The Self-Study Steering Committee
The process of formally establishing a steering committee to complete the decennial evaluation of the Rio Piedras campus took place in the second semester of the 2013-2014 academic year. The Chancellor of UPR-RP appointed the members of the Self-Study Steering Committee, as follows:
1) Dr. Celeste E. Freytes González, Coordinator, College of Education
2) Dr. Aracelis Rodríguez Delgado, College of Humanities
3) Dr. María García Padilla, College of Education
4) Dr. Juan C. Alicea Rivera, Acting Associate Dean, College of Business Administration
5) Dr. Don E. Walicek Lindley, College of General Studies
6) Mr. Juan C. Silén, Student Representative, General Student Council
Also, two special advisers were designated to work with the steering committee: Dr. Pedro Subirats, Professor of the College of Education and Mr. Luis M. Villaronga, Distinguished Professor of the School of Law. Each has a wealth of expertise in higher education and have worked with different projects at both the campus and system level. They actively participate in the steering committee meetings.
The Dean of Academic Affairs of the Río Piedras Campus, Dr. Tania García, Professor of the College of Social Sciences, is also directly involved in the process of reaccreditation. The Dean meets regularly with the Committee Coordinator and facilitates all the resources needed for the project. In addition, all the resources for the Self-Study Steering Committee are located in the Office of the Dean of Academic Affairs.
There is also a continuous communication with the current Chancellor of the Río Piedras Campus, Dr. Carlos Severino.
The Work of the Self-Study Steering Committee
The small size of the Self-Study Steering Committee (SSSC) allows it to meet regularly and assist as well as dialogue with each of the five working groups that do work on the standards for accreditation established by the Middle States Council on Higher Education (MSCHE). The SSSC approved a timetable with weekly meetings. Its members have attended regularly and participated actively.
The SSSC is chaired by a professor from the College of Education, Dr. Celeste Freytes. She has previous experience working with these processes at the Río Piedras Campus. In addition, she has also held different administrative positions at both the campus and system level. This experience brings with it special knowledge of the institution and a variety of practical perspectives that will be useful in the role of coordinator.
The other members of the committee are professors, administrators, and students from a variety of schools and colleges. Among the latter are the College of Business Administration, the College of Education, the College of Humanities, the College of General Studies, and the School of Law. They possess experience working with a variety of campus initiatives. Several have held administrative positions at the campus level. The SSSC includes a student who represents the General Student Council and a member from the clerical workers’ union (HEEND). All members are well known on campus and are enthusiastic about the opportunity to work on this important project.
One of the first tasks of this group was to discuss their responsibilities, as outlined in the Self-Study Handbook provided by MSCHE. During the initial meetings they carefully reviewed and analyzed each of the agency’s self-study models. Selection of the model to be used took into account the importance of integrating and analyzing the standards and the relevant structures and processes of UPR-RP. The SSSC recognized that it was important to encourage discussions that would assist in identifying differences, commonalities, and areas of overlap across subgroups of standards. Once all of the models proposed by MSCHE were reviewed, the SSSC selected the Comprehensive Model, with the Reordering of Standards. The Dean of Academic Affairs and the Chancellor discussed the information and approved the selection. An outline showing how the standards have been grouped is provided below.
The Comprehensive Model, with the Reordering of Standards was judged to be the best option for the Campus for the following reasons: During the last self-study process, ten years ago, the Río Piedras Campus selected the Comprehensive Report Model and viewed the institution from the perspective of each individual standard. While that was useful then, on this occasion we are aware of new and relevant information suggesting that a more integrative perspective can be beneficial in creating the report and in terms of what we gain from the overall process. Most significantly, grouping the standards assists in constructing a narrative that meets the needs of the UPR-RP campus.
As is often the case during these processes, during the final stages of its main phases the reports and information are sent to an editor. He or she has the responsibility of integrating the content, among other tasks. The model that has been chosen nurtures a narrative providing a holistic view and gives each working group the opportunity to better analyze and understand issues that are inter-related. Moreover, working group members have been able to contextualize individual standards in ways that are practical and appropriate for our campus. The model that has been chosen has also facilitated dialogue across working groups so that their members can discuss the relationships across standards and be confident that all of their concerns are addressed. Finally, we have also found that when different standards are clustered, the membership of each working group can be more diverse, offering a fresh juxtaposition of complementary perspectives. The expertise and background of each working group member enriches and facilitates the discussion of overarching themes.
The self-study design established for UPR-RP organizes the tasks of discussing and analyzing the 14 MSCHE standards for following five working groups:
Working Group 1: Planning, Resources and Budget
Standard 2: Planning, Resource Allocation, and Institutional Renewal
Standard 3: Institutional Resources
Standard 7: Institutional Assessment
Working Group 2: Administrative Structure
Standard 4: Leadership and Governance
Standard 5: Administration
Working Group 3: Academic Programs
Standard 6: Integrity
Standard 10: Faculty
Standard 11: Educational Offerings
Working Group 4: Assessment of Student Learning
Standard 12: General Education
Standard 14: Assessment of Student Learning
Working Group 5: Student Support
Standard 8: Student Admissions and Retention
Standard 9: Student Support Services
Standard 13: Related Educational Activities
Standard 1: Mission and Goals is important for all of the working groups. This standard has been viewed as intrinsic to all of the standards listed above, given that it traverses all areas of concern in the study. For these reasons, it has been integrated alongside the topics that each of the five working groups is analyzing. Compliance with the Mission and Goals standard can be best understood through the analysis of clusters in which standards are grouped thematically. For these reasons, a separate working group was not established for Mission and Goals, Standard 1.
The members of each of the working group include professors, administrators, and students from each of UPR-RP’s colleges and schools. It should be pointed out that a student member is included in each of the five working groups, as recommended by the Student Council. A student representative also serves on the SSSC, as recommended by the Student Council.
The working groups include many professors that have been at the institution for ten to fifteen years. Some have worked on previous MSCHE reports. Others have fewer years of service and are participating in this campus–wide initiative for the first time. Including the latter is important because service of this type is an opportunity for faculty members and others who are involved to familiarize themselves with a macro-level view of the campus and learn about the self-study process. Involving both younger faculty and representatives of all of UPR-RP’s units and divisions is essential to nurturing assessment and planning and can be considered a step toward the next self-study report.