Middle States Reaccreditation

What is Middle States Reaccreditation?
The Rensselaer community is currently engaged in a comprehensive self-study undertaken as part of the process to secure reaccreditation by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education . This self-assessment, involving constituencies on both the Troy and Hartford campuses, will culminate in April 2016 with a visit by a team of peer evaluators, assigned by the Commission, from other member universities.

What is Middle States?
The organization known today as the Middle States Commission on Higher Education was established in 1919 by institutions in the Middle States region to oversee educational quality and improvement through an accrediting process based on peer review. The Commission, one of the regional accrediting agencies recognized by the U.S. government, accredits educational institutions in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

What is Reaccreditation?
Accreditation is a voluntary method of self-regulation adopted by the higher education community to strengthen and sustain the quality and integrity of higher education in the United States. According to the Commission on Higher Education, “Middle States’ accreditation is an expression of confidence in an institution’s mission and goals, its performance, and its resources.”

In order to maintain its accreditation by the Commission, Rensselaer is required to participate in a comprehensive assessment every 10 years. This evaluation is based on a major Self-Study Report and supporting documentation, and a visit by a team of external peer evaluators, collectively providing evidence that the Institute:

  • Has a mission appropriate to higher education;
  • Is guided by well-defined and appropriate goals, including goals for 
student learning;
  • Has established conditions and procedures under which its mission and goals can be realized;
  • Assesses both institutional effectiveness and student learning outcomes, and uses the results for improvement;
  • Is accomplishing its mission and goals substantially;
  • Is organized, staffed, and supported so that it can be expected 
to continue to accomplish its mission and goals; and
  • Meets the Requirements of Affiliation and accreditation standards of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

What does the Self-Study entail?
Standards and requirements for accreditation by the Commission emphasize institutional assessment and assessment of student learning. The standards also acknowledge the diversity of educational delivery systems that enable institutions to meet accreditation standards. The Rensselaer Self-Study Report will focus on evaluating how we go about doing what we do and how we assess our effectiveness, including examples of evidence that substantiate the Institute’s achievement of the standards. Under the leadership of a steering committee appointed by President Shirley Ann Jackson, cross-disciplinary working groups have been examining existing data and evaluative reports, gathering new information, and preparing analytical reports on their assigned topics. The primary purpose of the self-study report is to advance institutional self-understanding and self-improvement within the Rensselaer community. A secondary purpose is to demonstrate to external audiences, such as the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, government regulatory agencies, and the public, that the Institute meets the Commission’s standards for accreditation.

In the publication Characteristics of Excellence, the Commission on Higher Education identifies 14 “standards of excellence” by which an institution should assess itself. The first seven standards address Institutional Context; the second seven focus on Educational Effectiveness.

Institutional Context
Standard 1: Mission and Goals
Standard 2: Planning, Resource Allocation, and Institutional Renewal
Standard 3: Institutional Resources
Standard 4: Leadership and Governance
Standard 5: Administration
Standard 6: Integrity
Standard 7: Institutional Assessment

Educational Effectiveness
Standard 8: Student Admissions and Retention
Standard 9: Student Support Services
Standard 10: Faculty
Standard 11: Educational Offerings
Standard 12: General Education
Standard 13: Related Educational Activities
Standard 14: Assessment of Student Learning

Where are we now in the process?
One of the first requirements of the Commission was the designation of a steering committee and development of a detailed plan of action. The Rensselaer response – “Design for Institutional Self-Study” – was submitted to the Commission in June 2014 and approved in July. As outlined in the document, the self-study will examine virtually every process and activity of the Institute and assess the effectiveness of each.

Starting in September 2014 and throughout the fall semester, the subcommittees assigned to each of the “standards of excellence” gathered new and existing data; conducted surveys, focus groups, and interviews; and evaluated the results. Preliminary findings were collected and first draft reports were written in January 2015. Currently, the draft reports for each standard are being finalized. The goal is to complete the first overall draft self-study report by the end of the spring semester so that it can be shared with the campus community and its constituencies.

Feedback and comments from campus stakeholders and constituencies will be incorporated into the final draft self-study report during the summer and early fall of 2015. The report will be professionally edited and prepared for submission to the Commission.

The final self-study report will be submitted to the Commission on Higher Education Middle States by December 2015.

How is the Middle States Self-Study being managed and conducted?

The Institute’s self-study is being conducted by 44 members of the steering committee under the leadership of Professor Wolf von Maltzahn, associate vice president for research. The steering committee is divided into eight sub-committees that address the 14 “standards of excellence”, bundled thematically. The work of the overall steering committee is overseen and guided by a core committee. Additional faculty and staff with specific skills and domain expertise have been assigned to each sub-committee, increasing the total number of individuals supporting the self-study effort to over 100. An external communication consultant has been engaged to support the writing of the self-study report. This approach and organization was chosen to ensure a comprehensive self-study and to establish effective communication between and among the many participants. Members of the steering committee and subcommittees bring to this self-study a healthy array of competencies and perspectives.


Self-Study Core Committee

Dr. Wolf W. von Maltzahn, Chair of the Self-Study Steering Committee
Assoc. Vice-President for Research
Professor of Biomedical Engineering
(Room 9015 Low Center for Industrial Innovation; x4873; vonmaw@rpi.edu)

Dr. Linda Schadler, Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education
Professor of Materials Engineering
(Room 4010, Walker Lab; X2244; schadl@rpi.edu)

Dr. Jeff Schanz, Assistant Vice President for Institute Advancement
(Room 2nd floor Heffner Alumni House,; x6205; schanj@rpi.edu)

Jack Mahoney, Accreditation Liaison to the MSCHE (ALO)
Director, Institutional Research and Assessment
(Room 4221 Walker; x6790; mahonj@rpi.edu)

Elisha “Lolly” Mozersky, Chief of Staff
(3rd Floor Troy Building, x6954, mozere@rpi.edu)

Josephine Seddon, Learning Outcomes Assessment Specialist
Office of Institutional Research and Assessment (OIRA)
(Room 4103 Walker Laboratory; x3884; carneg2@rpi.edu)


Self-Study Subcommittees

Standard 1: Mission and Goals
Standard 2: Planning, Resource Allocation, and Institutional Renewal
Standard 7: Institutional Assessment

Chair: Elisha Mozersky (Chief of Staff)

  • Virginia Gregg (VP Finance and Chief Financial Officer)
  • Peter Persans (Physics, Applied Physics, and Astronomy Faculty)
  • Richard Radke (ECSE Faculty)
  • Shekhar Garde (Dean of Engineering)
  • Curt Breneman (Dean of Science)
  • Theresa Hobbs (Assistant Secretary of the Institute)
Standard 3: Institutional Resources

Chair: Jeff Schanz (Asst. Vice-President, Alumni Relations)

  • Jeff Miner (Asst. Vice-President, Information Services)
  • Paul Martin (Asst. Vice-President, Administration)
  • Allison Newman (Assoc. Vice-President, Government and Community Relations)
Standard 4: Leadership and Governance

Chair: Jose E. Holguin-Veras (Civil and Environmental Engineering Faculty)

  • Thomas Begley (Dean, Lally School)
  • Wanda Denson-Low (Rensselaer Trustee, ex officio)
  • John Kolb (Chief Information Officer)
  • Deepak Vashishth (Director, Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies)
Standard 5: Administration
Standard 6: Integrity

Chair: Anne Marie Bilynsky (Director, Compensation and Employment)

  • Robert Hull (Materials Science and Engineering Faculty and Dept. Head)
  • James Knowlton (Director, Athletics)
  • Rachael E. Kruse (Associate Director, Contract Administration)
  • Ivar Strand (Asst. Vice-President, Finance)


Standard 8: Student Admissions and Retention
Standard 9: Student Support Services

Chair: Lisa Trahan (Asst. Vice-President, Student Experience)

  • Connie Grega, ’99G (Director, Graduate Student Services)
  • Karen Long (Director, Undergraduate Admissions)
  • Todd Schill (Dean, Residence Life)
Standard 10: Faculty

Chair: Vincent Meunier (Physics Faculty)

  • Bill Francis (Lally School Faculty)
  • Nikhil Koratkar (Mechanical, Aerospace and Nuclear Engineering Faculty)
  • Kim Lewis (Physics, Applied Physics, and Astronomy Faculty)
  • Robert Linhardt (Chemistry and Chemical Biology Faculty)
  • Kenneth L. Simons (Economics Faculty)
Standard 11: Educational Offerings
Standard 12: General Education
Standard 13: Related Educational Activities

Chair: Sharon Kunkel (Registrar)

  • Stanley M. Dunn (Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Education)
  • Ravi Kane (Chemical and Biological Engineering Faculty)
  • Mary Simoni (Dean, Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences)
  • James Spencer (Executive Director, Rensselaer Technology Park)
Standard 14: Assessment of Student Learning

Chair: Josephine Seddon (Learning Outcomes Assessment Specialist, Office of Institutional Research and Assessment (OIRA))

  • Kurt Anderson (Assoc. Dean, School of Engineering)
  • Michael Hanna (Biology Faculty)
  • Mark Mistur (Architecture Faculty)
  • Jeffrey W. Stark (Manager, Business Intelligence)
  • Linda Schadler (Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education)