Accreditation, the lifeblood of an academic institution, is an ongoing process. Every five years comes the reward, extension of accreditation, in the case of the Whitman School from AACSB International, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.
“The goal of accreditation is for business schools to continually get better,” says Alex McKelvie, associate dean for undergraduate and master’s education, and professor of entrepreneurship. He’s the one who oversaw the School’s preparation of a report to its Peer Review Team (PRT) and plans for the PRT’s campus visit (held virtually this year in February). “A continuous improvement process is so fundamental to what we do as a business school.”
AACSB recommended extension of Whitman’s accreditation in April; the School has held continuous AACSB accreditation since 1920.
The PRT—consisting of the deans of business schools at Tulane University and the University of California, Davis, and the former dean at Sacred Heart University—compiled a report identifying Whitman’s strengths and setting out issues for the School to address over the next five years, before the next review.
“Having the insights from experienced peers helps to take a novel perspective to support that we are on the right track and where we can continue to improve on what we’re doing,” McKelvie says.
The goal of accreditation is for business schools to continually get better. A continuous improvement process is so fundamental to what we do as a business school.” — Alex McKelvie, associate dean for undergraduate & master’s education and professor of entrepreneurship
The PRT called Whitman “a school that is ambitious and focused.” Whitman’s accomplishments in the last five years include “an ambitious faculty recruiting effort’’—bringing in 15 faculty in three years and other faculty positions in cluster hiring—and “a highly satisfying research environment for all levels of faculty”—helped by new grant funds for research.
The PRT commended Whitman for “several initiatives that enhance the relevance of the education students receive at Whitman”—among them the IMPRESS Program, Whitman NYC and the teaching of professors of practice. “Importantly,’’ the PRP noted, faculty members said the School is advancing in efforts to grow its research footprint.
“The morale of the students, faculty and staff is impressively high, especially given the impact of COVID-19. All with whom we spoke believe that due to Dean Gene Anderson’s efforts and policies, Whitman will be reaching new levels of excellence in terms of teaching/learning and research,” the PRT said. The report also cited the Whitman Advisory Council’s new, more strategic role, new funding of research and the engagement of students in entrepreneurship.
Each accreditation report reviews issues of concern the previous report raised five years earlier and sets out goals for the next five years.
The 2021 PRT cited advances in Whitman’s Assurance of Learning program. The School appointed a director, John Petosa L’95, McKelvie notes, and has collaborated with the University’s Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment.
In the next five years, Whitman should continue to improve its Assurance of Learning process and address the ramification of growth in its online programs. All online instruction is done on an overload basis. The School must develop other ways to staff online classes.
To prepare for the “site visit,” performed electronically this year, McKelvie developed a status report on Whitman for the PRT, what he calls “a group effort with input from faculty, staff and Dean Anderson.” That report ran over 100 pages, including statistics and appendices.
Then, on Super Sunday, McKelvie conducted a warm-up drill with those from Whitman and the University whom the PRT would interview, including deans, tenured and tenure-track faculty, professors of practice, the Provost, the Chancellor and groups of graduate and undergraduate students.
“The spirit of accreditation is something that we’ve built into our culture at Whitman,” McKelvie says, citing the assessment work of Petosa ’95 J.D., a licensed CPA and attorney who serves as CFO and general counsel of a food distributor in Syracuse.
Over the upcoming years, work will continue in annual data collection on the extent to which Whitman meets its educational learning goals; in discussions in curriculum boards and departments; curriculum adjustments as the business world changes; and annual evaluation of faculty research productivity.
Less than 5 percent of the more than 16,000 schools worldwide granting business degrees earn AACSB accreditation. Founded in 1916, AACSB International is the longest-serving global accrediting body for business schools offering undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degrees in business and accounting. Whitman is among 870 business schools in over 100 countries with this accreditation.
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