Cameron University has received formal notification of its continued accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. The designation comes following years of thorough internal review; the input of Cameron faculty, staff, students and community; and a glowing report by the HLC evaluation team. Following a four-day site visit in November 2010, the six-member evaluation team recommended an unconditional affirmation of Cameron’s accreditation with no reports or interim visits, making this the best accreditation report in Cameron's history. The HLC Board of Trustees accepted the recommendation and reaffirmed Cameron’s accreditation status at its recent meeting.
“It is extremely rewarding – and uncommon – to receive such a positive accreditation report,” says Cameron President Cindy Ross. “The glowing report we received from the evaluation team is a direct reflection of the expertise and dedication of the faculty and staff who work so diligently to serve our students and the overwhelming support from the Southwest Oklahoma community.”
The evaluation team reported numerous university strengths, including citations noting that Cameron is future-oriented and learning-focused, that strategic planning has moved from a weakness 10 years ago to a strength today, that the university boasts exemplary enrollment management and budgeting, that decisions are made for the students' benefit, and that the university is extraordinarily responsive to community needs.
The evaluation team offered its rationale for continuing accreditation by recognizing Cameron as “a role model institution in its integration of planning, budgeting, assessment, and institutional accountability in the manner with which it interacts with the community and its partners and in the efforts it takes to ensure that it lives its mission.” The team reported, “Student learning is at the center of what it (Cameron University) does, and despite significant statewide budget cuts, the institution was able to redesign itself to meet changing student needs. It pays attention to student learning, effective teaching, faculty concerns, assessment and the application of knowledge.”
In a section titled “Overall Observations about the Organization,” the report says, “Much effort has gone into making Cameron a ‘location of choice.’ This carries over into the willingness of the faculty and staff to go beyond expectations to help CU succeed. They care about the students, student learning and creating an environment where learning can occur and student/faculty research undertaken.”
During the exit meeting which concluded the site visit in November, Dr. Kathie S. Gilbert, team chair for the evaluation team, stated that Cameron’s report was among “the top of all reports in her 25 years of evaluation” of universities across the nation. She added that Cameron was a “jewel in the plains” and was receiving “the best report she has ever seen.”
Cameron has been continuously accredited as a four-year institution by the commission since 1973. As part of the accreditation process, the university prepared for the review by compiling a 226-page self-study report to illustrate how the university fulfills HLC’s five criteria: mission and integrity; preparing for the future; student learning and effective teaching; acquisition, discovery and application of knowledge; and engagement and service. The document incorporates feedback and comments from university administration, faculty, students and staff, and members of the community.
Following Cameron’s submission of the final self-study report, an HLC-appointed team of educators visited campus to assess and evaluate all aspects of the university. The evaluation team gathered comprehensive evidence to ensure that the self-study was thorough and accurate before recommending continuing accreditation status. Following a review process, the commission made its final decision to continue Cameron’s accredited status. The next comprehensive evaluation is currently scheduled for the 2020 – 2021 academic year.
Cameron’s self-study and the evaluation team’s report will be used as guides to focus Cameron’s efforts for additional growth and enhancement in areas such as assessment of general education coursework, decreasing faculty overload commitments and improving student retention and graduation rates.
“The accreditation process allowed the Cameron University community to reflect on the challenges and celebrate the successes we have experienced since the last accreditation review,” says Ross. “More importantly, I believe that undergoing this process has re-energized our dedicated faculty and staff’s commitment to providing top quality academic opportunities and a complete collegiate experience for Cameron students.”
March 9, 2011