By Katie Oglesby, Editor-in-Chief
Every ten years, Gettysburg College must go through the Middle States Accreditation Process, reflecting on the last ten years of the institution in accordance with the Middle States standards. Accreditation allows students to receive federal financial aid.
Co-Chairs of the Middle States Accreditation Process Steering Committee Provost Chris Zappe and Associate Professor of Anthropology Amy Evrard shared the process’s relevance to the larger campus community.
They explained that this self-study process gathers evidence showing whether the College meets each standard toward accreditation. These standards include “Mission and Goals,” “Ethics and Integrity,” “Design and Delivery of the Student Learning Experience,” “Support of the Student Experience,” “Educational Effectiveness Assessment,” “Planning, Resources, and Institutional Improvement” and “Governance, Leadership, and Administration.”
Two members of the faculty or administration co-chair each of the standards. Evrard also explained that over 70 members of the faculty, staff and students have been involved in the process. Peter Halsey ’23 was involved with the Ethics and Integrity working group, and Vivek Rallabandi ’25 with the Support of the Student Learning Experience working group. Evrard also noted that the seventh working group on Governance, Leadership and Administration met with Student Senate to look at their governance structure.
“So there has been student input at this point,” Evrard said. “But what we hope is that after we…share this draft report, that it’s supposed to be a transparent process that where we hope everyone who wants to will weigh in on whether this supports a shared vision of where the college is and where it can go. So that will be available to anyone to read and comment on in the fall.”
Evrard added that in the fall, they will reach out to students and groups on campus to go over the results and get input on where to go for the future.
This process has been occurring for the last year, and will continue through the summer, with them reporting to Middle States Commission on Higher Education in the fall. In spring 2024, the evaluation team, usually led by the president of a peer-institution, will come to campus to judge the College’s standing with Middle States.
“I don’t think there’s a real concern that we won’t regain our accreditation,” Evrard said. “It’s just…a nice opportunity to really look at ourselves and then…just seeing where…there’s room to grow or where we can be really proud of what we’ve accomplished.”
Zappe continued saying, “What you’re basically trying to do is improve the quality of the educational experience in a variety of ways…in the ongoing effort to always get better.”
Zappe noted that the process has been long. They already completed a preliminary document, and are now in the data collection portion of the process and writing drafts of what will make up the final report.
Evrard highlighted that they have identified two “institutional priorities” she and Zappe are looking at across the standards, which are student success, emphasizing the integration of the curriculum and co-curriculum, and diversity, equity and inclusion. She noted that they have been drawing on evidence from the 2022 Climate Study for especially this latter priority.
Evrard shared the impact this process has had on her as a faculty member.
“The one thing that’s been really interesting about this process to me is just how…there really is a campus community here that wants students to do well and succeed here, and I can’t just say that anecdotally. As a professor, I’ve always hoped that was true, but now I can say it like based on evidence that there are constant like reorganizations and programs and policies and trying to integrate what the College Life does with what the academic division does, and always with students at the center.”
Zappe added that one of the parts he is celebrating is the integration of academics and College Life.
“The Center for Student Success really is a reflection of how academic, the faculty, the academic administrators, the College Life people have kind of come together and collaborated,” he said. “Obviously, it’s a work in progress, but I think it’s an example of how change can make things more effective.”