Middle States Blog: A Poem

’Twas the Friday before Middle States and all the campus was cheering because March Madness is here. Yet the accreditation banners are being hung in the Sheraton with care to welcome our MSCHE visitors as they will soon be here.

The self-study is posted on Middlestates.syr.edu for all Syracuse to read. And briefing documents were emailed to key pre-selected people for meetings with good info they’d need.

Saturday and Sunday the team arrives with hopes the Nor’easter would end so visitor’s flights from nearby Boston and far away Puerto Rico land okay and drives from nearby Ithaca would happen without delay.

The visit begins with the site team’s reception with the Chancellor’s Council and our MSCHE Steering Committee Sunday. Then moves to jam-packed meetings with administrators, faculty, students and staff Monday and Tuesday.

The best of campus catering and Dinosaur BBQ will show off our local and best cuisine. And a student-centered, academic-strategic-plan focused, mission-driven, assessment-data-using campus will be seen.

On Wednesday, we will hear a readout of this distinguished team’s findings on how Syracuse University did fare on the MSCHE standards and verification of compliance. And we will have additional feedback on how this Middle States accreditation allowed us time for reflection, peer review, and forward momentum—so much more than a dance.

Then the Middle States accreditation on-campus involvement will come to an end and we will celebrate with a big grin. Then we will await MSCHE’s final decision in June knowing no matter the detailed results we certainly did win.

Rochelle Ford

Middle States Blog: A Visit to Florence Center

This week officially began the first part of our Syracuse University Middle States Visit.  The chair of our site team, Dr. James Bean, Northeastern University’s provost, joined Syracuse University’s provost, Dr. Michele Wheatly, and Petra Hejnova, Syracuse Abroad interim executive director, for an evaluation of our Syracuse Florence Center.

Syracuse University Provost Michele Wheatly, center; Rochelle Ford, second from left, co-chair of the University’s self-study steering committee; and Petra Hejnova, interim executive director of Syracuse University Abroad, join Middle States site team chair Dr. James Bean, right, for a tour of the University’s Florence Center in Italy.

Dr. Sasha Perugini, director of the Florence Center, coordinated meals with students and faculty, meetings with key program leaders and administrators, class visits, tours of the center’s facilities, visits to host families and meetings with the U.S. general consul and officials with the University of Florence.

Bean had visited the Syracuse University Florence Center in 2005 when his daughter, then a student at Tufts University, was studying abroad through Syracuse University’s Florence Center.  Armed with questions from other members of the site team that will visit the Syracuse University main campus March 25-27, he focused on each of the standards with particular attention to assessment at each level, including academic programs’ learning outcomes, co-curricular programs like residential life and student affairs, and various functional units including budget, IT, registrar, communications and marketing.

In each meeting, faculty, staff and students provided additional supportive evidence and anecdotes related to how we address the Middle States standards.

During the visit, faculty and staff were excited to learn about and be engaged in program-level assessment that departments are doing on Syracuse’s main campus, exchange best practices in teaching and learning, create more opportunities for collaboration and ensure that the abroad courses and experiences help students achieve their degree requirements and improve their abilities to communicate and collaborate across cultures.

The visit ran from Sunday, February 25, through Tuesday, February 27.  Visit Middlestates.syr.edu for more information about Syracuse University’s self-study that showcases how the University demonstrated it is meeting the Middle States Accreditation Standards.

Rochelle Ford, rlford@syr.edu



Middle States to evaluate Syracuse Florence Center

This week, I head to the Syracuse Abroad Florence Center to help prepare our Florence Center faculty, staff and student colleagues for the visit from the Middle States site team chair James Bean, provost of Northeastern University, from February 25-27.

While in Florence, Provost Bean, accompanied by Michele Wheatly, Syracuse University’s provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, will evaluate our Florence Center to determine to what extent the strategic plans, practices, experiences and operations align with the main Syracuse campus.

He will meet with faculty, students, staff, internship coordinators, host families and University partners.

Of course, we will treat him to some amazing Tuscan cuisine.

In preparation for this visit, the Syracuse Abroad staff worked on a briefing packet that highlighted how we now approach assessment and help ensure quality and consistency. Like the main self-study report, available at middlestates.syr.edu, we have used the Middle States Accreditation as an opportunity for reflection on how we operate, for peer review by our colleagues on campus and off campus through the site team volunteers, and for forward momentum to make improvements.

The faculty and staff through Syracuse Abroad contribute so much to the student experience in and out of the classroom that they are truly exemplars of our being One Global University.

Rochelle Ford, Ph.D., APR
Professor and Chair, Public Relations
Tri-chair, Middle States Steering Committee

December 1 marks first Middle States report submission

December 1 is here, and our first report for our Middle States reaccreditation process has been submitted for official review by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

This first report is called Verification of Compliance with Accreditation-Relevant Federal Regulations. In this report, we must provide evidence that Syracuse University meets all of the accreditation-relevant federal regulations developed by the U.S. Department of Education in the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008. We also have to demonstrate that we are in compliance with Title IV program responsibilities relating to financial or compliance audits among other items. Because the Middle States Commission on Higher Education is a federally recognized accreditor, all of its member institutions and those seeking initial accreditation must comply with the accreditation-relevant federal regulations developed by the U.S. Department of Education.

Here are the areas of focus:

  • Student Identity Verification in Distance and Correspondence Education
  • Transfer of Credit Policies and Articulation Agreements
  • Title IV Program Responsibilities
  • Institutional Record of Student Complaints
  • Required Information for Students and the Public
  • Standing with State and Other Accrediting Agencies
  • Contractual Relationships
  • Assignment of Credit Hours

Our report lists, provides copies of, and links to all of the relevant policies and procedures that are (1) in writing, (2) approved and administered through applicable institutional processes, and (3) published and accessible to those students, faculty, staff and others that are affected by those policies.

One of the external review site team members is required to look at each piece of documentation we provide to determine if the University has a written, approved and administered institutional process that is published and accessible.  By January 15, this team member will submit a report to the site team chair and our Middle States vice president signifying if we have a process or procedure that addresses the regulation or if we do not.

Items not found in our documentation will be subject to a follow-up by the site team that visits in March or subsequent follow-up by the commission.

Team 8: Compliance that completed the discovery and writing of the initial draft was led by co-chairs Michaele DeHart, interim director of risk management, business, finance, and administrative services; and Abby Perer, associate general counsel, Office of University Counsel.

In addition to documenting our processes and procedures, this team provided internal recommendations on how Syracuse could improve these processes and procedures. These internal recommendations have been given to the units responsible for these processes and procedures.

Now that we have reflected on these compliance issues and created forward momentum on making improvements, we will await our external peer review report on this first report.

Enjoy your RedZone of the semester with finals, papers and winter break preparation; our Middle States Logistics Committee (Libby Barlow, Gabe Coleman, Gerald Edmonds, Rochelle Ford, Melissa Lowry, Katie Rupert and Jeff Stanton) is busy finalizing our self-study report for submission before Green Days begin. We continue to use this process for Peer Review, Reflection, and Forward Momentum.


Feel free to contact me at rlford@syr.edu if you have any questions or concerns.


Rochelle L. Ford, PhD, APR
Tri-Chair, Middle States Steering Committee
Professor and Chair, Public Relations

Middle States Blog: New to Syracuse?

This week, we will welcome new faculty, staff and students. It seems like yesterday that I joined the Syracuse University family as a new professor, but I am now entering my “senior,” or fourth, year here. While I learned about the University through my application and interview process, I learned the most about Syracuse University through being engaged in the Middle States reaccreditation self-study process.

Now you can do the same; learn more than many people do by reading the draft of the Middle States self-study that was researched and written in the 2016-17 academic year and that will be submitted in December to the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Not only can new faculty, students, and staff learn about the University through the research conducted by the nearly 100 faculty, students, and staff who wrote the draft report, but you can give us objective feedback on the clarity and support offered in the report. Like many of you, members of the review team who will visit in the Spring 2018 semester will not have had any previous affiliation with Syracuse University. This self-study will serve as their basis for determining if the University meets the standards for reaccreditation.

Reaccreditation is critical for the University to continue receiving federal financial aid and many federal grants and contracts.

The draft self-study also includes formal recommendations that the University is committed to addressing within the next few years to help us improve in areas discussed in the self-study. Give us feedback on these recommendations. Do they seem appropriate and reasonable?

Participating in the Middle States process will not only help you learn about the University but will help the University prepare for our spring 2018 visit by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. This process is our opportunity for Peer Review, Reflection, and Continuous Improvement.

For more information, visit middlestates.syr.edu.


Rochelle Ford, professor and tri-chair Middle States Steering Committee


It’s time to get ready

When I was in high school, this time of year included band camp, football camp, journalism camp, cheerleading camp so that we would be ready for fall activities and be the best we could be.  Well at Syracuse, we are getting ready for the fall similarly: Athletic teams are practicing, the Daily Orange is covering preparations, the band is rehearsing, and the faculty and staff are prepping for the return of students for the Fall 2017 semester.

However, to be really prepared for this academic year—when the Middle States Commission on Higher Education sends at our request a site team to review how we are meeting the standards for accreditation—we (students, faculty and staff) need to be committed to continuous improvement.

Let’s pull together to:

  1. Give your feedback on our Middle States self-study, which includes recommendations for improving the University.
  1. Participate in completing your department’s or unit’s assessment reporting, due in September.
  1. Support our University Senate as it addresses many of the issues raised in the Middle States self-study including institutional learning outcomes and updating policies and procedures.
  1. Learn more about how to make data-driven continuous improvements.

If you have any questions or comments about Middle States and how to get engaged, e-mail me at rlford@syr.edu.

Rochelle L. Ford, professor and tri-chair, Middle States Steering Committee

Summer: A Time for Syracuse Recommendations

We are past the halfway mark of summer break and summer terms, but if you are like me, you still have a lot you want to do before the fall semester begins.

Every year, my family tries to explore Central New York a little more during the kids’ summer break. And since I am relatively new to the area, I ask people for recommendations. Then I investigate those recommendations before I accept them. And if I feel good about others’ reviews, then I will visit those places and hold my friends accountable if those places met my expectations or didn’t.

Well, accreditation is somewhat like that too. Syracuse University has released the draft of its self-study for the campus community to review until September and give feedback. At the end of the self-study—Chapter 5, to be exact—we list four major recommendations that we want the Middle States Commission and the site team to consider as specific action steps that will help us to improve as an institution in relationship to the Middle States standards. Additionally, by listing these draft recommendations, we are asking the Middle States Commission to hold us, Syracuse University, accountable to implement them. These draft recommendations relate to 1) University-wide assessment 2) Institutional learning outcomes (like the proposed Syracuse 4+4), 3) The student experience, and 4) Resource alignment.

Before we finalize these recommendations, we need you to check them out, give us feedback, and help us to refine them. But read the self-study draft first because these recommendations are drawn from our review of the Middle States standards and criteria outlined in the self-study.

So before we tell Middle States what we plan to do, we need to ensure we are in basic agreement of what needs to be done and why.

In just three months, the Middle States site team chair will be reading these and considering if our recommendations are good ones and to what extent do we need to be held accountable for achieving them.

Enjoy your summer and take a minute to give us feedback on these draft recommendations. Visit selfstudy.syr.edu to review and give comments. Use your NetID to log in and access the self-study draft report, recommendations, and feedback site.

Rochelle L. Ford

Professor and Tri-chair Middle States Steering Committee


Stop by Strawberry Festival Middle States Stand

Do you know what I think would be sweet? Yes, strawberries, (get some at the Syracuse Strawberry Festival), but also celebrating this time next year that we were approved for reaccreditation by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.  Then I think we should all get strawberry sundaes to celebrate.

As you may know, the Steering Committee and eight working teams researched and wrote the first draft of the Syracuse University Self-Study.  This draft is available for your review, and we need to hear what you think.

Did we clearly articulate how Syracuse University is meeting the standards our regional accrediting agency set forth?  Did you know of an example that would illustrate our efforts better than examples we included?

Please take a moment to review the draft online and give us feedback.

However, you can begin learning about Middle States and the draft at the Strawberry Festival.  The Middle States Steering Committee will host a table to answer your questions and share some Middle States swag.

We hope to see you at the Syracuse Strawberry Festival.

Rochelle L. Ford

Spring Student Evaluations of Teaching Can Provide Insight Into Assessment

Student evaluation of teaching for the Spring 2017 semester are in.  Often at the close of the day, I will have a nice glass of wine before reading mine because the comments can be very polarizing.  Comments like, “She is the best professor ever,” and “Why did Syracuse ever hire her?” can be found for the same course.  However, once you get past those types of comments, many of the student evaluations of our teaching can offer some assessment insight into how we delivering course content.  

Take a moment to look for themes between the courses you teach.  With the assessment committee, your department chair, dean or director, see if there were any commonalities regarding course delivery, difficulty of the course, the content uniqueness, etc.

Once you have analyzed the information and looked for themes between the sections you and others teach or between the courses you teach, think about and discuss strategies you should repeat because they seem to work or consider new strategies to deliver the content.  Consider if there is too much repetition or not enough overlapping content so that the courses seem disconnected when they should be sequential.  Write down what you found, what the findings mean and how you use the evaluations to improve teaching and when you might make certain changes.

In fact, you, your department, school or college might even decide to add in questions regarding learning outcomes for the course, the program or the proposed Syracuse 4+4 to understand from an indirect measurement perspective how the unit is preforming from a student perspective.  Then, you would have another indirect measure of student learning. 

Then by presenting the data, analyzing the findings, considering how to make improvements and creating a plan to implement and re-evaluate those adjustments, you have closed the loop on assessment.  That simple – even with those helpful and somewhat irritating student evaluations can be a helpful tool in assessing student learning.

The Middle States accreditation review will look closely on how we as an institution think about assessment as students, faculty, staff and administrators.  It is not difficult and it is beneficial to improving the student experience both in the classroom and outside of the classroom too. 

Gives us your feedback on how Syracuse is doing assessing the instruction and student experience by reading the Draft of Syracuse University Middle States Self Study, especially chapter four sections three and four related to instruction and the student experience.

Assessment matters, to learn more visit assessment.syr.edu.

 By Rochelle Ford