The Times West Virginian

February 26, 2014

PC&TC prepares for accreditation process

Evaluation of college’s mission set for next week

By Chelsi Baker
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — The Pierpont Community & Technical College Board of Governors discussed the institution’s next step in the accreditation process, which will take place next week, during its meeting Tuesday.

A Higher Learning Commission Peer Review team of five will visit the Pierpont campus to address five criteria next Monday and Tuesday, March 3-4.

The team includes team chair Dr. Rebecca Timmons from the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith, Joseph Friona from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Dr. Janet Smith from Pittsburg State University, Dr. Sue Darby from National American University and Dr. John Phillips Speary Jr. from Butler County Community College.

The criteria the team will be looking for are:

• Pierpont is clear in its mission statement, and the statement guides the institution’s operations. The mission statement should be well communicated to the public.

• The college practices ethical and responsible conduct and acts with integrity.

• It provides high quality education wherever and however said education is delivered.

• Pierpont shows it is responsible for the quality of its educational programs, learning atmospheres and support services. The college implements a process designed to promote continuous improvement and evaluates learning effectiveness.

• The college’s resources, structures and processes are sufficient to fulfill its mission, continue to adapt to future changes and responsibilities, and improve educational quality.

Joseph Friona will be the first member of the team to visit Pierpont to begin the evaluation. He will come Friday to do a multi-campus inspection, and will visit the Gaston Caperton Center and the Robert C. Byrd National Aerospace Education Center to look at their functions and services.

The rest of the team will arrive Sunday night and will begin their visit Monday.

Scheduled events include a facility review, open forums focusing on each of the criteria that are open to faculty, staff, students and administrators, meetings with certain board members and Pierpont administration and three drop-in sessions, during which the team is interested in meeting with students, staff and faculty to get their perceptions and input.

The board discussed the schedule, as well as what they can expect from the visit. They went over possible questions team members may have, as well as details on how Pierpont meets the five criteria.

They were encouraged to approach the visit offensively and not defensively, and to talk to the team about what they would like to see happen and what their individual roles are at Pierpont.

“I know it will go well. I know the team will be impressed, and I know we will all breathe a sigh of relief Wednesday morning,” Pierpont president Dr. Doreen Larson said about the upcoming visit.

Pierpont goes through the accreditation process every 10 years with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges. The process ensures that Pierpont meets Higher Learning Commission standards, and is continually improving and making changes for the better.

“This is like our checkup. We’ve expressed what we’re doing at the college, what our mission is, what our processes and policies are,” said Leslie Lovett, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. “So when a team comes out, they’re really just verifying what we’re saying.”

A college or university’s accreditation ensures its course credits are transferable, gives colleges and employers peace of mind that students are getting an acceptable quality of education and gives its students access to federal financial aid.

The team will prepare a report at the end of its visit, and Pierpont will build off the team’s suggestions to further meet criteria and prepare for the next accreditation process.

In other business:

• Barbara Pavel-Alvarez was appointed to fill the Regional Academics Committee chair vacancy.

• Lt. Col. Joel E. Miltenberger officially presented the signed Statement of Support for the Guard and Reserve to Pierpont, which serves as a commitment to support and accommodate workers at the college who are members of the Guard or Reserve.

• The Pierpont Culinary Team received its bronze medals and certificates after winning at the state level that will move team members forward to the American Culinary Federation’s Northeast Regional Competition in April.

Email Chelsi Baker at cbaker@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @cbakerTWV.