There weren’t any caps, gowns or Pomp and Circumstance, but YSU went through its own commencement ceremony of sorts earlier this year when the university graduated from the Higher Learning Commission’s Academy for the Assessment of Student Learning.
The graduation is the culmination of a process started in 2008 to strengthen YSU’s assessment activities and to better engage the entire campus in assessment practices.
“The fact that we were able to successfully complete this program is a testament to the hundreds of faculty, staff and students across campus who spent countless hours over the last four years making assessment an integral part of the university’s operations,” said Hillary Fuhrman, director of the YSU Office of Assessment.
In 2008, the Higher Learning Commission – YSU’s accreditation body – granted continuing accreditation for the university but also recommended fostering a stronger culture of assessment, including data-driven decision making and increased participation of faculty in assessment processes, Fuhrman said. The HLC also recommended improved assessment of the general education requirements.
To address the concerns, YSU entered into the HLC Academy for the Assessment of Student Learning. A team of university representatives, under the leadership of former Office of Assessment Director Sharon Stringer, developed goals for responding to HLC concerns and building an improved assessment infrastructure on campus. Steps included increased emphasis on assessment in the YSU 2020 Strategic Plan, greater participation by academic and non-academic units in assessment activities, approval of new general education requirements, and development of a system for general education writing and critical thinking assessment, Fuhrman said. YSU also became the first university to complete an HLC Evidence Inventory visit, which included a comprehensive review of assessment practices across campus.
Last summer, the university submitted a report to HLC outlining the results of the initiatives. In the fall, university representatives presented results to the HLC Assessment Academy in St. Charles, Ill. In January, the HLC notified YSU that it had successfully completed the Academy and that concerns expressed at the 2008 HLC accreditation visit had been satisfied.
Fuhrman said the next step is approval by the YSU administration of a plan to sustain assessment activities.
“The activities of the past four years have served to develop a strong foundation in assessment practices,” she said. “Continuation of the good work started is critical to ensure that we meet outside expectations while ensuring a quality learning environment for YSU students.”