Iowa Lakes calls for ‘All hands on deck!’ as accreditation visit nears
During the Age of Sail, when tall sailing ships dominated the oceans, sailors listened for their directions to be delivered with the high-pitched trill of a metal whistle.
The whistle could be heard over the noisy ocean, telling sailors to haul on a rope or that it was time for dinner. It could also signal “all hands on deck,” instructing the entire crew to gather because something important was about to happen.
Now Iowa Lakes Community College is calling for “all hands on deck,” as it prepares for a March 26-28 visit by an accreditation team from the Higher Learning Commission. A college’s accreditation status provides independent quality assurance to the public and offers ideas for further improvement to the college.
“This status is important to students,” said Barb Grandstaff, director of registration and records. “It is because of our active accreditation status that students can receive federal financial aid, and that (their) credits will transfer to other colleges and universities.”
The Higher Learning Commission is an independent corporation that works with the federal government, the states and other groups to provide oversight and evaluation of colleges and universities.
“Accreditation is not just Iowa Lakes saying ‘we are great’- it is a third party review and assessment that validates what we are doing is great,” said Robert Leifeld, vice president of administration.
There are three options for accreditation; Iowa Lakes uses the Academic Quality Improvement Program Pathway, which emphasizes continuous quality improvement and runs on an eight-year cycle.
AQIP has six categories that offer a framework for colleges to examine their key processes and find opportunities for improvement, according to the commission’s website. The categories of focus are: helping students learn, meeting student and other key stakeholder needs, valuing employees, planning and leading, knowledge management and resource stewardship and quality overview, which looks at all the college’s quality improvement initiatives.
The Iowa Lakes call for “all hands on deck” isn’t limited to college personnel.
“Students, staff, faculty, administrators, board, community members are all involved and may be invited to visit with the team,” Grandstaff said.
Documents pertaining to the March visit are available on the Iowa Lakes website, and when the college gets specific scheduling for the visit that will go up as well, likely in February, Grandstaff said.
Preparation for the visit is ongoing, and has included substantial self-evaluation and appraisal of existing systems.
In addition to community input through a survey, Iowa Lakes students, area employers and those serving on advisory boards will have an opportunity to provide feedback, Leifeld said.
“Accreditation is a validation of our standing as a quality institution and more important that we have the high standards, processes and the will for quality assurance in all that we do and throughout our educational offerings,” Grandstaff said.
For more about accreditation, to read AQIP documents or learn about the upcoming visit of the Higher Learning Commission, go to www.iowalakes.edu/planning-development/accreditation/