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Re-accreditation team visits UNI
Story by Sara Wesselmann, UNI University Relations online magazine and public relations assistant
In 1913, the University of Northern Iowa was first accredited as a teacher training institution.
It has been accredited every 10 years as a four-year institution since 1930.
Now, in 2010, UNI is undergoing the accreditation process, conducted by the Higher Learning Commission. The HLC is one of six regional institutional accreditors in the U.S. that accredit degree-granting post-secondary education institutions in the North Central region.
A team of 10 trained consultant evaluators from the HLC are evaluating UNI, focusing on five different criteria: mission and integrity; preparing for the future; student learning and effective teaching; acquisition, discovery and application of knowledge; and engagement and service.
"In other words, we're reaffirming our legitimacy as an institution," said Mike Licari, associate provost for academic affairs and the dean of the graduate college.
UNI faculty, staff and students were invited to attend open forums to interact with members of the HLC team and learn about the process the university goes through to become accredited.
Accreditation 101 with Mike Licari
What does this accreditation mean?
"Our re-accreditation is a chance for us to evaluate ourselves and for external experts to evaluate us," said Licari. "It will demonstrate the good things we're doing at UNI and can highlight areas that we need to focus on at all levels of the university."
The re-accreditation process interrelates with President Allen's priorities and UNI's 2010-2015 strategic plan, which was approved in September by the Board of Regents, State of Iowa. This plan's vision focused on preparing students for success in a globally competitive and culturally diverse world. The goals establish the priorities and focus UNI's efforts to achieve its mission.
What does this mean for UNI?
"President Allen's priorities set the tone and give us a road map with a strategic plan of what we need to do in regard to implementing his vision," said Licari. "We had a different president during our last accreditation, so this year's report will reflect President Allen and his goals for the future."
UNI is directly affected by being re-accredited. "We are eligible to apply for federal grants, loans and research funds, which is important for UNI's existence," said Licari.
How does UNI benefit from this re-accreditation?
"As a whole, we acquire institutional learning," said Licari. "First, we learn a great deal about ourselves as a university and we benefit tremendously from the feedback. Second, the evaluation team gives UNI advice on what we can do better as a university. Third, once our accreditation is reaffirmed, the message goes out to the public which enhances institutional credibility."
What does this mean for students and why should they care?
"Students are greatly affected by the accreditation process," said Licari. "Their degrees are earned from an accredited institution, which is extremely important when students apply for graduate programs or jobs after college. Students are also eligible for federal grants and loans, and their credits transfer to other accredited universities."
Do you have more questions about UNI's accreditation? Get them answered at http://www.uni.edu/accreditation/frequently-asked-questions.
Photos: Top and below: UNI staff provide feedback to the HLC committee members at an open forum. Middle: HLC team members were shown around campus by UNI students.