The road to accreditation

Three years of preparation, review of 94 federal standards, input from dozens of academic faculty and staff, development of one quality enhancement plan (QEP), a 500-page report, and 3,000 supporting documents: those are just a few of the ingredients that led to Emory's recent reaffirmation of accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

"Every 10 years, Emory has an opportunity to complete an in-depth self-study that promotes continuous self-improvement," says Nancy Bliwise, Emory's liaison with SACSCOC. "It allows us to see if we are reaching our goals, that we have the systems in place to track our progress and the resources to support those aspirations. The SACSCOC board reaffirmed accreditation for the next decade without additional reports."

In short, the accreditation process assures students that "when they decide Emory is the place for them, they know the opportunity is there to earn a degree in their chosen program and in a set amount of time, as advertised," says Bliwise (pictured with Director of Institutional Effectiveness David Jordan).

This process marked the first year that Emory was called on to develop a QEP, a new mandatory requirement of SACSCOC dedicated to improving an aspect of student learning or the environment for student success. Emory's QEP, The Nature of Evidence, enhances the first-year students' encounters with evidence and seeks to fully prepare students to experience the scholarly enterprise throughout their undergraduate careers. Under the leadership of sociologist Tracy Scott, it will be implemented in the fall of 2015. Provost Claire Sterk believes the QEP will become an empowering force as students explore evidence and assumptions about evidence from a multidisciplinary perspective.

One member of the SACSCOC on-site team of external reviewers applauded Emory's QEP for its consistency with the mission of a research university. "They are judging us not on the way they might do things at their home institution but rather on whether we have the structure to support our mission, as we define it," Bliwise says.