Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is accreditation?
  2. How does the accreditation process work?
  3. Who participates in the reaccreditation process on campus?
  4. What are the timelines for Sonoma State's WSCUC review?
  5. What are the WSCUC Standards and "Criteria for Review"?
  6. What are the Core Competencies and how do they relate to student learning outcomes assessment?
  7. What does WSCUC mean by "Meaning, Quality and Integrity of the Degree"?
  8. Where can I find Sonoma State's accreditation documents?
  9. How can I become involved in accreditation at our campus?

1. What is accreditation?

Accreditation is one way that universities ensure quality. An educational institution in the United States is not mandated to seek accreditation; however, most do because of the associated benefits (e.g., the ability to apply for federal grants). At the institutional level, SSU is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC), generally referred to as “WASC” when speaking. WSCUC conducts cyclical reviews of colleges and universities to ensure institutional accountability and compliance with federal regulations, as well as to provide support for institutional improvement. The accreditation process aids our campus in developing and sustaining effective educational programs and assures the educational community, the general public, and other organizations that we have met high standards of quality and effectiveness. Back to Top of Page

2. How does the accreditation process work?

Accreditation is about meaningful, inquiry-based self-assessment that conveys our unique story and describes plans for the future based on the institution’s mission and strategic goals. As part of the accreditation activities, SSU completes a self-study process where we demonstrate our ongoing commitment to the continuous improvement of our programs—both curricular and co-curricular. The method for doing this is the Institutional Report, a 75-page narrative plus appendices (which provide the data and evidence that back up the narrative), which was submitted to WSCUC on February 21, 2017. It comprises nine components, or chapters, in which we demonstrate that our campus meets the four WSCUC Standards. The performance expectations that comprise those Standards are specified by 39 Criteria for Review. It is the job of the SSU Steering Committee to coordinate gathering the data from the University community to demonstrate how SSU meets these expectations.

As part of the process, WSCUC appoints a team of professionals from member organizations that conducted an evaluation of SSU’s self-study. After submitting the Institutional Report and Appendices, SSU participated in an offsite meeting with the WSCUC Team, held on May 2, 2017. The WSCUC Team will provided feedback on specific information they want for clarification, called Lines of Inquiry, which is the focus a visit to the campus over October 24-26, 2017. After the site visit is over, the WSCUC Team prepares a report containing their findings which is submitted to WSCUC for consideration in reaffirming our accreditation status. Back to Top of Page

3. Who participates in the reaccreditation process on campus?

Leadership for our reaccreditation efforts comes from the Steering Committee, but because accreditation covers the entire institution, everyone within the university plays a pivotal role. A Steering Committee representative of the entire community oversees the accreditation process. The Provost, Dr. Lisa Vollendorf, and the Chair of the Faculty, Dr. Carmen Works, co-chair the Steering Committee, which consists of faculty, staff, students, and administrators. The Accreditation Liaison Officer (ALO), who communicates with WSCUC on behalf of the campus, is Dr. Karen Moranski, Associate Vice President of Academic Programs.

The Steering Committee members (listed in alphabetical order) are:

  • Dr. Emiliano Ayala - School of Education
  • Ms. Laurel Holmstrom-Keyes - Staff Representative
  • Mr. Sean Johnson - Senior Director, Institutional Research
  • Dr. Cathy Kroll - School of Arts & Humanities
  • Mr. Neil Markley - Campus Life
  • Dr. Melinda Milligan - School of Social Sciences
  • Dr. Karen Moranski - Accreditation Liaison Officer
  • Dr. Sean Place - School of Science & Technology
  • Dr. Thaine Stearns - Dean Representative
  • Dr. Karen Thompson - School of Business & Economics
  • Dr. Lisa Vollendorf - Provost, Co-Chair
  • Dr. Carmen Works - Faculty, Co-Chair
  • Dr. Michael Young - VP Student Affairs

The Steering Committee is charged with establishing a basic timeline and the preparatory activities that will help the campus collect preliminary data used to prepare the institutional report. Agendas and minutes of the Steering Committee meetings can be viewed on the site here. Additionally, several working groups have already been established, and some others are likely to be established as the process unfolds. Members of the Steering Committee and work groups attend WSCUC trainings, workshops, WSCUC Academic Resource Conferences, and webinars. At these meetings, they learn about the accreditation process, share the accomplishments of SSU, and learn about the best practices from other institutions.

Initial data gathering kicked off in fall 2015 with members from each school completing a worksheet to gauge their status regarding WSCUC Standards and Criteria. The information gathered helped the campus focus its attention on key areas of work to prepare for a successful review. Throughout 2016 the Steering Committee began implementing various activities to engage as many faculty, staff, students, alumni, and other key stakeholders as possible to achieve the broadest input of data. Back to Top of Page

4. What are the timelines for Sonoma State's current WSCUC review?

During fall 2015, the Steering Committee held regular meetings, members of the Steering Committee and working groups attended WSCUC training workshops, and our WSCUC Liaison, Dr. Christopher Oberg, visited the campus to meet with the Steering Committee, and presented a public forum explaining the current institutional review process (view the presentation here).

The Steering Committee continued to meet throughout 2016-2017 to lead the re-accreditation effort, and working groups will finish compiling information needed to write the self-study. Other ongoing accreditation-related activities include continued assessment planning and implementation, additional WSCUC trainings, campus-wide events designed to engage the campus community and the public in the accreditation process. Back to Top of Page

5. What are the WSCUC Standards and "Criteria for Review"?

Accreditation confirms our excellence and our commitment to continuous improvement, and the accreditation process requires us to demonstrate that we are taking real steps to fulfill our mission, are measuring the effectiveness of those steps, and are using the results of those measurements to improve what we do. Standards of Accreditation are the principles used as a basis for judgment in accreditation reviews, and they constitute the basic standards against which the university is measured in evaluating its acceptance of the core commitments. They are used to guide institutions in assessing institutional performance and to identify areas needing improvement. Each standard is expanded by a number of Criteria for Review. Criteria for Review are more specific than the four Standards of Accreditation and are intended to define and explain the Standards. Substantial compliance with both the Standards and Criteria for Review is required by state and federal laws for accreditation. The 2013 Handbook of Accreditation Revised is the guiding document we will use throughout the process.

Other useful WSCUC resources: Back to Top of Page

6. What are the Core Competencies and how do they relate to student learning outcomes assessment?

Institutions report on graduating students’ levels of performance in five core competencies common to all degrees: written and oral communication, quantitative reasoning, critical thinking, and information literacy. We must demonstrate that our graduates have developed these core competencies at a level of achievement appropriate to their degree, and that our institution is effective at achieving these learning goals as well as meeting specific goals relevant to different disciplines. This is achieved by undertaking periodic program review, assessment of student learning, and other forms of evaluation. The outcomes of the process help us improve institutional structures and services, as well as curricula, pedagogy, and learning outcomes. We must also make this information available publicly and show how assessment results inform planning. Assessment is an important aspect of purposeful planning because it help guide the kinds of action needed for improvement. Back to Top of Page

7. What does WSCUC mean by "Meaning, Quality and Integrity of the Degree"?

Because SSU is an accredited institution, students, faculty, administrators, parents, legislators, and others have the assurance of outside experts that our academic offerings are exemplary and that the university is well managed and fiscally sound. Accreditation provides evidence that our programs are relevant and that the university has been and will continue to hold itself accountable to the needs of its students, the community, potential employers, legislators, California taxpayers, and the standards set by higher education.

The importance that WSCUC attributes to quality assurance is emphasized by the fact that it is now required for institutions to devote an entire chapter in the Institutional Report to illuminating how the meaning, quality, and integrity of every degree conferred enhances students’ lives and prepares them for their future roles in society. What WSCUC is seeking is something more than facts, however; they want the institution to illustrate how these elements are woven together into the fabric that makes up the student’s whole educational experience. More on this new element of the Institutional Self-Study can be found here. Back to Top of Page

8. Where can I find Sonoma State's accreditation documents?

WSCUC requires that each campus maintain a website that is used to broadcast accreditation-related information to the campus and community for the purpose of being transparent; to archive meeting minutes, self-study, findings, and responses (both current and historical); to showcase data on core competencies; and generally to function as a permanent resource for accreditation information. This site will serve as the home for information regarding the accreditation process, as well as a repository for the documents that SSU submits to WSCUC and the accreditation-related documents received from WSCUC. Back to Top of Page

9. How can I become involved in accreditation at our campus?

SSU's accreditation self-study is a multi-stage, longitudinal process that requires broad campus involvement. The accreditation process, which focuses on continual improvement in the quality of our institution, requires various levels of engagement and participation from different departments and divisions of the University at each stage, from initial planning through the on-site visit. Opportunities for engagement will be announced as they are scheduled. Please check this site frequently to learn how you can participate or follow our progress toward successful reaccreditation. Back to Top of Page

 

 

 

 

 

We welcome campus review and input into the final report. Please review the document and if you wish to provide comments, suggestions or corrections, please send them to: Academic Programs