The Community College of Allegheny County, centered in and around the Pittsburgh area, consists of four campuses, each of which administers one or more of eight off-campus centers, and numerous satellite locations. Through our last accreditation process in 1994, each campus was accredited separately, though one of the stated goals of that study was to bring greater unity to the college through a single, system wide self-study.In 1996, the Commission on Higher Education acted to grant the request by the college for accreditation as a single institution. Since then, through evolving reorganizations, the College has sought additional synergy, consistency and educational effectiveness by becoming a more centralized, unified system. This Middle States Self-Study will be the first that CCAC has undertaken as one college, with the goal of a single, college-wide accreditation.
Dr. Roy Flores, former President of the College, set the self-study process in motion when, in the fall of 2002, he appointed a three-member leadership team for the purpose of planning and organizing the self-study process. In consultation with Dr. Flores and other administrators, the first decision the team made was to select the most appropriate model for self-study. Because this is CCAC’s first accreditation as one College, it is important that all major functions of the College be evaluated in the light of one of the two comprehensive models. During the previous accreditation process, CCAC did not have a comprehensive strategic planning process in place, and implementing such was one of the recommendations that emerged from the team visit. Since then, the College has instituted a planning process that truly drives the management of the organization, and the initiation of this self-study will afford CCAC the first opportunity to assess the success of its institutional reach. Consequently, the leadership team decided to undertake the Comprehensive with Emphasis model, with the emphasis on planning.
Once the model was chosen, the team began discussions on the organization of the self-study. Team members decided much would be gained by aligning the self-study as closely as possible with Middle States’ Characteristics of Excellence. This would create a common understanding and vocabulary that would facilitate both internal communication and communication with our Middle States Evaluation Team. To this end, task forces for 12 of the 14 Characteristics of Excellence form the framework for the self-study Design. The two remaining characteristics are being addressed as follows:
Integrity: Because this characteristic is such an integral part of every aspect of the College, it is included as at least one charge question under each task force.
Governance: Governance was a major topic of the PRR of 1999, and received a positive response from Middle States. An update will be prepared for the Report without use of an entire task force.
The Self-Study leadership team, in consultation with Dr. Flores, determined that the members of the Steering Committee should be appointed to write the charges for each Task Force. These members would then assume the leadership roles for Task Force committees, chairing them, in some cases, with one other, particularly when the work for that Characteristic is challenging and complex. This chain of command has two key benefits. First, those writing the charges will be responsible for implementing them. Second, as chairs of Task Forces and the chief liaisons between Task Force members and the Steering Committee, these Steering Committee members will assure that there is full and fluid communication between those doing the research and reporting, and those responsible for shaping it into the final report.
It was also in this initial planning phase that the philosophical approach to Self-Study was established. The key elements of this philosophy are as follows:
In order to promote awareness of the Self-Study, and to express our belief in its benefits, we adapted a logo and a slogan, “Exploring the Past – Shaping the Future.” We have also developed an intricate communication plan for the work of the committee that will promote dissemination of all aspects of the progress of the study as it unfolds. We want the faculty, staff and students who are asked to participate in this endeavor to know that the work they do will have a lasting impact on the quality of education at CCAC.
We, the Steering Committee, embark on this Self-Study with confidence, knowing that we have a clearly defined method for exploration of the college and its functions, along with a shared commitment to the improvement of CCAC.