From the Provost's Desk

March 30, 2012

Higher Learning Commission Visit

Dear Colleagues/Students,

In just over a week we will welcome important visitors to campus who will help Kansas State University with two important goals: assuring the quality of our programs and processes and assisting us in advancing our K-State 2025 plan.

The site visit team of our peers representing the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, or the HLC, will arrive on campus April 8 for their 10-year visit for continuance of accreditation, with the team conducting interviews with the K-State community April 9-10. The 12-member team will wrap up their site visit by discussing a draft report of their findings with President Schulz and me on April 11.

Much is riding on the site team's findings. It's not only our prestige -- Kansas State University has been accredited with the HLC since 1916, with our last 10-year continuance earned in 2002 -- but also our future at stake. Our accreditation has everything to do with how we define ourselves as a university and our plans for the future, i.e., meeting our 2025 goals. Our accreditation affects everyone on campus.

HLC accreditation is our primary way of assuring and advancing the quality of higher education we provide, comparing ourselves to our peers. HLC accreditation also allows our students to be eligible for federal student financial aid, for our programs to be provided to military students, and provides important validation for the university as it makes requests for public and private support.

That's why your help is so crucial during the site team's visit. The team will conduct interviews with a full range of the university community, including President Shultz, myself, deans and department heads, faculty and students, staff, many campus offices, and leaders in the Manhattan, Salina and Olathe communities. The team will also hold open meetings with students and with faculty and staff. The following meetings will be held:

  • Graduate Students: 9-10 a.m. Tuesday, April 10, in the Big 12 Room, K-State Student Union.
  • International students: 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 10, in the International Student Center.
  • Undergraduate students: 2-3 p.m. Tuesday, April 10, in the Little Theater, K-State Student Union.
  • Faculty and Staff: 3-4 p.m. Tuesday, April 10, in Town Hall, Leadership Studies Building.

Here's what you can do to be prepared:

  • Visit our HLC website and learn about our HLC self-study process and who is on the HLC site visit team. You can also understand more about the HLC and the purpose for the visit. Most importantly, take a look through the final self-study report recently submitted to the HLC.
  • Make sure you are up-to-date on K-State 2025, our university's visionary plan to become a top 50 public research university by 2025. You can check out our 2025 planning and progress.
  • Think about how you are connected with the university's mission and K-State 2025, whether you are faculty, staff or student.

If you are in a meeting with the HLC or asked a question by a team member, we ask only that you:

  • Provide your honest answer to the questions posed.
  • If you don't know the answer, it is OK to say, "I don't know," or to suggest someone else who might know the answer.

Our self-study report addresses several key criteria on which our accreditation rests, including:

  • We operate with integrity to ensure the fulfillment of our mission through structures and processes that involve the Board of Regents, administration, faculty, staff and students.
    • With our K-State 2025 planning and the broad participation from the university community, we demonstrate that our mission pervades all levels of the university. We continue to increase our efforts toward diversity, and we display genuine shared governance involving Faculty, Classified and Student senates, that work with administration and the Board of Regents to institute policy.
  • Our allocation of resources and processes for evaluation and planning demonstrate our capacity to fulfill our mission, improve the quality of education we provide, and respond to future challenges and opportunities.
    • Despite declining populations in the state of Kansas, our enrollments have steadily increased, and our distance education programs are now reaching out to more place-bound students that ever before. We have established numerous partnerships in research and academics to enhance our capacity to fulfill our mission, and we utilize program review and assessment processes to hold ourselves accountable.
  • Our attention to student learning and teaching effectiveness allows us to fulfill our educational mission.
    • Our graduates demonstrate a high level of success on professional and certification exams, suggesting excellence in how we prepare those students. We have instituted assessment processes across the university to provide feedback on student learning, along with a variety of programs aimed at improving student success. We also provide numerous teaching awards and faculty development programs to encourage faculty to improve instruction.
  • We promote a life of learning for our faculty, administration, staff and students by fostering and supporting inquiry, creativity, practice and social responsibility in ways consistent with our mission.
    • Our faculty have increased the amount of extramural funding received through grants and contracts over the last 10 years. We have numerous programs in place to involve undergraduates in research which prepares the next generation of researchers. We have made significant changes and improvements to our general education program, assuring students see education from a broader perspective.
  • Our mission propels us to identify our constituencies and serve them in ways that bring value to them and to the university.
    • In the past year, we were awarded with the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification, demonstrating a deep commitment across the university to engaging with our communities and serving them effectively. K-State Research and Extension provides many programs and services to communities and citizens across the state, and institutes and centers like the Beef Cattle Institute and Center for Engagement and Community Development offer real-world solutions to meet today's challenges.

Our road to retaining our accreditation has been a long one, involving many people. Our self-study started in 2009 and more than 100 people across the university have contributed to its development. In particular, I would like to thank Brian Niehoff, associate provost for institutional effectiveness, for leading us through this entire process, as well Steven Hawks, assistant director for assessment; Katie Mayes, director of marketing services; and Sharon Morrow, editor in the Division of Communications and Marketing, for their overall contributions to the effort.

As you can see, achieving this accreditation has taken all of us putting forth our best efforts every day. During the site team's visit, be proud of your contributions and the work you have done. Your participation and assistance in the visit will be much appreciated.

Thanks for all you do!

April Mason

Provost Signature

Provost and Senior Vice President