for their input on what data from their areas is important .
  • Consider using data that you are already calculating for the Common Data Set (CDS), etc.
  • Organize the factbook so it makes sense to your institution.
  • Consider grouping data in categories (admissions, finance, academic affairs, human resources, etc.) so it is easy for faculty, staff, students, alumni, and trustees to find information.
  • Be sure to post it in a place that is easily accessible.


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