After a team from the Western Accreditation of Schools and Colleges visited campus on March 25, the university is positive about the initial feedback and is awaiting the draft report due this week.
The WASC Commission’s yearlong probation is almost complete and the recent visit was the determinant of Vanguard’s accreditation, which is to be decided in June.
In an all-school email last month, President Carol Taylor expressed her encouragement from the visit and summarized the oral report, which included recognition of progress and consistency in areas like financial accounting, education and student services.
The summary also mentioned that Vanguard “used the crisis to its advantage rather than being reactionary and strengthened the university for the future.”
Jeff Hittenberger, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, explained that addressing the concerns that led to the probation would mean the university would be removed from that and be assured its accreditation, which seems promising for administration.
“It was everything we had hoped for and better. And this team really saw the tremendous progress that’s been made and the great things that are going on at Vanguard,” he said.
The university has confronted the issues in the original WASC report this past year in multiple ways–academically, administratively and financially.
Hittenberger said making each academic department’s Student Learning Center Outcomes clearer has been a significant step toward enhancing students’ classroom experiences.
“We have a much better assessment system, a way of kind of keeping track of how students are progressing toward learning the things that they are supposed to learn,” he said.
The installation of the new Director of Institutional Research, Ludmila Praslova, has been an important aspect of evaluating students’ performances, Hittenberger said.
The university’s academic planning process has helped establish future priorities, like more international studies, online resources, internships, faculty hires and hands-on opportunities.
The WASC visiting team also recognized the Board of Trustees rebuilding and administrative additions as more clues to the strides the university has made.
“Continuing to kind of build that administrative leadership for the university is really, really important. That’s a big thing that we’re working on and will be continuing to work on,” Hittenberger said.
One of the main goals the university will keep in sight, after the written WASC report arrives, is financial stability.
“That means we never get back in a situation where we were before,” Hittenberger said.
The Provost noted the Vice President of Business and Finance, Bob Allison, who is retiring this year, as a strong contributor to keeping the university’s finances in check.
Something Hittenberger is especially hoping for is to develop closer relationships with local churches so students can get involved in service and missions opportunities.
“A lot of students are doing this already, but I think there’s an opportunity to really expand that so we become just an amazing force in Orange County and around the world with the international studies,” he said.
In a chapel last week, students prayed over Hittenberger and other faculty members, especially for a university across campus.
“I really feel like that’s happening. I see that. I see a real coming together of students, faculty, staff, administration, board of trustees around this common Christ-centered mission and that sense of unity I think is growing,” Hittenberger said.