Vanderbilt University’s plan to improve the quality of education it offers is a bold initiative that may affect the way other colleges and universities do business, said reviewers from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools who have granted Vanderbilt reaccreditation.
The reaccreditation process, which is required by the SACS about once a decade, included two committees working for nearly two years; one of these committees was responsible for creating a Quality Enhancement Plan, which reviewers praised as innovative and potentially influential.
The QEP, accessible at www.vanderbilt.edu/provost/current.html, outlines plans to revise and update Vanderbilt Visions, an experimental program launched during the 2006-07 academic year. Conceived as a two-semester orientation program for first-year students, Vanderbilt Visions is being combined with The Commons, a new approach to housing first-year students and expanding their learning outside of the classroom, which starts in the fall of 2008. The new students, shepherded by a faculty adviser who will live on site, will become engaged with the academic life of the university, learn and participate in scholarship and research, and acquire the values and ethics needed to function in the 21st century.
“We expect permanent changes in the roles of both students and faculty, wherein the former will become intentional learners and the latter will become more active facilitators in the learning process,” reads the QEP report. “Additionally, (Vanderbilt Visions) promises to enhance the quality and frequency of student learning experiences, foster increased formation of students’ social learning relationships and instill the basic values of civic engagement, scholarship and leadership.”
SACS reviewers evaluated Vanderbilt in two waves, the first an offsite inquiry in November 2006 followed by an onsite review last March.
“The great strength of our QEP is that it will affect the entire undergraduate student body by improving the freshman transition to life in a research university,” said Tim McNamara, associate provost for faculty who led Vanderbilt’s reaccreditation effort.
The SACS voted in favor of reaccreditation for Vanderbilt on Dec. 10. Official notification will follow in January.
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