The two-year process of preparing for reaffirmation of UGA’s accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools hit a significant milestone Sept. 10, the deadline to file compliance certification documents.
Bob Boehmer, associate provost for academic planning and the person responsible for making sure that deadline was met, decided to leave nothing to chance. Early on Sept. 9, he and members of his staff loaded materials into his car for personal delivery to the SACS Commission on Colleges office in Decatur. Hefty envelopes addressed to all members of the SACS review team who will visit UGA during spring semester were dropped off at the Federal Express office on the way.
Each review team member was sent a printed copy of the two-volume compliance certification report, which ran more than 500 pages long, with a USB flash drive attached. SACS got those materials, plus an accompanying “document library” that includes more than 2,400 reference documents used in the compliance report. All of that material is also now online at sacs.uga.edu, a website accessible to faculty and staff with a UGA MyID account.
“Obviously, a massive effort was involved in getting all this material collected, edited and put together in print and online,” Boehmer said. “Many individuals and units on campus had a hand in this.”
David Shipley, T.R.R. Cobb Professor of Law and former dean of the law school, chaired the Compliance Team, a group of more than 30 faculty, staff and administrators who worked to ensure that UGA complies with what SACS refers to as the “principles” of accreditation. These fall into three categories: core requirements, comprehensive standards and federal requirements. The team reviewed each principle and provided the necessary evidence that UGA is in compliance.
“Everyone on the Compliance Team worked hard, but especially Jayne Smith, director of the Office of Faculty Affairs, who handled the documentation of faculty credentials, and Fiona Liken, director of the Office of Curriculum Systems, who handled the online syllabus piece,” Boehmer said. “Special efforts were also put forth by the Document Review Panel, including Professor Shipley, associate deans Hugh Ruppersburg, Jan Hathcote and George Francisco, and Bob Scott, associate vice president for research.”
Once materials were turned in to Boehmer’s office, everything needed to be reviewed and edited. That job fell to a team that included Allan Aycock, director of assessment and accreditation; Jan Wheeler, associate director for accreditation; and John Albright, a former administrator in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, who returned to UGA to serve as editor for accreditation materials.
Three graduate students from UGA’s Institute of Higher Education-Stephanie Hazel, Heidi Leming and Adam Wyatt-also provided significant assistance.
For Boehmer and his staff, including administrative associate Mandi Albanese, working late nights and weekends became the order of the day about mid-July as the September deadline began to loom.
“There were times when we actually worried about whether we would get everything done on time,” said Wheeler. “We even pulled in staff from the Provost’s Office, particularly Joëlle Walls, who spent many hours loading content and linking PDF documents online throughout the summer.”
The technical aspects of the SACS website were handled by staff from Enterprise Information Technology Services.
“Sharon Burch and her colleagues played an invaluable role in getting the website together,” said Aycock who worked closely with the EITS group.
For the printed copies of the compliance certification, Wheeler worked with staff in University Printing and Central Duplicating.
The compliance certification will be evaluated initially by an off-site peer review team in Atlanta in November. In December, the university will submit its Quality Enhancement Plan proposal, which calls for first-year seminars for all incoming freshmen starting in fall 2011.
The QEP will be reviewed during an on-site visit by the SACS review team in the spring. Once that is approved and implementation begins, reaffirmation of accreditation is expected in December 2011. “Turning in the compliance certification is a huge step,” said Boehmer. “But it’s by no means the end of this process. There’s a lot of work still to do.”