American University of Beirut

The road to reaccreditation: evaluation team leader John DiNardo visits AUB

​​​​​​Jennifer Muller, Office of Communications,

As part of AUB’s current bid for reaccreditation, Dr. John DiNardo, chair of the evaluation team from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE), visited campus and met with university stakeholders in order to learn about the university and give recommendations for fine-tuning AUB’s draft Institutional Self-Study Report. 

Accreditation and reaccreditation are among the most important initiatives undertaken at any institution of higher learning, yet many people know next to nothing about them. The reality is that this process of continuous assessment and improvement is integral to maintaining the university’s ability to compete and succeed on the world stage. 

“This is the new education system,” said Provost Mohamed Harajli, chair of the Self-Study Steering Committee at AUB. “You define your goals and objectives, guided by the mission of the institution. Then you assess your achievement of these goals and objectives—not only at the university level and faculty level, but also at the course level, the departmental level, and the program level—and you try to improve.”

AUB earned initial accreditation from MSCHE in 2004 and reaccreditation in 2009; thereafter, reaccreditation is generally done every ten years and is coming due again in 2019.

The evaluation process begins

While at AUB, Dr. DiNardo met with students, faculty, staff, trustees, senior administrators, and members of the steering committee, both on campus and at the AUB AREC facility in the Beqaa. After receiving his feedback and constructive comments, AUB will revise the report. Once finalized, the report will be sent to the full evaluation team before their comprehensive site visit in March, after which they make their recommendation on AUB’s reaccreditation. 

In addition to his service as a peer evaluator for MSCHE, Dr. DiNardo is vice provost for academic affairs and professor of physics at Drexel University. MSCHE’s peer evaluators are volunteers who play an important part in the accreditation process. As Provost Harajli explains, the evaluation team’s relationship with institutions undergoing accreditation review is more about mentorship than about passing judgement. 

“They work with us and want to help us,” said Harajli. “They don’t interfere with what we do, they just guide us. But at the same time, they critique us and we have to be careful; we can’t just take it easy. We are an institution that is 152 years old and we have to live up to the expectations. This is why we pay so much attention to our self-study; it has to reflect the face of AUB, the heritage of AUB, and the reputation of AUB.”

A close and critical self-examination

Over the past two years, the AUB Self-Study Steering Committee and working groups have been hard at work preparing AUB’s comprehensive report to MSCHE. Taking an exhaustive and inclusive approach, 150 faculty, staff, and students have participated in drafting the self-study report, which was shared with the AUB community in August to solicit feedback. The self-study addresses the seven standards for accreditation, with a working group for each standard. 

The working groups labored intensively to collect and analyze quantitative and qualitative data related to each standard and come up with recommendations. The steering committee reviewed these and proposed a subset of recommendations that are actionable, tied to the university’s strategic priorities, and will have an immediate and substantive impact on the institution. 

Recommendations cover areas such as communication among AUB constituents, ethics and integrity, the student learning experience and financial support, advising, and athletics. Once the final report is approved by MSCHE, AUB will become responsible for implementing these recommendations and evaluating their success over the coming ten years. This will be done under the watchful eye of Boushra Rahal, director of institutional accreditation in the Office of the Provost, who will work with AUB constituents to ensure that they are.

If you have not done so already, take a look at the draft Self-St​udy Report​ to see what will be on AUB’s change agenda in the near future.

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