HLC Reaffirmation of Accreditation Update

Highlights of the Assurance Argument Pt. 5

September 13th, 2016

This post coincides with our arrival at the top of the sidebar timeline: Lockdown!  Although we reached an earthly goal, it reminds us that we have a real and eternal goal.  “I pursue toward the goal for the prize to which God in Christ Jesus has call me upward.” (Phil. 3:14)

This final Highlight summarizes Criterion 5: Resources, Planning, and Institutional Effectiveness.  We argue here that Cedarville is sustainable and plans strategically for the future.

Responsible fiscal management.  We have shown through the history of our past strategic plans and through our management of finances and spending allocations that we are a sound and sustainable institution.  Based upon many careful considerations and informed by our strategic plan, our annual budget is carefully created by the President and Cabinet over a period of months, then approved by the Trustees.

Clear Roles and Communication.  Not only are we fiscally sound, the various functions and roles of the employees are well defined in our University By-laws and Policy Handbooks.  Trustees, Administration, Faculty, and Staff all have very clear responsibilities that allow the University to function like a well-oiled machine.  Systems of evaluation and assessment of individual personnel incite employees to continually improve their performance.  The organization of the University is such that it allows for frequent, thorough, and regular communication among the various offices and departments.  This infrastructure allows us to do our best work, learn from other areas, and work together effectively.

Strategic Planning.  Over the last year we have developed a new strategic plan. Our current Vision Statement was developed as part of that plan: “Cedarville University will be an exemplary Christian institution known for commitment to academic excellence, submission to biblical authority, passion for the Great Commission, and intentional discipleship that transforms lives for godly service, vocational distinction, and cultural engagement.” The Strategic Values of the plan are 1) Biblical Authority, 2) Comprehensive Education, 3) Godly Service, 4) Transformed Lives, and 5) Faithful Stewardship.  The Core Strategies of the plan are 1) Academic Excellence, 2) Gospel Impact, 3) Institutional Sustainability, 4) Program Innovation, and 5) Vibrant Community. Implementation of the strategic plan is taking place in the current academic year, 2016-17.

Campus-wide Assessment.  Finally we show that in every division, across all areas of the campus community, systems for continuous improvement are producing a culture of assessment.  Although we present an argument for academic program review and student learning assessment in Criterion 4: Teaching and Learning, in Criterion 5 we feature every division and what they are doing for quality improvement.  Administration, Academics, Advancement, Athletics, Business, Enrollment Management and Marketing, and Student Life and Christian Ministries are making significant improvements based on feedback from you, the users of those areas, outside evaluators, and their own internal controls.

Highlights of the Assurance Argument Pt. 4: Cedarville Assesses Its Curriculum

September 6th, 2016

I’m sure that by now you’ve had your fill of the “A” words: Accreditation, Assessment, Assurance, Argument, Assumed (practices).  I certainly have, yet I have to keep telling myself that “A” is the top grade for any Academic (ah, another “A” word) endeavor.  That can only be a good thing.  We are almost to the end of this long process, so please join me in embracing the “A’s” just a little bit longer.  We’re almost there! Alpha is about to become Omega.

Please join me in this 4th of 5 posts featuring highlights of the Assurance Argument.

Cedarville Assesses its Curriculum.  All of the assessment policies and processes involve faculty who operate under the responsibilities spelled out in Shared Governance in the Faculty Handbook (2.6).

Regular Program Review.  This is a systematic review of every academic program. Last year, the regular cycle of program review was reinstated after a short hiatus.  This is an important part of Assessment for HLC.  It involves examination by faculty, administration, and, if a program is recommended for discontinuation, a decision by the Trustees.

Curriculum Proposal Processes.  These are another means of evaluating curriculum change or new curriculum or program proposals.  Depending on the type of proposal, it may need to be approved by up to three levels, and may even need to go to the Trustees for approval. (Faculty Handbook 4.2 and 4.3)

Student Learning Outcome Assessment.  This refers to data that has been continuously gathered from every Department or School.  Data are derived from assignments that can be mapped to Course Objectives all the way to the Portrait Statements and are determined by faculty-created or University-developed rubrics. Analyses of Student Learning Outcomes examine the effectiveness of the course and program objectives in resultant, measurable learning outcomes.  The Office of Assessment and Accreditation has been gathering regular and consistent data on entry or Freshman level and late or Senior level data since 2011.  The Office has been making great gains in developing systems for university-wide curriculum assessment. You should be confident that the Academic area is continually assessing itself and using that data to make improvements in its programs.

Highlights of the Assurance Argument Pt. 3: Cedarville Offers High-Quality Education

August 30th, 2016

This is the third in a series of Updates summarizing our Assurance Argument.  These highlights cover Criterion 3: Teaching and Learning: Quality, Resources, and Support. 

Qualified Faculty and Staff. In our hiring practices, both Human Resources and the various divisions and departments have multiple policies and processes to assure that we hire only the most qualified faculty and staff.  In addition to documented faculty qualifications there is a new HLC Faculty Qualifications mandate coming in Sept. 2017 that will require specific qualifications or tested experience for teaching a specific course.  Although this is not required by HLC until over a year from now,  under the direction of Dr. McClain, Dean of Graduate and Extended Learning Programs, faculty created and approved the Faculty Qualifications Policy at the end of 2015. Teaching qualifications for particular courses were developed by faculty in each department/school.  Dr. Thomas Mach, Assistant Vice President for Academics, is overseeing the compliance with the coming guidelines.  Processes for this include the collection and monitoring of the faculty qualifications and tested experience identified by each department/school, regular faculty file audits conducted by the Office of the Vice President for Academics, and an upcoming  feature in Ellucian (the University’s enterprise resource planning system) that will issue a red flag if a faculty member is assigned to teach courses for which he/she is not qualified.

Multiple Modalities. Courses taught in multiple modalities is an area that will come under special scrutiny as well.  HLC requires that courses maintain the same rigor and content regardless of the mode of delivery, be it face-to-face, online, hybrid, or compressed.  Additionally we must guarantee that the growing College Now program for high school students to take college-level courses for dual credit must use only regular qualified CU professors.  We may not ‘dumb down’ any courses for high-school students.  As a matter of fact, we  don’t offer any courses for high-schoolers only;  all enrolled high-school students are integrated with our own regularly enrolled undergraduate students.  Furthermore, we must prove that courses dual-listed as undergraduate/graduate for our growing graduate programs  must show a suitable increase of content and rigor for the graduate student.

Co-curriculars and Support Services. As we all know, a student’s education is not limited to Academics alone, and we are very happy to report that HLC recognizes this.  Activities formerly labeled as extracurricular are now considered co-curricular.  Athletic programs and Student Life/Christian Ministry programs, service learning opportunities and other such non-academic experiences are valued as a full part of a student’s education.  This is very important for Cedarville, as many programs in these divisions support the “lifelong leadership and service” and the “Christ-centered learning community” of the Mission.  Co-curriculars must also be assessed with periodic and systematic means of assessment, just like the curricular programs. Both SLCM and Athletics have a very rigorous assessment reporting system.  We think that even among the many schools accredited by HLC, Cedarville just might be taking the lead in this area.  We are thankful to the leadership of Alan Geist and Jon Wood in co-curricular assessment.

Support Services are important to HLC and at Cedarville we have a very robust support for all students.  As the student population expands beyond the cornfield borders and includes more and more distance learners, our support services, such as the Cove, the Writing Center, UMS, Counseling, and the Library, are ready to reach these learners with the same level of support, albeit in an online environment.  There are even means for online students with disabilities to obtain accommodations through the Cove.  Kim Ahlgrim just told me that they are launching a new online support resource in the very near future specifically for online learners.

Holistic Educational Experience. Finally, the idea of holistic educational experience is very important to HLC.  From all that I’ve discussed it is not hard to realize that Cedarville also shines in this area.  This embraces everything that we offer to and for students that contributes to shaping them into the graduates that reflect our Portrait Statements.  From daily Chapel with Dr. White’s sermon series, to invited speakers, conferences, ministry opportunities, Athletics, intramural sports, dorm life, internship and field experience opportunities, our students graduate from Cedarville with a well rounded and again, robust “Cedarville experience.” Alumni surveys administered 3 years out affirm that Cedarville has made a significant difference in their lives in terms of holistic education.

Highlights of the Assurance Argument Pt. 2: Cedarville Acts with Integrity

August 22nd, 2016

In this second of five Updates on highlights of our findings, I will focus on Criterion 2, Integrity. I hope that our findings in this area will help you as you prepare for meetings with the Site Visitors.  Please spend some time to discuss how your area acts with integrity.

Affirmations of Integrity. We have annual affirmations of integrity through our Community Covenant, General Workplace Standards, Essential Life Practices Agreement, Student Academic Integrity Pledge stated in course syllabi, and an emphasized, visual reminder of the Student Life Core Value IC, Integrity in Conduct.

Policies and Processes Guarantee Integrity. We have many policies and processes that guarantee integrity, from inside and outside controls in Finance, to hiring practices in HR, to the Academic Integrity Policy, and to regular evaluation and promotion processes.  We have conflict of interest, racial discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual discrimination, and nepotism policies. We also maintain an Institutional Review Board that oversees research projects involving human subjects.

The ALG has formed an Academic Integrity Committee to research methods of training to help faculty prevent plagiarism, and to consider software that could detect plagiarism in online student work.  The Writing Center and Library offer training for students in proper use of citations in order to encourage proper respect for intellectual property and to help them understand what constitutes plagiarism.

Cedarville follows the regulations of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and informs students of their rights on a Student Life webpage and the Student Handbook.

We furthermore embrace academic freedom of expression as it fits within the limits of our doctrinal statement.  Our doctrinal statement is fully in line with our Mission, and so this should be acceptable to HLC. The following statement quoted from 2.D of the Assurance Argument describes academic freedom at Cedarville:

“Within this context [of the Doctrinal Statement], academic freedom is protected at Cedarville. Faculty are encouraged to address issues and perspectives both within and outside of Cedarville’s traditional faith commitments. Most general education courses, such as theology and politics, assign readings from various viewpoints. Speakers from many perspectives are regularly invited to campus. The Library houses volumes and journals that both articulate and oppose Cedarville’s worldview. Although Cedarville takes its faith commitments seriously, it ensures that students hear and interact with a variety of perspectives.”

Means of Reporting. We have multiple means of reporting any perceived unethical or unlawful conduct.  These include the Annual Campus Security and Fire Safety Report, to the Title IX coordinator, to an outside vendor hosted on our HR website called EthicsPoint, to a formal Grievance Policy with structured steps for voicing complaints, and to the Student Complaint area in Consumer Information. Cedarville also participates in the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) and Ruffalo Noel-Levitz Surveys in order to measure student satisfaction in comparison with students at other universities.

Consumer Information. This site contains a wealth of publicly-disclosed information about the University, fully developed over the last year as we prepared for the accreditation process.  Kim Jenerette and Tara Carraher worked many, many hours to complete this.  Dr. Supplee was instrumental in obtaining more visibility for the site on the About page of the  University’s main website.  Why is this important?  Public disclosure of everything from graduation rates to costs to financial aid and more is a part of integrity, of us being who we say we are and claim to be.  This is becoming more and more important for HLC and for the federal government as well.  This site is important evidence for us.  If you haven’t visited it, I would encourage you to do so before the Official Site Visit. You will learn a lot about who we are!

Highlights of the Assurance Argument Pt. 1: The Mission Drives Cedarville

August 16th, 2016

In the next few posts I’d like to go over particular highlights of our Assurance Argument findings. This is an expansion of the summary we presented in Session 2 of the Faculty and Staff Sessions on Friday Aug. 12, 2016. At one point or another in our Argument, all of the divisions university-wide are discussed, because accreditation is not just for Academics; it is for all of us. Yes, as an institution, our primary business is education, but I think we all realize that Academics alone cannot accomplish this. It really does take all of us. So, if I fail to mention your area in this summary, please forgive me and know that you are in our Argument and you are very important and necessary.

The Mission Drives Cedarville. The first Criterion we must support is Mission. We are proving that everything we do is related to the Mission. Every division has a Mission Statement that flows out of and supports the University’s Mission.  In addition to all faculty and staff operations guided by the Mission, criteria for student admission to the University are consistent with the Mission.  The Mission further supports admitted students by their adherence to the Cedarville Covenant. It also drives budget planning and decisions.  A prominent example of this is the recent capital campaign for the renovation of Jeremiah Chapel, known as the “heartbeat of Cedarville University.”

The University Objectives, or Portrait Statements, directly flow out of the Mission.  Our goal is to produce graduates that Glorify God [Christ-centered learning community, Lifelong leadership and service], Think Broadly and Deeply [Education marked by excellence, Grounded in biblical truth], Communicate Effectively [Christ-centered learning community, Lifelong leadership and service, Education marked by excellence], Develop Academically and Professionally [Education marked by excellence], and Engage for Christ [Christ-centered learning community, Lifelong leadership and service, Grounded in biblical truth].

Christ-centered Learning Community. We support a Christ-centered learning community by the University Bylaws and its Statements of Standards of Conduct, by all faculty and staff’s adherence to the University Doctrinal Statement, Doctrinal White Papers, and Community Covenant, by the required Bible minor, by daily Chapel, by Student Life and Christian Ministries’ discipleship groups, Gospel and Global Outreach, by an intentional, Christ-centered intercollegiate athletic program, by strongly encouraging students to attend local churches, and by intentional advising of students by staff and faculty. With our faculty to student ratio of 13:1 faculty can engage in quality student mentoring.

The University assures that all faculty applicants understand the pervasiveness of the Mission through Human Resources’ document, Notes to Prospective Faculty.  In fact, other links on the HR website lead to Church Membership Expectations, the Community Covenant, and the Doctrinal Statement. In this way, all prospective faculty and staff are well informed of the seriousness of our Mission emphasis before they even send in an application.  Telephone and in-person interviews for all prospective faculty and staff include questions about doctrinal beliefs and Christian character and service.

Life-long Leadership and Service. We support lifelong leadership through ample supervised, guided student leadership opportunities through SLCM and programs/conferences such as  the Discipleship Council and CU Lead. Just as an example of the number of students involved in leadership at CU, in distributing the Pocket Cards, I asked Dr. Wood how many he would need for student leaders that SLCM is involved in training, and he told me 225. I gave another 30 to Gen. Reno for SAAB (Student Academic Advisory Board). That is a strong support for this aspect of the Mission. Service opportunities for students also abound, from programs such as CU in the Community, the K-9s at the Ville program, tutoring of local K-12 students, through strong encouragement to be involved in weekly service through local churches, and all of the mission and outreach programs that are conducted through academic and co-curricular areas such as Pharmacy, Nursing, Social Work, Education, Music and Worship, and Athletics. Further public service examples involving faculty and staff include CUEMS (emergency medical services), NOBLE (law enforcement training), EMT training for neighboring communities, an “opening days of school” and group physical education program to aid local schools and the community, conferences sponsored by the Center for Political Studies, music concerts and theater performances, and expert commentary on current issues provided to the media by our faculty through our PR office.

Education Marked by Excellence. We support an education marked by excellence. This will be demonstrated in a later post that focuses on Criteria 3 and 4. From faculty qualifications and regular assessment practices of programs and student learning outcomes to graduation rates, licensure pass rates, graduate school acceptance rates, and career outcome data, Cedarville University proves itself to be Mission-driven. Not only so, the new Strategic Plan has “Academic Excellence” as its first Core Strategy.

Grounded in Biblical Truth. We support an education grounded in biblical truth by the integration of truth into all areas of the curriculum, by a required written Integration Paper of all full-time faculty as stated in the Faculty Handbook 3.6.3, through Dr. White’s chapel series and outside chapel speakers, Fall and Mission Conferences, and other outside conferences such as Religious Freedom Summit and Gospel at Work. Additionally, this is supported through efforts to promote diversity in all areas, as we acknowledge that Christ died for all human beings to make us all members of His one Body. We have featured the Director of Intercultural Leadership, International Student Services, multiple scholarships and recruiting efforts that promote diversity, partnerships with Central State University, through Global Outreach, Model United Nations, an annual World Fair, and a number of courses and academic initiatives developed by faculty that are working to increase multicultural educational experiences with diverse populations. A required Global Awareness component of the General Education curriculum assures that all Cedarville students will be exposed to multicultural experiences.  Student cross-cultural organizations, such as the German, French, and Spanish clubs, MISO (Multicultural International Students Organization), International Justice Mission, P.E.A.C.E. Project, Mu Kappa, and Alpha Sigma Lambda (American Sign Language), provide voluntary and additional opportunities for student multicultural involvement.

As I continue this series of Highlights of our Argument, please keep some of these examples–and this is by no means an extensive list–in your good minds as we work together to articulate how the Mission drives everything we do.


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