A Quality Education

Student walking in front of a building on the campus of the University of San Diego

10-YEAR ACCREDITATION REAFFIRMS USD’S VALUE

Approximately every decade, the University of San Diego undergoes an accreditation process — an evaluation of operations, academics and institutional procedures. In March 2022, the university was granted a 10-year reaffirmation of accreditation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC). 

A requirement for universities receiving federal funding, accreditation is a peer-review process that enables “students, families, the government and the public to know that an institution provides a quality education.”

“It’s a process to ensure we are meeting our mission in many different ways,” says Elizabeth Giddens, director of Institutional Effectiveness and Strategic Initiatives (IESI) and the WSCUC accreditation liaison officer. “Accreditation provides an accountability framework for institutions to demonstrate educational quality and continuously improve. It
is critical to our operations as a university, how we service students, their learning, and their successes at USD and beyond.

First accredited by WSCUC in 1956, reaccreditation occurs roughly every six to 10 years, with the entire process taking a few years to accomplish. Multiple cross-campus collaborations (with entities such as the University Assessment Committee, WSCUC Steering Committee and Strategic Planning Steering Committee), twice monthly meetings with an Executive Team, detailed evidence gathering, an institutional report, and a three-day site visit with 100+ university stakeholders culminated in the announcement in March that USD is reaffirmed in its accreditation for another 10 years, the maximum reaffirmation available to institutions.

“In addition to this 10-year reaffirmation, due to a long pattern of USD having quality outcomes, the campus qualified for the Thematic Pathway for Reaffirmation (TPR) process,” explains Giddens. “The TPR process is a shortened accreditation process for institutions with an already healthy fiscal condition, strong student achievement indicators and sustained quality performance. The TPR review theme was organized around USD’s progress and achievement toward the goals of our strategic plan, Envisioning 2024. The success of that plan played a key role in the outcome of the reaffirmation of accreditation review.”

An opportunity to reflect on what USD offers, Giddens sees accreditation as a chance to reevaluate as well as reaffirm the quality of education being offered on campus. It’s also a time for the USD community to come together and positively impact the future of the campus.

“This gives you an opportunity to step back and ask, ‘Are we being the best that we can be?’ Without accreditation, continuous improvement would stagnate,” she says. “The process requires a lot of engaged faculty, staff and the student voice. Universities are complex organizations, and it requires us all to come together and reflect and make improvements.”

With the reaffirmation of accreditation complete, the university is looking ahead to the next 10 years. The work to implement WSCUC recommendations includes advancing the Renaissance Plan for deferred maintenance, developing a new strategic plan (post-Envisioning 2024) aligned with the university’s budget, continuing timely academic program review, creating a strategic plan for distance education, continuing to measure USD’s campus climate to advance diversity, equity and inclusion across campus, and increasing diversity among USD faculty members.

For Giddens, accreditation provides an opportunity for the University to continue to set the standard as an engaged, contemporary Catholic University of higher education. — Allyson Meyer

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