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United Tribes enters accreditation self-study period
By Phil Baird, Vice President of Academic, Career and Technical Education
15 October 2007

      Beginning this fall, United Tribes Technical College entered into a period of evaluation and planning known as "self-study." As the term implies, it's a time for looking inward and examining ourselves and the organization and what we do as an educational institution.


      We have been on this path for 30 years. It was an important step in our growth and development when, in 1978, United Tribes Educational Technical Center (as the college was known then) initially received candidate status for accreditation. Knowing how important accreditation is, a new, young UTETC executive director, David M. Gipp, steered us in the direction of becoming a credible education and training institution. The effort was rewarded when the center first attained full accreditation in 1982.

      UTTC is currently accredited through the year 2011. Our accreditation comes from the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA), one of the nation's respected, regional accrediting organizations. We earned that status in the year 2001 after undergoing a period of self-study and evaluation similar to the one we have now entered.

Proposed Self-Study Steering Committee
Purpose: To coordinate the development of the UTTC Self-Study report
Russell Swagger, Chair
Shirley A. Bordeaux
Phil Baird
Sam Azure
Harriett Skye
Lisa Azure
Ray Dingeman
Leah Woodke
Jen Janecek Hartman
Carol Anderson
Brian Palecek
Charlene Weis
Kathy Johnson
Evelyn Orth
Dorvin Froseth
Red Koch
A Student Representative
A UTTC Board Member
David M. Gipp, ex officio member
Suzan O'Connell, consultant/lead writer


      At the beginning of the Tribal College movement in the 1970s, there were serious concerns among tribal college leaders about how mainstream higher education personnel could adequately evaluate the work of tribally-controlled education institutions. However, when it came to the transfer of college credits, tribal colleges and universities had little choice but to pursue regional accreditation until another model could be developed.


      In the postsecondary world, accreditation means that a college is successfully following its mission and has met higher education standards established for quality teaching, student learning, and assessment.

      For students and employers, accreditation validates the effectiveness of teaching, learning, and training experiences. It provides the practical function of allowing for the smooth transfer of course credits to other accredited colleges, a highly important step for those seeking an advanced degree.

      I have affectionately referred to this as "the 'wasicu' good housekeeping seal of approval." But it means much more than that. When a Tribal college achieves or renews its accreditation, it proves they are the "real deal" in the eyes of evaluators who work at other colleges and universities and to prospective students. It separates us in a very significant way from those educational institutions that have not engaged in a rigorous, time-tested review process by professionals in our field.


      To prepare for this new cycle of accreditation, the college established a steering committee to oversee the institutional self-study process (see steering committee list). It will culminate in a comprehensive evaluation by the NCA's Higher Learning Commission in 2010.

      The current period of self-study involves a series of structured processes for documenting and evaluating how the college does business. The steering committee will engage in and complete a number of review activities encompassing all departments of the college. The findings will be described in a final self-study report that will be used by peer evaluators to examine UTTC on-site. A satisfactory self-study outcome will result in accreditation for another ten years without conditions or stipulations.


      The self-study committee is chaired by Russell Swagger, Vice President of Student and Campus Services. A retreat will be convened in the near future to organize. All stakeholders of the college, on and off-campus, are important players. I urge you to join this process with energy and enthusiasm and help United Tribes demonstrate again that we are the "real deal" when it comes to educating American Indian students and their families.



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