Following recommendations in the university’s 2000 self-study, UGA has developed a process for periodic review of the operations of administrative and support units. Implementation began this past spring, with 52 non-academic units scheduled for a review during a seven-year cycle. Another 15 units will soon be added to the cycle. Columns talked with Sue D. Achtemeier, assistant director for institutional effectiveness, about the review process and its expected outcomes.
Columns: Why are administrative unit reviews being implemented?
Achtemeier: The Reaffirmation Committee of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools visited UGA in spring 2001. The committee noted that UGA had a systematic process for periodic review of academic units, but not for administrative support units. Accordingly, UGA’s three senior VPs created this new policy to address that SACS recommendation.
Columns: Exactly what is an administrative support unit review?
Achtemeier: The administrative support unit review process is an opportunity for administrative units to undertake a self-examination process much like the program review process for academic units. Its purpose is to extend assurance of continued quality improvement and accountability to all units at UGA.
Columns: Who is overseeing the administrative unit review process?
Achtemeier: Administration of this new process was assigned to the Office of Institutional Effectiveness. One of my responsibilities as assistant director is to work with units and review teams to facilitate implementation of this new policy.
Columns: We’re familiar with academic unit reviews, but administrative units have never had to do this. How do they know what to do? Are there guidelines or directions for conducting their reviews?
Achtemeier: The policy and procedures manual is available on the Institutional Effectiveness Web site at www.uga.edu/effectiveness. The policy is modeled after the program review policy for academic units, but it’s not identical. A significant aim of the administrative support unit review policy is to maximize utilization of significant self-assessment activities a unit may have recently undertaken. The policy urges any unit to request to substitute its current assessment, external review or accreditation procedures in place of undertaking a new self-study.
For example, units that have recently completed specialized accreditation and other external reviews have recently used these processes in placed of a comprehensive, additional self-study.
Columns: What’s the process for a typical review?
Achtemeier: Ordinarily, a unit first undertakes a self-study according to the guidelines in the policy. The idea is to evaluate the unit’s progress towards its strategic goals.
The senior VP responsible for that unit then nominates both administrators and faculty from which a review team-usually three members-is selected by the associate provost for institutional effectiveness. After reading the self-study, the review team then conducts interviews, surveys or other investigations of their choice to inform their report.
The unit head has the opportunity to respond to the review team’s draft report before it is presented to the entire follow-up group. At this step misunderstandings can be corrected and discrepancies can be addressed prior to the group’s meeting.
The report and the unit’s self-study are then discussed at a follow-up meeting with the unit, the review team, the provost, the senior vice president responsible for the unit and the Office of Institutional Effectiveness.
Columns: When a unit’s review and final report are complete, what happens then? Is that the end of the process?
Achtemeier: Progress toward recommendations emanating from this process is addressed again one year later in a follow-up report by the unit. These reviews are intended to be formative. They should allow units to examine their own processes, systematically identify opportunities for improvement, and begin to address these opportunities.
Columns: Several units have completed, or nearly completed, their reviews. What has been their feedback? Do you sense they think this exercise was beneficial?
Achtemeier: Units have found the process beneficial. Scott Williams, executive director of the Career Center, wrote that “the most beneficial element to the Career Center was that the review formalized a process for us to compare our progress against an external review team’s recommendations for advancing the Career Center into a new era.”