Middle States Commission Selects Genesee Community College to Pilot New Accreditation Standards

The Middle States Commission on Higher Education has selected Genesee Community College as one of only 15 colleges and universities in the mid-Atlantic region to pilot new accreditation standards as part of Genesee's 2017 reaccreditation, Professor of Psychology and Accreditation Steering Committee Co-Chair Timothy P. Tomczak reported to the Board of Trustees at the Monday, April 13, 2015 board meeting. Genesee is the only one of the State University of New York's 64 campuses to be selected to pilot the new standards.

Albion, New York —The Middle States Commission on Higher Education has selected Genesee Community College as one of only 15 colleges and universities in the mid-Atlantic region to pilot new accreditation standards as part of Genesee’s 2017 reaccreditation, Professor of Psychology and Accreditation Steering Committee Co-Chair Timothy P. Tomczak reported to the Board of Trustees at the Monday, April 13, 2015 board meeting. Genesee is the only one of the State University of New York’s 64 campuses to be selected to pilot the new standards.

The new accreditation requirements consist of seven standards covering all areas of College operation. A key requirement throughout the new standards is that colleges and universities must continually assess and improve programs and operations, according to Professor Tomczak. “There is no sitting still,” he said. “Quality and excellence means that we must be constantly striving to do better.”

The Middle States Commission is responsible for accrediting about 528 colleges and universities in the mid-Atlantic region, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Accreditation is the Commission’s “seal of approval” of college programs and operations, and all colleges and universities must apply for reaccreditation every ten years. Only accredited colleges may offer legitimate degrees and qualify for student-based financial aid. The Commission is preparing to make substantial changes in the accreditation standards, which are expected to be introduced during the 2017-2018 academic year following the accreditation reviews conducted at Genesee and the other 14 pilot colleges in 2017.

The accreditation process at Genesee lasts two years, Professor Tomczak told trustees. The process consists of a rigorous self-study of the College’s academic life, programs and services, and administration, all designed to ensure that the College meets high standards. The self-study involves a large number of faculty and staff members, and culminates in the visit of an accreditation team consisting of highly-respected college leaders, usually from out-of-state. The accreditation team reviews the self-study, assesses the College and makes recommendations about reaccreditation to the Board of Directors of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Although the focus is often on the visit of the external review team, the most important part of the accreditation process is the work that faculty and staff members do to complete a rigorous self-study, Professor Tomczak told trustees.

More than 75 Genesee faculty and staff members have volunteered to serve on seven accreditation “work groups.” These faculty and staff members gathered at the Batavia Campus April 9 to kick off the accreditation process. Between now and January 2016, each work group will review and evaluate data on College programs and operations, draw conclusions, and make recommendations for the future. Between January and June of 2016, the teams and steering committee will prepare a first draft of the formal self-study to be submitted to the Middle States Commission. The draft will be reviewed by the accreditation teams, as well as other faculty and staff members in the summer and fall of 2016, and submitted to the Commission in early 2017.

The work groups are being coordinated by a steering committee co-chaired by Professor Tomczak and Executive Vice President for Planning and Institutional Effectiveness William T. Emm.

The Middle States Commission will probably name members of the review team by fall 2016, said Professor Tomczak. He also noted that a Commission liaison, Dr. Tito Guerrero, will visit Genesee next month to review Commission standards and the accreditation process.

Genesee Community College may have been selected to pilot the new standards because of the College’s history of successful accreditation. Three years ago, the Middle States Commission named Dr. James M. Sunser, Genesee President, to serve on the Middle States committee charged with updating the standards. Said Dr. Sunser: “Middle States wants to know how the new standards work. We are so grateful that we are participating in the pilot of the new standards that will eventually be used with all of the Middle States colleges and universities.”

Board Chair Diane D. Torcello attended the accreditation kickoff two weeks ago. She praised the faculty and staff members who are participating in accreditation work groups, and told her trustee colleagues that she expects a highly successful accreditation process. “I was very impressed with the kickoff, and I have no doubt that with Tim’s and Bill’s leadership (Professor of Psychology Tomczak and Executive Vice President for Planning and Institutional Effectiveness Emm) we are in very good hands. There was a lot of energy during that kickoff, and I left feeling very proud.”

In other business Monday evening, the Board of Trustees:
Heard David B. Callard, Chair of the Orleans County Legislature, welcome the Board of Trustees to the Albion Campus Center. Mr. Callard told trustees that he and the Legislature appreciate the College’s service to Orleans County residents and hope for even greater collaboration between the College and the county in the years ahead. Mr. Callard stressed the importance of Genesee Community College. “Education is the greatest gift we can give,” he told trustees. He intends to make transportation to and from Batavia via Routes 98 and 63 a priority project in the next year.

Congratulated Student Trustee Ami L. Cornell on her appointment to the All-USA Community College Academic Team, sponsored by Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society for community college students. Ms. Cornell is one of only a handful of students across the United States to earn this honor. Ms. Cornell is also a 2015 recipient of the State University of New York Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence. She expects to graduate from Genesee next month and plans to attend Mercyhurst College in Pennsylvania this fall.

Approved the routine reaffirmation of a series of College policies as part of the Board’s ongoing policy review.

Heard President James M. Sunser report that the New York State Legislature enacted an increase of $100 per full-time-equivalent student in state aid. The Legislature’s action partially restores some of the cuts made to aid over the last decade.

Accepted a donation of bridal gowns to GCC from MA. Carr Bridal Shop in Orchard Park. The gowns will be used in the student’s upcoming fashion show. After the fashion show, the gowns will be used in the College’s fashion program to teach design and alteration techniques.

Heard Vice President for Student and Enrollment Services Virginia M. Taylor report that enrollment is holding steady, and that enrollment in online and Accelerated College Enrollment courses (courses offered to area high school students) has been very strong. Dr. Taylor noted that the first of two summer sessions begins May 26. Dr. Taylor also noted that area high school juniors and seniors are eligible for full-tuition scholarships for two GCC courses this summer.

Heard Dr. Sunser report that two individuals have joined the staff of the College’s Marketing Communications office, replacing staff members who had resigned. Morgan J. Eastlack is the new Technical Specialist/Web and Social Media Coordinator. Ms. Eastlack ran her own photography and media business prior to her appointment. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from Roberts Wesleyan College. John J. Maloney, Jr. is Technical Specialist/Graphic Designer. Mr. Maloney ran graphics and media operations for Clover Home Leisure Co. in Rochester. He holds Bachelor’s degrees in Business Administration and Graphic Design from SUNY Brockport and Art Institute of Pittsburgh, respectively.

Heard James J. Simon, Associate Dean of Genesee’s Albion and Medina Campus Centers report on activities at these two Orleans County centers. Genesee served 712 Orleans County students over the last year, and 316 of these students participated in courses offered in Albion and Medina. Each of the two campus centers has been developing informal academic specialties over the last several years, Dean Simon said. Albion has specialized in Art, Business, Criminal Justice, Office Technology, and Spanish courses, while Medina has specialized in Human Services, Biology and Chemistry courses. The Medina Center has a multi-disciplinary science lab, he noted. Both campus centers emphasize service to the community. Dean Simon cited the College’s driving courses, OSHA courses, field placements, service learning, GO-ART gallery (located at the Albion Center), Heritage Heroes awards, and Civil War encampments as examples of initiatives that have served numerous area residents. The third annual Civil War Encampment at the Medina Campus Center is scheduled for April 25 – 26, 2015 featuring demonstrations, exhibits, reenactments, camps, workshops and the Victorian Cotillion with City Fiddle performing.

Heard Edward J. Grabowski, a Genesee Community College alum (class of 1973), GCC adjunct faculty member, and well-known local deputy sheriff, former Shelby town justice, and attorney, comment on the impact of the Albion and Medina campus centers on area students. “A lot of our faculty members have experience and knowledge from life, and GCC does a great job bringing real-world experience and the classroom experience together,” he told trustees. Mr. Grabowski also praised the College’s use of instructional technology, noting that online courses and video-linked courses make higher education available to many students whose schedules prevent them from attending traditional classroom-based courses.

Heard two students who had completed a number of courses at the Albion and Medina centers describe their experiences. Christine A. Chennell of Albion, who is planning a career in Veterinary Technology, spoke about dropping out of college at a young age and coming back to Genesee as an older student: “Life happens. I found myself as a single parent, trying to support my child. Now, it was 15 years after I dropped out of UB [The University at Buffalo], in my second marriage, out of a job and I realized I liked helping people. I thought, why not a Human Services degree? But the idea really scared me. I didn’t think I could do it. I passed by the campus center a million times.” She eventually decided to begin her studies on a part-time basis, and found out that she could excel in the classroom. She praised Genesee’s faculty who, she said, gave her the knowledge and inspiration to excel. “They are really awesome,” she said. Trustees also heard from Keith McKinney, who, after completing 27½ years of active duty in the U.S. Army, moved to Lyndonville with his wife and decided to pursue his dream of becoming a history or political science teacher. But the transition was challenging at first. Said Mr. McKinney: “I had spent years in the military and I was a very dedicated soldier, but walking into college I was scared to death. I was older than many students and some of the instructors. But I felt welcomed by everyone.” Mr. McKinney also praised the faculty. “These are the best educators I have ever met in my life,” he said.

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