Middle States Blog: Diversity and inclusion as a demonstration of ethics and integrity

This month the U.S. celebrates Black History Month, March ushers in Women’s History Month, Feb. 26-March focuses attention on National Eating Disorders Awareness week, and the list of commemorative days, weeks, and months goes on and on. However, awareness of different people is just one part of diversity and inclusion. Creating a culture of inclusiveness and where all people feel welcomed and able to work, study, and live on campus is what the University is striving to achieve.

Starting with the mission of the University, Syracuse University celebrates diversity of our global faculty and our student body and commits to maintaining pride in our location and history as a place of access, engagement, innovation and impact.

Living up to being a pre-eminent and inclusive student-focused research university, as our vision states, takes everyone working together to improve our campus climate, and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education is interested in how we are attempting to maintain a positive environment.

Through Standard 2, Middle States critiques its member institutions’ approaches to ethics and integrity and emphasizes inclusion.

Not only must we demonstrate our commitment to inclusion through our mission, but also we must demonstrate how we are communicating this commitment, what structures we have in place, how we are assessing it, and how we are continually improving it.

The ongoing efforts of the Climate Assessment Planning Committee is a solid example of our measuring how inclusive Syracuse is as a learning, living and working environment. The results from the climate survey gave insights that are being used to make recommendations to improve the campus climate at Syracuse.

The level of involvement across campus in this process is a good example of the type of engagement accreditors like to witness. This committee held formal updates, maintained a website describing the process, made the report available to the campus community, hosted four campus conversations about the topic, and provided email and online feedback opportunities.

Knowing that the climate survey was an outgrowth of the Chancellor’s Workgroup on Sexual Violence Prevention, Education, and Advocacy is another indicator of continuous improvement, which Middle States emphasizes.

While improvements to the campus climate may not be immediately noticeable, processes are being established, engagement is happening, feedback is being gathered, and changes are being made. These changes can be observed and this climate survey can be replicated later to see if the recommendations that get implemented make a difference in improving our climate.

Our hope is that it will, and that Middle States will see this effort as a step in the right direction toward inclusion.

Rochelle Ford, rlford@syr.edu

Middle States: NFL’s and Syracuse University’s Missions Incorporate Values to Set Tone of Operations

This week, millions around the world watched the Super Bowl and all of the ads and festivities surrounding it. Both the Patriots and Falcons had one goal—to win. The goal was clear. The players, coaches, employees, fans, and owners have the shared generic vision of having one of the best team franchises with winning records. However, the NFL has a specific mission that speaks about more than winning; it speaks to the league’s values.  Syracuse is no different; we have a mission and vision, and the goal is for every element of the University community to strive to achieve both.

It is important that each member of our university community—regardless of your position (staff, faculty, students, administrators, or members of the various boards)—know what our mission and vision are.

The vision reads:

Syracuse University aspires to be a pre-eminent and inclusive student-focused research university, preparing engaged citizens, scholars, and leaders for participation in a changing global society.

The mission is:

As a university with the capacity to attract and engage the best scholars from around the world, yet small enough to support a personalized and academically rigorous student experience, Syracuse University faculty and staff support student success by:

  • Encouraging global study, experiential learning, interdisciplinary scholarship, creativity, and entrepreneurial endeavors
  • Balancing professional studies with an intensive liberal arts education
  • Fostering a richly diverse and inclusive community of learning and opportunity
  • Promoting a culture of innovation and discovery
  • Supporting faculty, staff, and student collaboration in creative activity and research that address emerging opportunities and societal needs
  • Maintaining pride in our location and history as a place of access, engagement, innovation, and impact

The Middle States accrediting process focuses its analysis around how Syracuse University is working to fulfill our mission through our:

  • approach to ethics and integrity
  • curriculum and other student learning experiences
  • support for student experiences
  • assessment and institutional effectiveness measures
  • planning, resources, and approaches to institutional improvement
  • governance, leadership, and administration

As One University, we must strive in our individual realms of influence to fulfill our mission and to achieve our vision. When the Middle States visiting team comes to do our peer evaluation for the decennial reaccreditation review, they will want to see that we believe in the mission and are striving to achieve it.

Parking Lots to Moving Ideas

One strategy to use when a meeting generates more ideas than can be addressed within the context of the immediate agenda is to create a “parking lot” to corral those good ideas that—while tangential to the discussion at hand—may be worth addressing at a later time.

The Syracuse University Middle States Accreditation Working Teams used this parking lot technique as they analyzed the evidence to determine how we are in compliance with each of the standards to capture ideas for improvement across the University.

More than 50 ideas were generated through the self-study process this fall. Some were directly relevant to Middle States criteria, but some were just good ideas we don’t want to lose, so they went into the parking lot. This week, the Steering Committee discussed those ideas and came up with the following initial themes.

  • Increased formal engagement with University Senate
  • Continued improvements in information management and websites
  • Enhanced University communications through strategy and compliance
  • Continued updating of policies and procedures
  • Continued implementation of University-wide assessment
  • Continued development of University advising and student support
  • Continued refinement and introduction of Syracuse University 4+4 institutional-wide learning outcomes
  • Continued alignment of University budgeting

Several members of the Senate are members of the Steering Committee and participated in the working groups. In the coming months, the Steering Committee co-chairs will be sharing the ideas with the University Senate and with academic and administrative units.

One of the primary goals of this Middle States self-study process is to create momentum to make improvements. As we continue to refine and clarify the draft of the self-study, we hope the University community will begin to engage with these ideas of improvement.

In March, the University Senate will review the self-study draft. On April 18, the University community will engage in a Middle States Campus Conversation where we can learn about what we are doing well and how we are trying improve. We hope members of the University community will give us more ideas and share how their respective programs and units are making improvements.

Through these working groups, committees, the University Senate, the Campus Conversation, and individuals, we are using peer review to reflect on how we are meeting the University mission and gaining momentum to make Syracuse an even better place to be.

Rochelle Ford, rlford@syr.edu

Middle States Self-Study Asks: Are We Doing What We Say We Do?

For the past four months, more than 140 members of Syracuse University’s faculty, staff, and student body have been exhaustively scrutinizing nearly every aspect of University programs, operations and services to determine how well it meets the standards and requirements of reaccreditation by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) and how it might do even better. Read the full article at SU News.

Peer Review from Chancellor to You


Earlier this week Chancellor Syverud gave his 2017 Winter Message to the University community. In it he emphasized our working on our self-study for the Middle States accreditation.  The process of research, writing, reviewing, and editing the self-study report and the peer-evaluator site visit in 2018 are exercises in peer-review.

The process of researching, writing, and submitting an article for consideration in a peer-reviewed research journal is somewhat similar to what we are experiencing now in the accreditation process.

Consider the Middle States Commission on Higher Education like the editorial board of a journal.  They set the policy standards for accreditation in our region.  Representatives from different colleges and universities sit on this Middle States board.  Our chancellor, Kent Syverud is one of the newest commissioners.  Therefore, we have a voice at the table, but also, people may now be looking at Syracuse to be an exemplary institution in continuous improvement because of his presence on the commission.  He is also serving as a reader of Periodic Review Reports.

Just as many scholars have a team of students and collaborators working on research for an eventual refereed publication, we have a really large team representing students, faculty, staff, and administrators who have carefully analyzed documents, policies, and procedures of the University to determine if we are in compliance with the standards.  This team approach is a form of internal peer review.

This month, the tri-chairs of the Steering Committee and the co-chairs of the teams are ensuring that the key points of these drafts are clearly articulated as we begin to write the actual report—another level of internal peer review.

Then these summaries will be reviewed by the University’s Middle States Reaccreditation Steering Committee by University Senate and by the University Leadership Team to ensure we are accurately describing our University and continuing to improve based upon challenges and weaknesses identified in the drafts.

Next the entire University community will be engaged in a day of conversation in April to discuss the findings of the self-study, and later the full draft report will be released for University-wide review and commentary for additional internal peer review through early fall.

Those comments and suggestions will be addressed and incorporated into the final self-study report that will be sent to Middle States and our site visit / peer evaluator team, thus beginning the external peer review process.

Unlike a “blind” peer review process of a journal, we will know who these external evaluators will be, and they will come to campus in 2018 to determine if what we wrote is an accurate reflection of what they see on the ground.

You too can become a peer evaluator for other schools, colleges, and universities within Middle States, and some of our peer Middle States institutions are in places like Puerto Rico!  If you are interested in being a peer reviewer for other institutions, visit https://www.msche.org and complete the application.

Our SU peers like Libby Barlow, Jeff Stanton, and Jerry Edmonds have all done site visits. If you have been one before, we’d like to know. I am being trained to become a peer evaluator now as well.  Why don’t you join the Chancellor and our Middle States team and become a part of the peer review process too?

Rochelle Ford, rlford@syr.edu

Rum Cake or Syracuse University: Assessment is the backbone of Reflection and Momentum for Continuous Improvement

Each winter break for at least 10 years, I have started the holidays by baking rum cakes for presents for family and friends. I have a recipe, and when I first started baking these cakes I followed it very closely. Family and friends love the cakes; then as I became more comfortable baking the cakes, I added some different things like blends of pecans and walnuts instead of just walnuts. Some of the cakes became more popular than others, but sometimes I couldn’t remember what I had done to the cakes that made it better or worse because I was not intentional about recording what I did and what the feedback was. However, I did know overall that people still liked eating my cakes regardless of the changes; so, to some extent I felt like it was mission accomplished. One of my friends said I should sell the cakes and asked which version was the most popular and why, and I couldn’t definitively answer that question; I just said they are all good. I couldn’t answer because I essentially wasn’t doing a formal assessment of my baking.

Well, to some extent, Syracuse University was in the same boat as my baking. Students, staff, faculty, researchers, funders, sponsors, employers and others love our students, scholarship, innovation, athletics and even the carrot cake from catering. The University has a long track record of making improvements aimed at improving student learning, campus life, business affairs and more, but if someone asked us to systematically show how these improvements have worked and which ones haven’t, it would have been difficult – UNTIL NOW!

The University now has developed a systematic approach to assessing itself against strategic objectives set at each program and unit level. We assess academic programs, co-curricular programs and functional areas. Even Chancellor Syverud is reporting back to the Board of Trustees how we are making progress on key goals that will help us live our mission and work toward realizing our vision.

The Middle States accreditation process is particularly interested in how we are assessing everything from parking services to doctoral education. What are our goals, how do we know if we are achieving them, and how are we making continuous improvements to do so? Each standard has assessment criteria embedded into it, and there is one standard dedicated just to it. So, it is critical that we have all hands on deck to demonstrate our assessing operation and program at Syracuse and using that data to get better.

The great thing about the three phases of assessment that the Office of Institutional Effectiveness & Assessment has developed under the leadership of Gerald “Jerry” Edmonds, assistant provost, is that we can easily see how we have defined our objectives and outcomes, how we measure them with data, what we found in the data, what we learned, and how we’re going to use this information to make improvements.

This week, my faculty colleagues, our academic coordinator and I in the Department of Public Relations met to discuss the assessment findings from the 2015-16 MS Program in Public Relations. (Yes, we are a bit delayed in our meeting –the meeting should be in August –because of a massive external review of our BS and MS public relations programs in the fall of 2016, but better now than never). At this meeting, we found areas where we could celebrate because we were meeting the mark and areas we could improve.

Although “PR Week” magazine named us the top Public Relations program in 2016 and as a finalist for 2017, we know we can’t rest on our laurels. The assessment data we collected using multiple direct and indirect measures enable us to pinpoint where we need to make improvements.

In fact, our 2016 external review team from the Public Relations Society of America for the Certificate in Public Relations Education (CEPR) wrote, “Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications houses an exemplary undergraduate public relations program…. The Public Relations Department assesses the curriculum annually and uses findings—along with input from practitioners—to update course offerings and content. Faculty members are clearly aware that the public relations industry is constantly evolving. They are committed to keeping Newhouse’s public relations curriculum up with those changes.”

If we can do it, you can too. If you need help, we have a team ready.

  • Email: assessment@syr.edu
  • Call: 315-443-4119
  • Drop-in: Every Monday between 10 a.m.–2 p.m. at 400 Ostrom Ave.

Together using assessment data, we will not only meet Middle States requirements, but we can become better and produce stronger students and scholarship.

By Rochelle Ford, rlford@syr.edu

The Red Zone and Green Days of Middle States Accreditation

The Red Zone and Green Days of Middle States Accreditation

The end of the semester is always a busy time of the year, and many people on campus refer to it as the Red Zone, but the December 2016 Red Zone had a whole new meaning to the members of the Middle States Self-Study Working Teams.  On December 15, more than 100 faculty, students and staff working on these eight teams met the first major milestone of the self-study, completing the initial drafts of the Syracuse University self-study draft for our decennial Middle States accreditation review.

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Information Sessions to Brief University Community on Middle States Reaccreditation Process

The Steering Committee guiding the University’s effort to secure reaccreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education has scheduled two information sessions for the campus community on Friday, Oct. 7. The sessions will serve to brief interested students, faculty and staff on the reaccreditation process now underway and to give an overview of its purpose and significance for the entire University community.

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