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   from the issue of November 16, 2006

Accreditation process closes on positive note


Jim O'Hanlon, UNL's core accreditation team and dozens of administrators, faculty and staff can clear their desks and put accreditation files away.

The North Central Association accreditation team site visit, completed Nov. 8, closed out nearly two years of work by team leader O'Hanlon and crew. The dean emeritus was proud and relieved, and buoyed by the accreditation site review and final meeting.

From Nov. 6-8 the 14-member external review team, chaired by Phillip Jones, vice president for student services at the University of Iowa, interviewed faculty, staff and students. Their brief preliminary report to Chancellor Harvey Perlman on the last day of the visit was positive; a final written report comes in nine to 10 weeks.

"The team was impressed by our commitment to our tripartite mission of teaching, research, and engagement, by the progress we have made over the past 10 years, by our adherence to the accreditation criteria and by the general environment on campus," Perlman said in a Nov. 8 e-mail to faculty and staff. "The team will recommend that we not be required to provide any additional reports or incur any additional focused visits. It is very exciting to have a group of distinguished visitors evaluate us so highly."

While the team spent most of its time in scheduled meetings, open sessions allowed input from faculty, staff, students and the public. O'Hanlon said those meetings were well-attended. Approximately 80 attended one faculty meeting; one staff meeting had a dozen in attendance.

"Turnout was great for the sessions," O'Hanlon said. "We had a lot of people come to talk to the team and that was impressive for the team.

"People wanted to tell our story well and I think they did that."

O'Hanlon said the accreditation process helped UNL reflect and examine what it does well and on what it needs to improve.

The self-study, completed earlier this fall, is online at The nearly 300-page document outlines how UNL fulfills the Higher Learning Commission's five criteria: mission and integrity; preparing for the future; student learning and effective teaching; acquisition, discovery and application of knowledge; and engagement and service.

The document also has use beyond the accreditation process, O'Hanlon said.

"We do have a really great document," he said. "This is an expansive place (and) no one has grasp of our whole story. I encourage as many people to read it as possible, and be impressed with the story we have to tell. I would like to find ways for us now to take that self-study document and use it to tell our story to others and in other ways."

He said a dedication by individuals involved helped forge success for the self study.

"There were so many people that helped, I think that's a tribute to the kind of commitment people have to this university," O'Hanlon said. "There wasn't a time when I asked someone to do something that they didn't do it and did do it well."

And in the days following the intense focus of accreditation, O'Hanlon and others are sighing relief.

"Within that period of a year and a half or so, there were stages, and when we would transition from one to another, it could be hectic. Right now I have stuff piled up on my desk that I need to store or throw away, and I need to write a follow-up action report so when we go through it next time, we'll have some ideas on what to do. Trying to look 10 years back, those memories are difficult to come by."



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