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WASC Senior Commission Concludes Visit to NMC

Representatives from the WASC Senior Commission today concluded their visit to the Northern Marianas College.

The purpose of the WASC visit was twofold: the first is to evaluate the Northern Marianas College and its application for initial accreditation under the Senior Commission; the second purpose is to review the College’s substantive change proposal to offer a Bachelors in Science – Business Management program.

“The visit went well,” said NMC President Dr. Sharon Hart. “The team’s meetings were focused not only on verifying NMC’s self-study report that we submitted earlier this year, but they also focused on providing the College insight about where improvements can be made—especially in key areas of teaching and learning.”

During the last two days, the visiting team engaged students, staff, faculty, and the members of the Board of Regents to discuss a number of issues related to academics, student services, college finances, governance, and other matters.

“It was an extremely informative visit,” said President Hart. “We are looking forward to receiving the Team’s report as well as receiving the Senior Commission’s decision, which will be made in mid-June and provided to the College in July.

During its exit session held with the campus community, visiting team Chairperson Dr. Helen Whippy provided a verbal summary of the team’s findings: the team commended the College for 1) refining its governance processes; 2) establishing measureable student learning outcomes in Student Service areas; 3) its fiscal responsibility and unqualified audits; 4) the Board of Regent’s transformation and for its support of the president; 5) its inclusive strategic planning process; 6) implementing new policies that has helped to set new directions for the College; and 7) having made difficult decisions about and implementing new faculty qualification requirements.

Additionally, Dr. Whippy reported several recommendations to help the College in its growth and development. These recommendations include increasing the College’s capacity for institutional research; transitioning the College from course level assessment to comprehensive, program level assessment with a focus on student success; further developing the College’s general education philosophy; empowering faculty and further defining their role in teaching and assessment and establishing a comprehensive development program for them; revisiting faculty evaluation criteria to align with the aforementioned recommendation; and lastly, encouraging the Board of Regents to meet less frequently so they can better focus on key broad issues to allow the institution to focus on the implementation of board policies.

According to Dr. Whippy, the final report will be submitted to WASC Senior Commission, who will then make a decision on the College’ application for accreditation with the Senior Commission.

The Northern Marianas College is already accredited by the WASC Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC, or “Junior Commission”). In fact, the College’s accreditation was recently reaffirmed by ACCJC last February.

The College initiated the movement from the Junior Commission to the Senior Commission of WASC as part of its effort to meet community and workforce needs. Under ACCJC, the College was allowed to offer only one bachelor’s degree program. On the other hand, the WASC Senior Commission would allow the College to expand its bachelor degree offerings after necessary approvals are secured.

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