UT begins home stretch of Higher Learning Commission process

January 17, 2012 | News, UToday
By Kim Goodin

As spring semester begins, UT enters a home stretch of sorts in a process toward continued accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

A team from member institutions of the commission will meet with members of the campus community during an on-site comprehensive visit Feb. 27-29. The visit serves as a finish line in a process that has included intense self-examination and the publication of a 372-page self-study, available here.

Those involved with UT’s self-study believe the process will both illustrate and reinforce its focus on quality, continuous improvement and progress.

The Higher Learning Commission will evaluate UT using five key criteria: Mission and Integrity; Planning for the Future; Student Learning and Effective Teaching; Acquisition, Discovery and Application of Knowledge; and Engagement and Service.

Dr. Charles Blatz, professor in the Department of Philosophy, is the team leader for Criterion One: Mission and Integrity.

The challenge for this criterion, he said, has been for UT to make clear the many ways its mission, vision and values are at work in its day-to-day activities.

“Our mission is more than just words,” Blatz said. “It captures who we are and what we are about, who we aspire to be, what we are engaged in. It’s not just a name on the back of a T-shirt; it’s what we practice and aspire to as an institution.”

UT took on a larger presence Jan. 8, 2007, when the Board of Trustees approved the mission statement for the recently merged Medical University of Ohio and The University of Toledo. Since then, the mission, vision and value statements have been sprinkled generously throughout the fabric and face of UT.

“If you walk inside the Memorial Field House, you’ll see our mission displayed on the wall,” Blatz said. “It’s on the reverse side of our business cards, posted prominently on our website, listed in our student literature. Basically, it’s out there clearly for all of our communities.”

Blatz said a review of UT’s practices in academic engagement also demonstrated a campus-wide commitment to central aspects of the mission statement: student centeredness and diversity, success in founding research, and deep community engagement.

“The state of Ohio has challenged all institutions of higher education to be more student-focused in what we do,” Blatz explained. “It starts with access, bringing students here, helping with financial aid, and giving academic support, but part of being student-centered also is creating an atmosphere of broadening student experiences and engaging them in the world.”

For example, the report notes that UT’s goal of supporting diversity while nurturing the successes of students, employees and faculty has yielded programs such as the President’s Council on Diversity, the Culture Ambassadors, the Blue and Gold Scholarship Program, and the Minority Business Development Center.

The self-study also relates the University mission and UT’s Directions 2011 strategic plan. Blatz said it shows the appropriateness of UT stressing innovation and excellence in teaching, research and engagement tied to the scientific and technical needs of our community, as well as to cultural, humanistic and social scientific interests. UT’s distinction as home to several state of Ohio centers for excellence in research also is documented.

Blatz noted that the complexities of operating a world-class university and medical center boil down to a common focus.

“We are an incredibly active, dynamic university with many goals and endeavors,” he said. “But within this dynamic culture, we’re still a growing, working unity, a single university. Everyone is striving in a coherent and common direction toward improving the human condition, in one way or another.”

Blatz’s colleagues on the Criterion One team are Dr. Defne Apul, Dr. Jeanne Brockmyer, Dr. Walter Edinger, Barbara Floyd, Dr. David Guip, Dr. Wayne Hoss, Dr. Saleh Jabarin, Susan Palmer, Dr. Carter Wilson and Dr. Bryan Yamamoto.

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