From April 9 to 11, the Accrediting Commision for Schools (ASC), Western Association for Schools and Colleges (WASC) evaluated UC Davis to review and accredit the school. WASC goes to a large number of elementary, secondary and higher education schools in California at least once every 10 years to review school processes, students, staff and faculty.
Throughout the week, several forums were held with staff, faculty and students to discuss their opinions on the state of the school. The members of the WASC review team attended the forums to ask questions and evaluate the different parts of the UC Davis campus.
Cecilia Conrad, the assistant chair for the WASC review team, asked students general questions about the school and their experiences during the 45-minute forum on April 10.
“Every institution gets reviewed every two to 10 years,” Conrad said at the forum. “We then prepare essays about what the school would like to improve upon.”
Conrad said that the forum was part of an informal sampling process that is conducted with the different groups of people on campus. The answers to the review team’s questions are kept in confidentiality and the identities of the students were anonymous. The questions Conrad asked were directed towards both graduate and undergraduate students and ranged from “What attracted you to UC Davis?” to “What are your sources of advice here?”
Bradley Bottoms, former ASUCD vice president and the student representative for the WASC Steering Committee, said that having WASC create essays on what the school is doing well and what they need to improve upon helps get issues fixed.
“The most important part of the accreditation process is looking at what we’ve done 10 years ago and making sure we’ve improved,” Bottoms said.
Carolyn de la Peña, the liaison for the WASC Steering Committee at UC Davis, said that gaining improvements on what was previously reported by WASC reviewers is a bigger part of the process than the accreditation itself.
“UC Davis has a long history of being accredited,” de la Peña said.
Before the visit, an assortment of reports are written by a steering committee to show the WASC team what has improved since previous visits. The steering committee coordinates with the UC Davis Academic Senate, staff and students to write how the school has advanced since previous years. De la Peña said her job is to coordinate these reports.
“I make sure we understand what [the WASC reviewers] want,” de la Peña said. “That involves coordinating material with faculty, staff and students and looking that all students are having a good, high-quality experience.”
André Knoesen, UC Davis Academic Senate divisional vice chair of the steering committee, also said that the most important part of the WASC visit is to help find issues to fix during the process of creating the reports. Through focusing on issues that WASC previously reported, Knoesen said that they could be improved when the reports were being made.
“The issues are raised to a higher level of attention,” Knoesen said. “One issue we saw was that more student advising was needed, and steps have been taken to improve that.”
The accreditation process does not just happen for general WASC reviews every 10 years. De la Peña said there is often behind-the-scenes accrediting for different divisions of campus.
“Accreditation happens all the time,” said de la Peña. “For example, the College of Engineering is accredited, which is something people might not know.”
Knoesen said that there are also many other processes that the school goes through to ensure improvement with their services. He said that all school majors are reviewed every seven years by the UC Davis Academic Senate and that the general education requirements are also reviewed often.
Knoesen said that feedback from the WASC team on April 11 was generally positive. The team commented that the campus is on the right path to improving the school overall.
“It’s a very worthwhile exercise for the campus to go through,” Knoesen said. “It serves both campus and the students.”
MELISSA DITTRICH can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The single best way to improve things at UC Davis would be to get a new Chancellor.
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