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Accreditation Self-Study Entering New Phase
By Dr. Russell Swagger, VP Student & Campus Services
28 January 2011

BISMARCK (UTN) - The New Year brings a renewed sense of hope and spirit that are comforting as we look forward to our upcoming reaccreditation visit with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association (NCA) of Colleges and Schools.

Dr. Russell Swagger

      My optimism about UTTC’s future is based on my reflections about the self-study journey we have been on. Many have worked hard and the process has been an organization-wide effort. Developing a document to “Share our Stories” about United Tribes involved students, staff, faculty, administrators and our board of directors, along with experts at the Higher Learning Commission and other UTTC associates. I thank each person who committed time, effort and resources to help examine our organization and create a document reflecting our work and purpose. This work was not easy but it was definitely rewarding.

      I value my role as chair of this important effort. I truly embrace it as an opportunity. I allowed me to spend more time with people throughout our organization and gain insights into the valuable work they do. It is particularly through our contact with students that we share the belief that we can improve our work and create a more robust and comprehensive learning environment. We know that we must continue to challenge ourselves to help students achieve their personal educational goals. That is the reward for them and us.

      Our students are smart, capable, and need to be challenged intellectually and globally to prepare them for their future. The question is whether our students make necessary gains in their knowledge, skills and abilities as a result of their educational experience here.

      Students, parents, tribes and employers have a right to expect educational results. What we strive to produce are students who are prepared to continue their higher learning and/or enter the marketplace and contribute their skills and abilities to improving their communities as productive tax-paying U.S. and Native American citizens.

As chair of the United Tribes Self-Study Steering Committee, I challenge UTTC to embrace the AQIP process in the future, as opposed to the PEAQ process that we currently use. I believe that we are organized and poised to make this significant change. I further believe that the times we are living in will require us to constantly evaluate and improve our organization to remain competitive to produce quality educational results. Please visit www.ncahlc.org to learn more about each of these processes and why I make this recommendation.
   – Russell Swagger

      Our self-study examination suggested some opportunities where we can strengthen our educational system. These opportunities, along with our strengths and challenges, are outlined in our self-study document. Your input was gathered through Professional Development Day sessions and other formal and informal sessions over the course of the past several years. Your thoughts and ideas are expressed in this document.

      Based on my discussions with NCA staff, the knowledge I gained from annual NCA conferences, and other conversations and readings, I believe United Tribes is a strong candidate for reaccreditation for its associate of applied science degrees. I further believe we are a strong candidate for full accreditation for our online programs and three bachelor degree programs.

      As we close out the documentation phase of the reaccreditation process, I am confident in our ability to demonstrate our capacity to continue to provide a quality education even in the face of tough economic times and challenging expectations.

On-Site Visit – April 18-20

      Now we need to shift gears and turn our attention toward preparing ourselves for the actual NCA visit. We will be preparing the resource room, a CD for certain documents, our appendix and other important details. Look for our committee to be out in the community, sharing information and creating forums for learning and understanding the process, its purpose and your role.

      A five-member visiting team has been assigned and approved. Mark your calendar, the visit is scheduled for April 18-20, 2011. I have talked with the team’s chair and we are preparing an agenda and working on logistics. Administratively, we have accepted a final draft of the self study document and are seeking board approval to print and distribute it.

      I want to thank the members of our Self-Study Steering Committee, its executive committee members, Dr. Robert Appleson of NCA, our board of directors, President David M. Gipp and the United Tribes Administrative Council, students, staff, and the faculty for supporting and guiding the process and making the road easier.

      I especially want to thank Kathy Johnson and Leah Hamann for starting and sticking with the process; Dr. Stacie Iken for the assistance, edits and undivided attention to the development of the document; Dorvin Froseth for his leadership with the resource room; Mark Mindt for his work on the NCA characters; Sandy Erickson of Arrow Graphics in designing the document; Nathan Stratton and Monte Schaff for their work on important details; Lisa Azure (PhD Candidate) for her important work on online and bachelor degree program development; Dr. Kurt Linberg for his assistance with financial modeling and online programs; Suzan O’Connell for her intellectual challenges and writing contributions; Shirley Bordeaux for her assistance on financial status; Dennis J. Neumann for his fine and accurate news coverage of our process; and to our dearly departed colleague Anne Kuyper for nourishing our spirit, vision and physical well-being.



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