Accrediting body to make special visit next fall, evaluating campus on multiple criteria

By Sanjana Rajagopal, April 26, 2022

The Western Senior College and University Commission, or WUSC, is visiting Cal Poly Pomona in fall semester 2023, making a special visit to check on the university’s progress on seven recommendations it made during its last visit to the campus in fall 2019.

The WUSC is a commission that aids institutions and universities in developing and sustaining effective educational programs, assuring the educational community and the general public that these universities have met high standards of quality and effectiveness. The seven issues the visit is focused on are diversity and inclusion, leadership positions, student learning outcomes, assessment, program review, graduate programs and integrated planning.

Source: Office of Academic Programs (Sanjana Rajagopal | The Poly Post)

“When they came here in October 2019, these were things they identified as needing work, by looking at the established criteria for review,” said Laura Massa, associate vice president for academic programs and the campus’ accreditation liaison officer. “The special visit is a very focused visit on the issues identified by the commission. The WUSC would come in and send peer evaluators to interview others and look at the standards WUSC sets for us and whether we’re doing OK.”

The recommendation regarding diversity and inclusion hopes to address the current gaps in university outcomes. While progress was made on overall graduation rates last year, equity gaps for underrepresented minority students increased to around 14%, according to The Office of Student Success, Equity and Innovation.

The leadership positions recommendation refers to leaders’ engagement with the campus community and many positions being left vacant.

“A lot of concerns that were raised during the last visit was that there were a number of vacant leadership positions or interim leadership positions,” said Nicole Hawkes, the chief of staff for the Office of the President.

During the time of the last WUSC visit, there were around 18 interim leadership positions back in 2019.  However, as of this past summer, 13 of them have been filled, a 72% increase. On April 22, Mary Anne Alabanza Akers was appointed dean of the College of Environmental Design.

While criteria such as leadership positions have increased in progress, it wasn’t easy meeting many of the recommendations made by the commission. Due to the pandemic, conditions made it difficult for searching and recruiting people to fill these positions. In the past two years since the last visit there was also a hiring freeze mandated by the California State University, contributing to the lack of potential candidates to hire to fill these roles.

Regardless of these setbacks, the percentage increase in leadership roles is seen as an accomplishment.

“We want to tell the story of what has happened during this time, such as the pandemic and our budget,” said Hawkes. “We want to make the special visit committee understand what we have done in these conditions, and yet still managed to make this progress.”

While equity gaps persist, CPP has still been working toward meeting other criteria before the special visit. “The progress we’ve made is outstanding in these past few years,” Massa said. “I’m sure we’ll be fine.”

Students also believe that the university being evaluated on these WUSC issues and criteria can lead to improvement on campus.

“The thought of observing these categories is good because it can improve diversity and other things on campus,” said Emilie Whitehouse, a criminology student. “It’s a good way to push change.”

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