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NMC’s Evaluation Visit Notes Significant Progress; Still Much Work Ahead of Visit (September 10, 2013)

As part of its accreditation efforts, the Northern Marianas College recently underwent an evaluation visit that was aimed at preparing the College’s employees for the Accreditation Team visit that will occur after the submission of NMC’s Show Cause Report on October 15, 2013.

The evaluation visit was conducted by Dr. Pam Fisher, who visited NMC from August 26 to 30. Dr. Fisher is part of the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) and is a former community college president, chancellor, and chair of ACCJC Accreditation visiting teams.

As part of her preparation prior to visiting NMC, Dr. Fisher corresponded and met with NMC President Dr. Sharon Hart and Accreditation Liaison Officer Amanda Allen to discuss a number of issues for the purpose of maximizing her visit. She also reviewed the Accreditation Eligibility Requirements and Standards, reviewed the college’s accreditation history, the External Evaluation Team Report from 2012, Dr. Barbara Beno’s Action Letter, and other documents. Additionally, since governance was one of the major issues that College was asked to address, she reviewed many internal governance procedures, including the bylaws of College Council, Faculty Senate, Staff Senate, and Student Senate.

While at NMC, Dr. Fisher noted “The professionalism and hospitality demonstrated [by the college community] was precisely what should occur when the Accreditation Visiting Team is on campus in late October.”

“It was readily apparent that NMC is absolutely vital to its community,” she added. “It is also apparent that many good things are happening at the college, from career and technical education to certificates and degrees and its extensive baccalaureate degree program in education. Staff, faculty and administrators are committed to their students.”

“A huge amount of work has occurred in order to resolve the issues around the two Eligibility Requirements and the eight Recommendations made by the ACCJC in their Action Letter that led to the college’s status of being on Show Cause,” Dr. Fisher noted.

However, Dr. Fisher also observed that “It also is true that significant work still remains to be done that its must be completed well and expeditiously.”

“In the next weeks and months the college community would be wise to focus on moving forward by implementing and following the new policies and procedures”¦At the same time, the college community should identify ways to heal old wounds, improve communication, and come together with a unified shared vision for NMC,” she said.

Dr. Fisher also met with the members of the Board of Regents in three separate sessions, each focusing on different topics that included best practices for effective governance, accreditation expectations and preparation for interviews with the visiting team, and achieving consensus on new policies.

“Throughout all meetings with regents, the urgency of getting the new policies adopted and implemented was stressed,” Fisher said. “It will be especially critical that the Board of Regents has completed its adoption of all the new policies and that it can demonstrate it has implemented those related to board organization.”

She also held two open forums with the campus community, where Dr. Fisher shared some of her recommendations regarding the upcoming team visit. During the meeting, she also acknowledged that “some of the changes to long-standing practices had been hard to make and hurtful to some people who were still angry about them.” However, she did commend the college leadership for working diligently with affected faculty to find alternative assignments and to offer support in the pursuit of additional qualifications that would help them meet new standards.

She reassured members of the college community that what seemed like radical changes to them were actually common best practices and were absolutely essential to the college remaining an accredited college. “They were not out of the ordinary at all and not the idea of any one administrator,” said Dr. Fisher. She cited as examples the new minimum on hiring qualifications and the policy on honorary regents.

During her visit, Dr. Fisher also met with all the Standard Teams at the college. Standard teams are groups composed of faculty and staff who were tasked to address all the items that were flagged as issues of concern by the External Evaluation Team that visited last October. Dr. Fisher provided the teams advice on the content of their narratives as well as suggestions for formatting their sections. Dr. Fisher also met with the members of the College’s governance groups, including the College Council, and the leaderships of the faculty and staff senates.

“Dr. Fisher provided much needed help and guidance to our college community as we prepare for the submission of our Show Cause Report and the upcoming visit,” said NMC President Dr. Sharon Hart. “We are now reviewing the results of her assessment and sharing that across the campus to see how we can better prepare.”

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