|Northwestern College has received formal notification of its reaccreditation by The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. The commission voted to continue accreditation without any stipulations, and scheduled the next comprehensive evaluation for 2015–16.
“We are honored and humbled by the strong affirmation Northwestern has received from the Higher Learning Commission,” says Dr. Bruce Murphy, Northwestern’s president. “We chose to use the reaccreditation process as an opportunity to learn more about ourselves and to improve. What we learned was encouraging and gratifying.”
A five-member evaluation team visited Northwestern Oct. 31 to Nov. 2, meeting with faculty, staff, students, board members, alumni and community leaders. In its report, the accreditation team cited Northwestern’s “well-understood mission,” adding that there is “ample evidence it has been using its resources to accomplish that mission effectively.
“The goals, decision-making processes, and relationships among the trustees, faculty, students and administration position the college to accomplish its purposes in the coming decade,” wrote the evaluators. “There will undoubtedly be significant challenges facing all small, private institutions over the next several years, but it is the judgment of the team that Northwestern College is among the very strongest of these sorts of institutions. The team gives Northwestern its most positive recommendation and most enthusiastic endorsement.”
The evaluators identified nine strengths Northwestern possesses, including a shared commitment to the institutional mission and “an extraordinary ability to articulate the mission on the part of all constituencies”; good relations with the local community; a modern, attractive and well-maintained physical plant; effective use of technology; and prudent financial management. Also: a spirit of trust and mutual respect among the college’s constituencies; a dedicated and hard-working faculty, staff and administration; an engaged Board of Trustees; and positive and committed students.
“I was especially impressed with the team’s emphasis on the quality of our people and the strength of our mission,” says President Murphy. “In an effort to focus on areas where we want to improve, we can take for granted significant strengths within our community. The report provided encouragement and a call for us to provide leadership within Christian higher education.”
The evaluators asked Northwestern to work on three areas over the next decade: strategic planning, retention planning and evaluation, and diversity in senior management.
Northwestern has been accredited as a liberal arts college by the commission since 1970. It undergoes evaluation for reaccreditation every 10 years.
Northwestern officials began planning for the reaccreditation process two years ago with task forces studying the college’s effectiveness in being a connected, distinctive, future-oriented and learning-focused organization.
During the 2004–05 school year, a committee of faculty, staff and students summarized the task force findings, interpreted data, drew conclusions and made recommendations in Northwestern’s self-study report, which was submitted to the accrediting commission.
Dr. Adrienne Forgette, associate professor of psychology, served as chairperson of the self-study committee. The evaluators commended the committee for developing a report that was “comprehensive, evaluative, candid and well-written.”