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WASC report calls for changes

Mark Vidal
Editorial Director

A new report has revealed the University of La Verne passed the first phase of the rigorous re-accreditation process, which also means it still has work to do.

The report, a capacity and preparatory review, was prepared by the Western Associa­tion of Schools and Colleges and featured a list of praises and problems – many of which are related to the University’s lack of a shared vision.

“It’s kind of convoluted,” Pres­ident Steve Morgan said.

The report recommended that the University identify a clear and focused shared vision that is distinctive to La Verne; that it connects planning, resources allocation and prioritization to its vision; and that it reconsider its organizational structure to ensure consistency with its vision.

Lack of a unified vision may be partly due to the University expanding its educational services outside of the main campus.

“It’s (ULV) in a transformative state as we rethink who we are as an institution,” said Vice President of University Assess­ment Aghop Der-Karabetian. “Each college on or off campus has its own sense of who they are and that has created the impression that there are many ULVs.”

The development of a special task force is being planned to encourage discussion between members inside and outside of the La Verne community about what the University’s vision should be, with respect to the culture and values it embraces in its mission statement.
A Board of Trustees meeting on April 30 is expected to produce a plan for restructuring upper level management, which will also play a key role in addressing the issue of shared vision.

“It is important to bring constituencies together to discuss what values we share in our endeavors as a university,” Morgan said. “We welcome input from members in the community on how we can achieve our goal of having a shared vision.”

Another recommendation in the report was to develop a strategic plan for diversity, which echoes the tasks of the already instituted President’s Work­ing Group on Diversity.

The group’s plan was not in mature form by the time WASC came to visit and therefore was overlooked in the report.

However, the University has a head start with its diversity plan, which covers a range of actions, including the hiring of a chief diversity officer.

“The strategic plan calls for the creation of a chief diversity officer that would report to the president and provost and would be responsible for overseeing a range of activities in terms of diversity,” Interim Provost Greg Dewey said.

It is common practice for a WASC visiting team to identify areas that require attention at a university. In 2000 it called for La Verne to revise its general education program, which it has, and was praised for.

Other areas of praise included in the report were for the University’s ability to produce annual surpluses, for providing opportunities for under-served students and for having higher than average graduation rates for its traditional undergraduate students, particularly Hispanic students.

“In terms of our success with minority populations, I was very pleased,” Morgan said. “To me that is our end product and to have such a high grad rate of our students is something to be very proud of.”

The next WASC team visit will be the educational effectiveness review scheduled for fall 2011 and it will determine whether the University will be reaffirmed for accreditation.

Upper level administrators are taking the recommendations WASC put forth seriously and are confident that the University will be prepared for the second phase of the accreditation process, Morgan said.

“It’s not punishment, it’s evaluation,” Der-Karabetian said. “They’ve noticed things that we can do better and that’s what it’s all about.

Mark Vidal can be reached at mark.vidal@laverne.edu.

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