Preparing for the HLC Visit

A team of peer reviewers from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) visited the Washburn University and Washburn Tech campuses March 25-26, 2019. It was important our entire community of faculty, students, staff and board members were engaged in the process and prepared for the visit. 

In advance of the visit, the HLC asked our students to share their opinions of the university via a survey. You can view those results here.

The roll-out committee encouraged the campus community to read the Assurance Argument, understand the criteria and engage in the process by creating and executing a holistic communication plan. Our campaign theme was "Got Accreditation." Below is an overview of and examples of specific tactics we used. These efforts resulted in a well-informed campus community that actively engaged in the HLC visit and with the peer reviewers.

  • Washburn University students: Washburn University is here to provide the best possible education and experiences possible for our students. We wanted them to engage in the HLC process and to share their opinions, specifically via the survey.
  • Washburn University faculty and staff: Faculty and staff are critical in delivering the five-accreditation criteria. Faculty and staff needed to be aware of the accreditation process, the accreditation criteria, and how the university as a whole is working to deliver on the criteria.
  • Topeka and surrounding community: We alerted the Topeka and surrounding communities that an HLC accreditation review was in progress and provided them a way to provide any feedback about the university if they so desired.

August 2018

  • Roll-out committee established the HLC communication/awareness/engagement campaign theme: "Got Accreditation." 
  • Overview webpage established.

August 2018 - December 2018

  • Committee members visited individual college/schools, departments, and functional area meetings, including the E-Staff meetings, to provide an overview of the HLC visit and accreditation process. Distributed HLC "postcards" to meeting attendees.

October 2018

  • Dr. Farley, president of Washburn University, emailed all students, faculty, and staff on both campuses with an overview of the HLC accreditation process and encouraged everyone to engage in the review process.
  • Committee started placing HLC posters on the campuses (there was a series of five, representing each criterion, created around the campaign theme). Those posters can be viewed on this webpage.
  • Committee shared an overview of the HLC accreditation process and provided information on how to provide feedback on D2L to ensure all students, including those completing a solely online curriculm, were engaged in the process.

November 2018

  • Committee started sharing general information on Workplace (communication platform similiar to and operated by Facebook, only open to Washburn University faculty and staff) to communicate overviews and feedback logistics to faculty and staff.
  • Committee started sharing general information via Bod Talk (weekly electronic newsletter) to communicate overviews and feedback logistics to students and faculty/staff.

December 2018

  • Dr. Mazacheck, vice president for Academic Affairs, emailed all faculty and staff on both campuses to encourage them to review the self study and to provide feedback.
  • Dr. Tate, associate vice president for Academic Affairs, provided a follow-up email to all faculty and staff on both campuses to encourage them to review the self study and to provide feedback.

January 2019

  • HLC sent the student survey to all Washburn University and Washburn Tech students.
  • Committee released the PSA requesting community feedback - supported with a news release, a message on the Washburn.edu homepage, and a message to alumni via the Washburn Alumni Association and Foundation.
  • Committee began social media aspect of the campaign.
  • Messaging in Bod Talk and poster distribution (switched posters every three/four weeks) continued.

February 2019

  • Committee distributed an HLC "postcard" directly to all faculty on both campuses; left in offices frequented by students for pick up/distribution, including the Washburn Student Government Association.
  • Committee began distributing HLC sticky note pads with key dates and the overview website url across both campuses at meetings as a "take away."
  • Began sending HLC-focused electronic newsletters - there was a series of six and they can be viewed on this webpage. They were coordinated with the regular distribution of Bod Talk to serve as additional information.
  • Committee began hosting open forums for students and faculty/staff to provide an overview and allow for direct questions in advance of the visit.

March 2019

  • Continued HLC-focused eletronic newsletter distribution, social media campaign, open forums, and poster distribution.
  • Hosted tabling events in the Memorial Union during lunch times across several days to reach students about upcoming HLC visit - distributed HLC themed cookies and the HLC postcard.
  • Hosted the "Quest for Accreditation" and wine/cheese tasting events to engage faculty with the specific criteria. Details for both events can be found further down this webpage.

An HLC "postcard" was mailed to all faculty and staff members on both campuses (to their offices), distributed at open forums prior to the visit and left for students in offices/areas they frequent on campus.

HLC postcard side 1

HLC postcard side 2

We ran HLC advertisements in the weekly student print publication leading up to the HLC peer reviewers being on campus, as well as the publication's on-line presence. A sample of this advertising is below.

The Review HLC Ad Sample

The Quest for Accreditation

To further engage our campus community, the members of several HLC committees hosted "The Quest for Accreditation." Representatives from the college, individual schools, departments and functional areas participated in a two-day, NCAA bracket-style quiz show to claim ultimate Washburn University and HLC knowledge. The event culminated with a wine and cheese event where we paired wines/beer with HLC criteria. We had posters at each wine/beer station detailing the pairings.

Quest Pic 1
Quest Pic 2
Quest Pic 3
Quest Pic 4

HLC Campaign Posters

The roll-out committee created a series of posters that featured people across the campus. The posters spoke to individual criteria and publicized the dates of the HLC visit, along with the website url.

HLC Newsletters

We sent an HLC newsletter each Wednesday leading up to the HLC visit. These newsletters provided information to help students, faculty and staff understand the HLC process and each criteria that was used to evaluate Washburn.

Possible HLC Questions

During a visit, HLC representatives may stop students, faculty and staff to ask them questions. We provided those possible questions for our students, faculty and staff to help them prepare via the weekly newsletters and this web page. Below are the lists of questions, by respective groups.

General

  • What do you know about accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission?
  • What distinguishes Washburn from neighboring institutions?
  • What are Washburn’s greatest strengths?
  • What are the biggest challenges facing Washburn?
  • What is it like to be a student at Washburn?
  • Do you believe academics are the top priority at Washburn? Why or why not?
  • Describe any campus processes that could be improved or made more efficient.
  • What kind of changes are taking place at Washburn?  Do you see these as positive or not?

Criterion 1

  • Do you know the Washburn/Washburn Tech mission statement? How would you describe it?
  • Do you know where you would find the official mission statement?
  • Do you support the mission of Washburn/Washburn Tech?
  • Are you familiar with the core values of Washburn/Washburn Tech?
  • Do you support the core values of Washburn/Washburn Tech?
  • How does Washburn/Washburn Tech support students who meet the admissions criteria?
  • How does Washburn/Washburn Tech support students who are underprepared or struggling?
  • How do Washburn/Washburn Tech’s processes/activities reflect attention to human diversity?
  • How does Washburn/Washburn Tech support the community at large?
  • Are marketing materials accurate and up to date?
  • Why did you choose to attend Washburn University? Have your expectations been met? Would you make the same choice if you were given the opportunity again?
  • What do you think is special about a Washburn education?
  • What do you like best about Washburn/Washburn Tech?
  • What would you change about Washburn/Washburn Tech if you could?
  • Would you recommend Washburn to other students?

Criterion 2

  • Describe the campus climate at Washburn/Washburn Tech.
  • Does Washburn/Washburn Tech have academic and financial requirements which are presented clearly and completely to students and the public?
  • Do you understand the transfer guidelines? The academic requirements to complete your degree?
  • Have you experienced any problems getting the courses you need in a timely manner?
  • Describe your experiences with academic advising.
  • Do you believe Washburn supports freedom of expression?
  • Do you know where to go for help with the following?:

                Academic support

                Career planning

                Personal counseling

                Making a complaint

                Technology support

  • Does Washburn have policies and procedures in place to address ethical conduct in research for both faculty and students?

Criterion 3

  • Are you familiar with the university student learning outcomes? (Washburn)
  • Do you support the university student learning outcomes? (Washburn)
  • Are you supportive of the general education requirements at Washburn University? (Washburn)
  • Do you know your departmental program student learning outcomes? (Washburn/Washburn Tech)
  • Are the classes offered by your department taught by qualified faculty including adjuncts? (Washburn/Washburn Tech)
  • Does Washburn provide sufficient technology support?
  • What is your experience with the following university services?:

                Library

                Tutoring

                Dining

                Health Center

                Recreational facilities

                Counseling Services

  • What characterizes the relationship between students and faculty?
  • What opportunities do you have to conduct research? Participate in community or service learning experiences? Interact with people and cultures different from your own?
  • Are Washburn/Washburn Tech students provided with sufficient and relevant co-curricular experiences?
  • Does Washburn/Washburn Tech have sufficient and appropriate classrooms to instruct students?
  • Are facilities appropriately maintained at Washburn/Washburn Tech?

Criterion 4

  • Did you transfer credit to Washburn? If so, what was your experience with the process?
  • Do you think Washburn is clear in its communication with students about topics such as financial aid, student conduct, costs, and graduation requirements? What improvements would you recommend?
  • Are Washburn/Washburn Tech instructors appropriately qualified?

Criterion 5

  • Describe the role of the Washburn Student Government Association. (Washburn)
  • How are students given the opportunity to provide input into important initiatives?
  • How are students given the opportunity to provide input into proposed tuition increases?
  • Are academic programs relevant and current?
  • Are the computer software systems helpful in assisting students with registration? With advising? With knowledge of campus events?
  • Have you read Washburn’s Assurance Argument?
  • What do you know about accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission?
  • What distinguishes Washburn from neighboring institutions?
  • What are Washburn’s greatest strengths?
  • What are the biggest challenges facing Washburn?
  • What is it like to work at Washburn/Washburn Tech?
  • How is morale on campus?
  • Do you believe academics are the top priority at Washburn? Why or why not?
  • Describe any campus processes that could be improved or made more efficient.
  • What kind of changes are taking place at Washburn?  Do you see these as positive or not?

Criterion 1

  • Do you know the Washburn mission statement? How would you describe it?
  • Do you know where you would find the official mission statement?
  • Do you support the mission of Washburn?
  • Does the Washburn Board of Regents support the mission of Washburn?
  • How does your department support the mission of Washburn?
  • How were you involved in the strategic planning process at Washburn?
  • What are Washburn’s current strategic planning priorities?
  • Do you believe Washburn has made progress toward achieving the identified strategic goals?
  • Are you familiar with the core values of Washburn?
  • Do you support the core values of Washburn?
  • How does Washburn support students who meet the admissions criteria?
  • How does Washburn support students who are underprepared or struggling?
  • Are budget decisions made based on the strategic goals of the university?
  • Do budget decisions take into account recommendations from the program review?
  • What do you believe have been the major accomplishments of Washburn over the last ten years?
  • How do Washburn’s processes/activities reflect attention to human diversity?
  • How does Washburn support the community at large?
  • Are marketing materials accurate and up to date?

Criterion 2

  • Is Washburn committed to equal educational/employment opportunities?
  • Describe the campus climate at Washburn.
  • Describe shared governance and how faculty participate in decision-making at different levels of the university (department, college, institution)
  • For some common faculty issues (workload, salary, sabbatical leaves, etc.), what works well and what needs to be improved?
  • Are you satisfied with the support you receive to enhance your teaching?
  • Are you satisfied with the support you receive to enhance your scholarship?
  • Have Washburn administrators established a culture of trust within the university?
  • Do you understand the FERPA policy?
  • Does Washburn have academic and financial requirements which are presented clearly and completely to students and the public?
  • What are the major responsibilities of the Board of Regents?
  • Who is responsible for curriculum additions/deletions/modifications?
  • Who is responsible for academic policy creation/modification?
  • Do you, faculty, believe you have academic freedom in your teaching?
  • Does Washburn have policies and procedures in place to address ethical conduct in research for both faculty and students?

Criterion 3

  • What characterizes a Washburn education?
  • What is the process for making curriculum changes in your academic programs?
  • Are you familiar with the university student learning outcomes?
  • Do you support the university student learning outcomes?
  • What is the purpose of Washburn’s general education program? How do you know if it is achieving its purpose? How could it be improved?
  • Do you know your departmental program student learning outcomes?
  • How do you know your majors are attaining the program learning outcomes?
  • What is your department’s vision for the future? How does it relate to the university’s vision?
  • How is course quality and consistency ensured in multiple section face-to-face courses? In online versions of face-to-face courses?  In concurrent enrollment courses?
  • Does your department offer courses or programs via distance education? If so, how does your department ensure the quality of the curriculum?
  • Does the university provide support for the development of on-line courses?
  • Are the classes offered by your department taught by qualified faculty including adjuncts and concurrent enrollment course instructors?
  • What is the role of faculty in ensuring academic quality?
  • Can you describe the tenure and promotion process? What is your impression of the process?
  • Do you know what Washburn’s Quality Initiative was these past three years?
  • Does Washburn provide sufficient technology support?
  • What resources are available to support faculty? Are they sufficient?
  • Are you involved in research? Does Washburn’s research focus further its mission?
  • What opportunities do students in your program have to gain experience with research? With community or civic engagement? With diversity or multiculturalism?
  • How would you characterize the relationship between faculty and administration?
  • Are students provided with adequate academic and personal support services?
  • Are students provided with sufficient and relevant co-curricular experiences?
  • Does Washburn have a commitment to retention and progression to graduation? How successful have the efforts been?
  • Does Washburn have sufficient and appropriate classrooms to instruct students?
  • Are facilities appropriately maintained at Washburn?
  • How do you track your majors to determine how successful they are after they graduate?

Criterion 4

  • Describe the program review process used at Washburn
  • Describe the transfer policy used by Washburn University for general education courses.  For major courses.
  • Are Washburn faculty appropriately qualified?
  • Describe the general education course approval process.
  • Is your department actively involved in assessing student learning?
  • How has your department used its assessment findings?
  • How are you made aware of Washburn students’ achievement of the university student learning outcomes? Where is this information located?
  • How is Washburn doing with regard to first year retention rates? Graduation rates?
  • What is Washburn doing to improve retention/graduation rates?

Criterion 5

  • What are the different streams of revenue utilized by Washburn University to fund the institution?
  • How successful has the affiliation between Washburn University and Washburn Tech been?
  • What challenges do you believe Washburn will need to deal with in the next 10 years?
  • Do you understand the annual budget process?
  • Are capital improvements (facilities, technology, equipment) based on strategic needs of the institution?
  • Do you believe the Washburn Board of Regents is aware of important initiatives being undertaken on the Washburn/Washburn Tech campus?
  • How does KBOR fit into the institutional governance structure?
  • What is the role of General Faculty? The role of Faculty Senate?
  • How are faculty given the opportunity to provide input into important initiatives?
  • How are assessment results taken into consideration during the budget decision making process?
  • How are program review recommendations taken into consideration during the budget decision making process?
  • How are strategic planning goals taken into consideration during the budget decision making process?

Criterion 1

  • Do you know the Washburn Tech mission statement? How would you describe it?
  • Do you know where you would find the official mission statement?
  • Do you support the mission of Washburn Tech?
  • Does the Washburn Board of Regents support the mission of Washburn?
  • How does your department support the mission of Washburn Tech?
  • How were you involved in the strategic planning process at Washburn Tech?
  • What are Washburn’s current strategic planning priorities?
  • Do you believe Washburn Tech has made progress toward achieving the identified strategic goals?
  • Are you familiar with the core values of Washburn Tech?
  • Do you support the core values of Washburn Tech?
  • Are budget decisions made based on the strategic goals of the university?
  • Do budget decisions take into account recommendations from the program review?
  • What do you believe have been the major accomplishments of Washburn Tech over the last ten years?
  • How do Washburn Tech’s processes/activities reflect attention to human diversity?
  • How does Washburn Tech support the community at large?
  • Are marketing materials accurate and up to date?

Criterion 2

  • Is Washburn Tech committed to equal educational/employment opportunities?
  • Describe the campus climate at Washburn Tech.
  • Are you satisfied with the support you receive to enhance your teaching?
  • Have Washburn/Washburn Tech administrators established a culture of trust within the university?
  • Do you understand the FERPA policy?
  • Does Washburn Tech have academic and financial requirements which are presented clearly and completely to students and the public?
  • Who is responsible for curriculum additions/deletions/modifications?
  • Who is responsible for academic policy creation/modification?
  • Do you believe you have academic freedom in your teaching?

Criterion 3

  • What characterizes a Washburn Tech education?
  • What is the process for making curriculum changes in your academic programs?
  • Do you know your departmental program student learning outcomes?
  • How do you know your majors are attaining the program learning outcomes?
  • What is your department’s vision for the future? How does it relate to the university’s vision?
  • Are the classes offered by your department taught by qualified faculty including adjuncts and concurrent enrollment course instructors?
  • Do you know what Washburn’s Quality Initiative was these past three years?
  • Does Washburn provide sufficient technology support?
  • What resources are available to support instructors? Are they sufficient?
  • Are instructors provided with professional development opportunities?
  • Are students provided with adequate academic and personal support services?
  • Does Washburn Tech have a commitment to retention and progression to graduation? How successful have the efforts been?
  • Does Washburn Tech have sufficient and appropriate classrooms to instruct students?
  • Are facilities appropriately maintained at Washburn Tech?
  • How do you track your majors to determine how successful they are after they graduate?

Criterion 4

  • Describe the program review process used at Washburn Tech
  • Are Washburn Tech instructors appropriately qualified?
  • Is your department actively involved in assessing student learning?
  • How has your department used its assessment findings?
  • How is Washburn Tech doing with regard to first year retention rates? Graduation rates?
  • What is Washburn Tech doing to improve retention/graduation rates?

Criterion 5

  • What are the different streams of revenue utilized by Washburn Tech to fund the institution?
  • How successful has the affiliation between Washburn University and Washburn Tech been?
  • What challenges do you believe Washburn Tech will need to deal with in the next 10 years?
  • Are capital improvements (facilities, technology, equipment) based on strategic needs of the institution?
  • Do you believe the Washburn Board of Regents is aware of important initiatives being undertaken on the Washburn Tech campus?
  • How does KBOR fit into the institutional governance structure?
  • How are faculty given the opportunity to provide input into important initiatives?
  • How are assessment results taken into consideration during the budget decision making process?
  • How are program review recommendations taken into consideration during the budget decision making process?
  • How are strategic planning goals taken into consideration during the budget decision making process?

Criterion 1

  • Do you know the Washburn/Washburn Tech mission statement? How would you describe it?
  • Do you know where you would find the official mission statement?
  • How does your department support the mission of Washburn/Washburn Tech?
  • How were you involved in the strategic planning process at Washburn/Washburn Tech?
  • What are Washburn’s current strategic planning priorities?
  • Do you believe Washburn/Washburn Tech has made progress toward achieving the identified strategic goals?
  • Are you familiar with the core values of Washburn/Washburn Tech?
  • Do you support the core values of Washburn/Washburn Tech?
  • Are budget decisions made based on the strategic goals of the university?
  • What do you believe have been the major accomplishments of Washburn/Washburn Tech over the last ten years?
  • How do Washburn/Washburn Tech’s processes/activities reflect attention to human diversity?
  • How does Washburn/Washburn Tech support the community at large?

Criterion 2

  • What is it like to be a staff member at Washburn/Washburn Tech?
  • Is Washburn/Washburn Tech committed to equal educational/employment opportunities?
  • Describe the campus climate at Washburn/Washburn Tech.
  • What opportunities do you have for professional development?
  • How are staff evaluated at Washburn/Washburn Tech? What is your impression of the evaluation process?
  • How would you describe the shared governance process at Washburn? Do you think staff have sufficient input into decisions that affect them?
  • Have Washburn/Washburn Tech administrators established a culture of trust within the university?
  • Do units across campus work collaboratively? How well does this work? What might be improved?
  • Do you feel the work you do is valued by administration? By faculty? By other staff members? By students?
  • Do you understand the FERPA policy?

Criterion 3

  • Are you familiar with the university student learning outcomes?
  • Do you support the university student learning outcomes?
  • How does your department contribute to student learning and development?
  • How does your department assess or evaluate effectiveness?
  • Does Washburn provide sufficient technology support?
  • How does Washburn/Washburn Tech support staff?
  • Are staff provided with professional development opportunities? Are staff members treated equitably in their access to these opportunities?
  • Are students provided with adequate support services?
  • How would you characterize the relationship between faculty and staff?
  • What are some important benefits about working at Washburn? What do you like best about your job? What would you change if you could about your job?
  • Are facilities appropriately maintained at Washburn/Washburn Tech?

Criterion 4

  • Are Washburn staff appropriately qualified?
  • Describe the program review process used at Washburn/Washburn Tech
  • How does your department evaluate the student learning and development which occurs in your area? What changes have you made as a result of the evaluation?

Criterion 5

  • What are the different streams of revenue utilized by Washburn University/Washburn Tech to fund the institution?
  • How successful has the affiliation between Washburn University and Washburn Tech been?
  • What challenges do you believe Washburn will need to deal with in the next 10 years?
  • How are staff given the opportunity to provide input into important initiatives?
  • How has your department created/modified processes to increase institutional effectiveness?

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