From April 18-20, 2011, Ferris hosted the Higher Learning Reaccreditation Visiting Team. As a result of that review, Ferris’ accreditation was extended for ten years until 2020-2021 with no follow-up reports required.
The successful self-study process that culminated with a visiting team in April of 2011 began in the fall of 2007. This effort was authorized by the President and the Board of Trustees and was capably chaired by Associate Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Michael Cairns and Arts and Sciences faculty member Dr. Christine Vonder Haar. Overall coordination of the self-study process was the responsibility of the Office of Academic Affairs with Associate Provost Dr. Roberta Teahen and Administrative Assistant Maureen Milzarski.
Representative compliments/comments from the Team’s Report include these:
- The integrity of the process of preparing the self- study was reflected through the organization of the Self-Study Steering Committee. In addition to the faculty and administrators who served on each of the criterion subgroups, all campus administrators were involved in preparations of the self-study.
- Conversations with faculty, staff, and board members clearly show that they have a shared understanding of the mission.
- The concept of diversity and inclusion is evidenced across the university and is interpreted broadly, including cultures, gender and gender orientation, religion, disabilities, beliefs, and ideas. It is evident in the curriculum designed to advance knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of current and future constituencies as well as preparation for a global society, global perspectives, and a diverse world.
- Components of the mission were heard by the Team in explicit statements made by faculty, staff, and students using terms like the “inherent dignity” of everyone at Ferris and a commitment to promoting “fairness, honesty, and integrity.”
- Ferris State University demonstrates that its planning processes are congruent with the larger institutional mission, realistic without precluding the launching of strategically important initiatives, and appropriately careful about and sensitive to the demands emanating from a turbulent larger environment.
- The audited financial statements of Ferris State University make it clear that the institution is on solid financial ground. While the University has not been immune to the effects of economic recession in the state and the nation, especially between mid-2008 and late 2009, available cash and cash equivalents appear to be quite capable of sustaining university operations.
- Evaluation of programs and activities at Ferris State University occurs in a wide variety of contexts and units. On the academic side, programs are reviewed on a six-year cycle by the Academic Program Review Council (APRC) of the Academic Senate. These reviews are intensive, and the recommendations they produce are forwarded to the Academic Senate, the Provost, the President, and the Board of Trustees.
- The Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning (FCTL) is a prominent feature of Academic Affairs at FSU. Besides new faculty support and support for on-line instruction, initiatives of the FCTL which are focused on effective teaching include a “Focus on Student Success” program and a Scholarship of Teaching and Learning program which sent 10 faculty members to a State Teaching and Learning conference in 2010.
- It was clear from open and targeted meetings that many non-classroom employees are well informed and value and take student learning at FSU seriously. Employees are industrious about learning what is happening across the university and make their voices heard.
- The physical facilities that house the special purpose laboratories and clinics provide state- of-the-art learning experiences for many Ferris State University students. Of particular note is the new building housing the Michigan College of Optometry which opened this year. The building design is innovative and flexible and will serve students and faculty well into the 21st Century.
- Across campus, Ferris State University supports and maintains an elaborate array of additional laboratory and support resources to facilitate student learning. These include: the Academic Support Center, the Writing Center, and Structured Learning Assistance (SLA) courses, which are linked to high-risk-for-failure courses. The SLA courses have improved student retention in programs in allied health.
- The institution has demonstrated a strong commitment to diversity and social responsibility in the appointment of a vice president in support of diversity as well as a variety of other programs and activities such as the Annual Diversity Enhancement Award, the Institute for the Study of Academic Racism, and the Jim Crow Museum. In addition, program outcomes including the general education outcomes reflect an ongoing commitment to social responsibility.
- Evidence from interviews (both individual and group), self-study documentation, and meeting with advisory councils suggests the institution has a strong commitment to keeping the curriculum current and relevant. Internships, clinical placements, and field experiences are found in almost every program at FSU. Particular attention has been made to addressing the ongoing concerns of professionals in the field and prospective employers. The College of Professional and Technological Studies coordinates a wide range of continuing education and professional development opportunities for area professionals.
- Ferris State University clearly is engaged in a variety of productive partnerships. Academic departments could point to specific relationships with local government agencies, small businesses, and mid to large-size corporate entities that were connected to the university’s human assets through service learning, internships, and civic or community engagement activities. For example, the staff in the Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning could identify faculty, courses, and development programs that are focused on service, with financial and intellectual support provided through the Center, various colleges, and Academic Affairs. The curriculum similarly supports the academic message of engagement, leadership, and learning through the FSUS 100 course.
Prominent among the suggestions for continuing improvement at the university are these:
- Assuring more consistency across programs in implementation of assessment and the use of assessment data to inform program and course improvements that will further enhance student learning
- Increasing emphasis upon scholarship among the faculty, particularly as it relates to graduate education
- Investing in technology infrastructure for support of expansions in online learning