UH West Oahu Receives Results of WASC Preparatory ReviewUniversity of Hawaiʻi
HONOLULU —The Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) has completed the first phase of their two-part accreditation process for the University of Hawai'i at West Oʻahu (UHWO). This preparatory review coincided with reviews of the other senior-level campuses held under WASC‘s new standards issued in its 2001 Handbook. While the commission did not change the accreditation of UHWO, it issued a formal notice of concern. This means that, while UHWO currently meets WASC standards for accreditation, it will need to promptly address the concerns raised by the committee in order to maintain this status.
As a follow up to last spring‘s visit, the WASC team will conduct a special visit to UHWO in the fall. The second phase of UHWO‘s accreditation process, the educational effectiveness review, will take place in the fall of 2004.
"I appreciate the commission‘s thorough review and thank them for recognizing and commending the West Oʻahu team on the importance of their role in serving non-traditional students — this is a reaffirmation of the importance of having a campus west of Aloha Stadium," said UH President Evan S. Dobelle. "Although the report confirmed UHWO‘s progress, it also expressed areas that need more attention. We will continue to build upon UHWO‘s progress to ensure the issues raised are resolved."
In their report, the WASC team noted UHWO‘s mission — to provide access to upper division education for nontraditional students — to be commendably clear. The action letter states, "The institution is clearly focused on serving its students well and is to be commended for its commitment to serving the population of the region." The WASC team also noted that UHWO demonstrates that a university is about heart and soul. Previous WASC visits focused relatively more on the university‘s physical limitations but this team emphasized the importance of attention to the quality of existing programs.
In addition, the report acknowledged the dedication of the faculty for establishing criteria for quality education. The team highlighted assessment strategies for writing, quantitative and qualitative reasoning, research and the creation of a capstone program as evidence of the faculty‘s progress. The WASC team also commended UHWO for increasing the availability of access-oriented information technologies, tutoring services, facilities and student services.
"The commission found there is still a lot of room for us to improve the quality of the educational experience we offer," said UHWO Chancellor Bill Pearman. "The report was very substantive — the commission validated our purpose and praised our progress in many areas. I look forward to working with the senior administration, faculty, staff and students to continue our mission of serving our students and providing a valuable resource to our community."
Although the report praised several areas of improvement, the commission also expressed concerns regarding the university‘s commitment to function with the institutional integrity, fiscal stability and organizational structures necessary to fulfill its purpose.
"After the WASC visit in March we took immediate steps to address the concerns raised by the commission. Two committees have been formed — an academic planning committee and a program review committee — and they began meeting right after the visit," said Pearman. "In addition, the faculty senate has adopted new program review guidelines and the first review under these guidelines is in progress."
Pearman went on to add "the lack of sufficient resources is at the heart of WASC‘s concerns. We barely have enough faculty and administration to deliver programs currently in place, and certainly not enough to grow further or adopt any new initiatives."
The commission pointed out some areas that require the attention of the UHWO community including increasing faculty to student ratios with tenure-line positions before adding any new degree programs. The report also recommended improving financial reporting and institutional research systems and identifying a chief academic officer who could initiate an academic planning process including assessment.
"I am confident that the concerns and opportunities raised by the WASC commission will be solved and we will be a stronger more effective university for it," said Pearman. "The report has provided us with solid recommendations that will be in place soon."
A formal presentation on a permanent West Oahu site will be presented at the September Board of Regents meeting that results from the $8 million planning grant authorized last year by the legislature and former Governor Cayetano.
For more information, visit: http://www.hawaii.edu/wasc