History of Self-Study
The "normal" approach to self-study is to organize committees around each of the CIHE's 11 Standards for Accreditation. These are:
- Mission and Purposes
- Planning and Evaluation
- Organization and Governance
- Programs and Instruction
- Student Services
- Library and Information Resources
- Physical Resources
- Public Disclosure
At the same time, The CIHE's
Self Study Guide (19) notes that:
the Commission recognizes that there may be circumstances when it would be advantageous for an institution to take a different approach. Among these might be the self-study with special emphasis…. Here an institution identifies a limited number of salient and challenging issues currently affecting it and engages in rigorous self-examination with an eye toward enhancing performance in these areas, and thus having a positive impact on its overall effectiveness.
Over the last few years Yale,
Bowdoin, Wellesley, MIT, Dartmouth, Northeastern, and UVM have chosen an
alternative, focused self-study. (The Northeastern and UVM studies are
On August 15, 2001, the President, the Vice Presidents, the Provost's staff, and a representative from the Faculty Senate (Professor Hinson) met with the Director and Deputy Director of NEASC's Commission on Institutions of Higher Education (CIHE) to discuss the prospect of an alternative self-study. The NEAS&C people were very supportive of this approach, if we felt it would help us meet our mission.
Focusing at UNH
The Provost's staff spent the summer of 2001 evaluating the academic strategic plan for possible areas of focus. [The strategic plan may be found at: http://www.unh.edu/academic-affairs/pdf/academicplan.pdf.
Three themes in the strategic plan were chosen for possible areas of study: The Undergraduate Experience, Engagement Through Research and Scholarship, and Institutional Effectiveness. While each could stand alone, they are a balanced set. The first two areas form the poles of the University's vision statement: "The University of New Hampshire will be distinguished for combining the living and learning environment of a small New England liberal arts college with the breadth, spirit of discovery, and civic commitment of a land-grant research institution." In order to achieve this vision, however, UNH must maximize its effectiveness as an organization and culture.
During the fall of 2001, the themes and the alternative self-study process were discussed with the Faculty Senate, the Council of Chairs, the Deans' Council, and the President's Staff, all of whom endorsed the format. As part of the strategic planning process, the Provost had organized task forces to study the undergraduate experience and engagement. Part of these task forces were reshaped into NEASC self-study committees during spring 2002. An Institutional Effectiveness committee was organized for the first time. The committees were appointed in consultation with a wide range of people, including the Faculty Senate, the PAT/Staff Council President, the Undergraduate Student Body President, the President's staff, Deans and Directors.
During the academic year, 2002-03, the area committees met with various constituents, conducted surveys, and utilized existing reports to prepare draft reports. They also consulted with selected members of the NEASC visiting team, to take advantage of their considerable expertise in advance of the team visit in October 2003. This "consulting" model is a new twist to self-study that offers promise for other institutions. This is explained in further detail in the Preface to the self studies.
When the committees posted draft reports on this web site, they also alerted the campuses via broadcast e-mail, and held open forums at both the Durham and Manchester campuses.