DSU carefully evaluated during long road to accreditation

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Catchy slogans and grand ceremonies have given Dixie State University students and supporters much to talk about, but what takes place behind the scenes makes all the difference.

Accreditation, a seven-year process, requires staff to set goals that range from specific class objectives to larger ones that pertain to the university as a whole in order for DSU to acquire a reputation as a credible university. Although accreditation impacts students in both educational and professional endeavors, it’s an ever-developing evaluation that can get lost behind the more glitzy aspects of DSU’s progression.

Debra Bryant, Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities liaison officer and business assistant professor, said she obtained her NWCCU position in fall 2012 when DSU went through its major assessment. The path to meeting standards for accreditation takes every bit of seven years, as those involved must constantly set goals that accreditors will later analyze during evaluations, she said.

“If you say you’re doing something, how do you know you [are meeting the goals] without [proper assessment]?” Bryant said. “It’s all about assessment.”

Because the goal types differ — from acknowledging the value of diversity to discipline-specific ones — DSU, in its second year of the process after the 2012 evaluation, has assigned staff members various roles that deal with accreditation. 

Academic assessment director Assunta Hardy said she helps different departments track their efforts through evaluations. In order to analyze the effectiveness of set objectives in courses, staff must make documentation a priority, she said.

In addition to meeting goals, Bryant said those stepping-stones often change. Objectives created in the first year or two of accreditation may not lead to the progression wanted. Bryant said departments sometimes make objectives more challenging during the process to expect the most out of students and staff.    

“The concept is continuous improvement,” she said. “We’re not just going to stay here where we are; we’re going to get better.”

Accreditation efforts assure students the education acquired at DSU means they can transfer to other universities or apply for jobs and entities will acknowledge their completed coursework. But students can also find crucial, basic information through accreditation: what they can expect to learn while at DSU.

Hardy said by keeping track of course objectives — often listed on class syllabuses — students will gain knowledge about what they should learn and how that can assist them. If students keep track of the process, staff should take accreditation more seriously too, she said.

The NWCCU met this month, and members discussed whether to reaffirm DSU for the next seven years. As the Sun went to press, Bryant said she hadn’t received the official word but hopes to soon.

You can find more information about accreditation effort at DSU’s website under “General Information.”