This summer, Bowdoin made progress on its efforts toward reaccreditation by producing a 113-page self-study evaluating the College’s performance and setting projections for improvement within the next 10 years.
The report was submitted to the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), a reaccreditation body, for approval. NEASC, comprised of volunteer members from other high education institutions, aims to create a standard for schools in the region while respecting the goals of the individual institutions.
The process of self-evaluation benefits the College from the inside as well, according to Jen Scanlon, professor of gender, sexuality and women’s studies. Scanlon is also one of the co-chairs of the reaccreditation committee that drafted the report.
“[Reaccreditation] is a means by which we understand ourselves and make improvements internally, but it’s also a means by which we get the stamp of approval of an accrediting body that tells people in the world—out there in the larger world—that Bowdoin is a successful, legitimate place where we practice what we preach,” Scanlon said.
Accreditation, according to NEASC, is an expression of confidence in an institute’s purpose and performance—both educationally and financially.
Bowdoin’s process of reaccreditation began in the spring of 2016, when a reaccreditation committee was formed of faculty, staff and students. The committee, co-chaired by Scanlon and Vice President of Institutional Research, Analytics and Consulting Tina Finneran, was divided into sub-committees that were each responsible for gathering data and evidence and analyzing Bowdoin’s performance in one of the nine standards on which the College will be evaluated. Additionally, the sub-committees came up with projections for the College in each of the standards.
The nine standards outlined in the report examine many aspects of the College, including student, faculty and staff life, academics, administration and institutional resources. These standards are produced by NEASC but are left open to interpretation by the individual institutions.
For each standard, the committee must write a description, appraisal and projections. One standard is Educational Effectiveness, in which the committee analyzed the effectiveness of the College’s systems of academic support, such as the Bowdoin Advising Program to Support Academic Excellence (BASE) Program. BASE provides additional support to first-generation students in their transition to college.
According to the self-study, the committee found that BASE has a positive impact on students and faculty involved and that the College has made efforts in recent years to expand the program to include more students and faculty advisors. The committee made a projection that if future assessments of the program return positive results, the College will work to train nearly all faculty members to be BASE advisors.
The next step toward reaccreditation is a visit in November from eight volunteer members of a NEASC commission, headed by the president of Davidson College, Carol Quillen, who will produce a secondary exit report. The exit report, which should be around 20 pages, serves to confirm what Bowdoin produced in its self study.
Aside from meeting with various members of the committee, the visitors from NEASC will host open meetings with students, faculty and staff to discuss the different standards.
Overall, Scanlon expressed satisfaction with the results of the self-study and reaccreditation process.
“There are always ways in which we can make improvements. So I guess the takeaways are that we’re doing really well and that we have creative, imaginative people here who are going to help us do even better,” she said.