In September 2017, Fairfield will be evaluated by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges for continuous re-accreditation. The process happens every 10 years.

According to President/CEO of NEASC Cameron C. Staples, “Accreditation has been a longstanding stimulus for educational improvement. NEASC prides itself on its enduring commitment to self-regulation and peer-review.”

Staples continued, “The peer-review process brings educators together and allows for honest, objective and comprehensive evaluations carried out with the utmost integrity and commitment to research-driven standards.”

NEASC Coordinator Jennifer Claydon said, “The process assures the public that students are really getting a quality degree, and that we at Fairfield are doing our best to educate the whole person.”

According to Claydon, every 10 years, multiple committees conduct a self-study. This year, over 90 faculty, staff and students are contributing to the self-study, which examines Fairfield’s mission, organization and governance, academic program, students, faculty and more. A team of faculty and staff from other accredited institutions in New England will read the 100-page self-study, which will be completed by June 2017, and then will visit Fairfield in September 2017 to observe and evaluate Fairfield in a study of their own.

“[This process] helps all of [us] look at the University and reflect on what we’re doing well, what our challenges are and where we want to be in the future,” said Claydon. “We can look at ourselves from a critical lens and see what we’re doing well as a University, as well as what areas we need to improve on.”

According to Mary Frances Malone, the Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs and University Liaison to NEASC, “We are engaging all aspects of the University to look at how we’re doing and how we can improve even more.”

Claydon explained that it is not required for a college or university to be accredited. However, in order to get federal aid, a school must be accredited. Additionally, Malone added that if students want to apply to graduate school or transfer from one school to another, they can only transfer between accredited universities for credits to transfer.

“It’s a sign that we are a legitimate, quality institution,” said Malone.

Malone, who was involved in all of Fairfield’s accreditations since 1987, as well as all of the self-studies, believes that the process is important for planning for the future.

“As we talk about what we plan to do in the future, this allows us the opportunity to flesh out some of the points raised for 2020, so it helps us develop a bit of a blueprint for the future,” she said.

Fairfield’s interim self-study, which happens every five years between accreditations, was so well-received that NEASC used it as a model to send to the Department of Education in Washington. It was used to show how important and valid regional accreditation is, according to Malone.

As a result, “Fairfield is in a very good place as we start our new self-study,” said Malone.

When the visiting team comes from Sept. 21 to 24, there will be a forum open to students so that they can voice their opinions.

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-- Junior | Co-News Editor -- English: Education

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