NCS Newsletter

January 6, 1999
An Aperiodic Update
Number 2

An Introduction to UMM's Special Emphasis Self-Study

In future newsletters I will tell you what our self-study subcommittees are doing, but in this number I give an overview of the self-study and our plan for implementing it.

The Special Emphasis Self-Study. Instead of the traditional comprehensive self-study, we are implementing a special emphasis one in which we focus on the quality of student academic life with special attention to the context that makes us different from most liberal arts colleges, viz., that we are a public liberal arts college that is part of a large research university. The purpose is to assist UMM's planners in improving the college by assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the quality of student academic life, and particularly how being part of a large, public research university enhances or diminishes that quality. Indeed, the self-study has now been integrated into the planning process, as I reported to you in the first newsletter.

The Plan. Last spring the NCA Steering Committee, which I chair, prepared a plan to implement the self-study. Last July we submitted it to our NCA liaison, Dr. Cecilia López, who approved it in September. The plan establishes a series of subcommittees which are charged with assessing specific issues--"concrete outcomes" in NCA jargon--of the quality of student academic life. I will not list subcommittee membership here since it will soon appear as an action item on the agenda of the winter quarter Campus Assembly meeting.
Subcommittee I, chaired by Professor Bart Finzel, examines issues of our students' pre- and post-UMM years. Its charge is two-fold: to assess how UMM's ability to find, attract, and admit students affects the quality of student academic life, and whether the college is accessible to students of modest economic means; and to assess whether UMM graduates meet the college's expectations of its students. (How is one to understand that charge concretely? I will address that in a future newsletter.)
Subcommittee II examines the quality of student academic life during the UMM years. This task is divided between two sub-groups which meet independently of one another. Subcommittee IIa, chaired by Professor Jim Cotter, assesses the quality of curricular and co-curricular experiences of UMM students, and the contributions of students to the creative and intellectual life of the campus. Subcommittee IIb, chaired by Professor Joel Eisinger, assesses the quality of extra-curricular experiences insofar as they are germane to the quality of student academic life.
Subcommittee III considers the resources for maintaining and improving the quality of student academic life. Its specific charge is to assess those issues of finance, retention and recruiting of faculty and staff, technology, instructional equipment, and library that most directly affect the quality of student academic life. Professor Jack Imholte chairs this subcommittee.
Subcommittee IV, chaired by Professor Andy Lopez, is different in kind from the other subcommittees. It is a subcommittee of the Campus Resources and Planning Committee which Andy chairs. Its difference in kind relates back to the difference between a comprehensive and special emphasis self-study. A comprehensive self-study is a unit-by-unit assessment of the college with respect to five criteria for accreditation: Dr. Cecila López's assurance (Newsletter #1) that we would have no trouble being reaccredited was a statement of her confidence that we meet these five criteria. In a special emphasis self-study these five criteria receive a cursory treatment, which Andy's subcommittee will provide. It is worth noting that the special emphasis option is available only to "established, well-functioning institutions" with "adequately developed programs of evaluation and institutional research to provide the appropriate data to support the institution's claim that it meets the Criteria for Accreditation." (Handbook of Accreditation, pp. 79-80). We interpret this to mean that if our reaccreditation had been in doubt, Dr. López would not have permitted the special-emphasis option.

Cross-over issues. It is important to identify and assess the crucial issues related to the quality of student academic life, and not let the structure of the self-study dictate the issues addressed and the scope of their treatment. Cross-over issues are those that are so broad that they fall under the purview of more than one subcommittee. Three are retention, the quality of the library, and diversity. In future numbers of the newsletter, I will address not only what issues are being addressed by the subcommittees, but how we are addressing the cross-over issues.

Open forum. Questions or comments about any aspect of the NCA self-study can be addressed to me at or posted to the minutes listserve ( These newsletters can be accessed at the UMM web-site: ( NCA/).

Jim Togeas
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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