NCS Newsletter

November 12, 1998
An Aperiodic Update
Number 1

Visit by Dr. Cecilia López

UMM's NCA liaison, Dr. Cecilia López visited campus on Wednesday, November 4, meeting with Chancellor Schuman and an advisory group, with the NCA Steering Committee, with the chairs of the NCA subcommittees, with a group of students, and wit h members of the Assessment of Student Learning Committee. She was here at our invitation to discuss the implementation of our Special Emphasis Self-Study, which she had approved last September. You will recall that the special emphasis theme is the quali ty of student academic life in a public liberal arts college that is also part of a large research university.

Dr. López assured us that reaccreditation will not be a problem, and urged us to treat the mandated self-study as an opportunity to improve the college, and not "merely" improve it but to make it a premier public liberal arts college, as opp osed to "merely" jumping through the NCA reaccreditation hoop. Naturally, we must assess the quality of student academic life at UMM as agreed, but she urged the self-study committees to be pro-active in deciding what it means to be a top-notch liberal ar ts college, and to make recommendations about how UMM should get there. In sum, she urged that the self-study effort be integrated into the planning process that points us towards the goal of becoming a premier public liberal arts college.

The Virtual University

Dr. López has a rich perspective on trends in national higher education. That she has this perspective isn't surprising given that she oversees the accreditation of two hundred institutions of higher learning ranging from small liberal arts colleges such as UMM, to major research institutions such as Ohio State, Indiana at Bloomington, the University of Chicago, and our own Twin Cities campus, to Bible colleges, seminaries, and even schools of podiatry. (The NCA gets a foot in the door every where.)

Her description of the virtual university was a revelation to me. For me, the term "virtual university" meant a grab-bag of on-line courses and nothing more. For her, it is an electronic colossus that is bearing down on us. It is the product of con sortia of universities, of universities and businesses, and of big business alone. The Western Governors University is an on-line university sanctioned by the governors of nineteen western states. An organization that I know for its crash course that read ies students for the MCAT exam is offering a law degree on-line. One can earn PhDs on-line. Businesses are offering courses and degree programs on-line to train their current and future employees. One wonders how often liberal learning is prized by the ca ptains of industry.

I understood her to say that one ignores this colossus at one's peril, but that one does not have to become part of it to flourish. In fact, the traditional, residential liberal arts college will have an important niche in this new environment of e ducation by doing what it has always done, provided that it does it well. Society needs citizens with a larger view of the world than the walls of a business cubicle, citizens who will assume leadership in their fields, and provide a responsible, concerne d ballast to society. This has been the goal of liberal education in the past, and will be needed just as much in the future.

Unified Student Survey

Steve Granger, Nancy Mooney and Engin Sungur are preparing a unified student survey to supplement the data bases available to the self-study committees. The unified survey, which will replace the Bachelor's Degree Candidate Survey, the Student Opin ion Survey and the General Education Program Assessment, will be administered early winter quarter.

Future Newsletters

In future numbers of this newsletter, I will be able to report to you the concrete issues being addressed by the NCA subcommittees. These will be the planning issues that subcommittee members think of vital importance for improving the quality of s tudent academic life, that is, those issues that will help us to become a premier public liberal arts college.

Open Forum

If you have questions or comments about any aspect of the NCA self-study, please address them to me. I will provide a personal response. With your permission, I could put the question and response in a future newsletter.

Perhaps an even better forum is the minutes listserve (, which duplicates the facpa and usa lists but from which members of the campus community can remove their names. Questions or comme nts can be addressed to me or to the community.


These newsletters can be accessed at the UMM web-site ( Special thanks to John Bowers who suggested using the minutes list and offered to put our publicati ons on the web.

Jim Togeas
NCA Self-Study Coordinator

The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer.

Copyright 1999 University of Minnesota, Morris
Last Modified Tuesday, February 01, 2005
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