Baylor Connections: Wes Null
Accreditation Reaffirmed for Next Decade
Every 10 years, Baylor completes a review of its national accreditation. In December 2018, Baylor officially received notice of reaccreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) after a rigorous process involving every area on campus.
Wes Null, PhD, Baylor’s vice provost for undergraduate education and institutional effectiveness, led the recent reaccreditation process. On an episode of Baylor Connections, a weekly radio show and podcast highlighting University people and programs, he discussed reaccreditation and what it means for the Baylor Family.
What is SACSCOC and why is it important to successfully complete this process every 10 years?
NULL: SACSCOC is the regional accrediting body, and it’s called regional because it’s targeted at a region of the United States. Every university and college in the country has to be accredited, and there are regional accreditors for every part of the country. SACSCOC covers the southern portions of the nation — Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and so on.
It matters for many reasons, such as enabling an institution to receive federal funds. At Baylor, for example, about 50 percent of our students receive some sort of federal financial aid. About 50 percent of our extramural funding, research funding, came from the federal government last year to the tune of approximately $10 million. Accreditation is critical to any university and college out there.
Do you find people have misconceptions about the process?
NULL: There’s a common misperception that it’s some kind of robotic institutional process — bureaucratic, if you will. There is the element that requires you to write specific documents and prepare specific data to demonstrate accreditation, but it’s a very human process that involves professional judgment of university administrators and faculty coming from other institutions.
Recognizing that these are people who are in positions like mine at other institutions coming to Baylor or going to other institutions to look at their programs, to look at how they manage their institution, to look at their athletics programs, to look at their financial aid practices, to look at their student success efforts, to look at their curriculum review processes, this is a very human process. The alternative would be the federal government sending in administrative officials who may or may not have any experience whatsoever in higher education. It’s far preferable to have peers coming in who do this on a daily basis to see how we’re doing things.
At the end of the day, it’s important to build the right internal team — building relationships, planning — and then executing the plan with the right people.
What role did Baylor’s quality enhancement plan (QEP), Global Baylor, play in the efforts?
NULL: The QEP is central to the reaccreditation process. It’s changing a little bit with the new standards that SACSCOC is implementing now, but the QEP has always been central. An institution has to have one and it has to be designed as something new that improves student learning outcomes and that has not been implemented before, or is not necessarily closely tied to something that’s been implemented before. Global Baylor has to do with internationalizing our campus and providing more opportunities for students who might not otherwise have an opportunity to study abroad.
It’s all tied to the worldwide leadership and service dimension of our mission. Global Baylor is an exciting initiative, and folks will be hearing more about it in the months to come.
As you worked with colleagues throughout this process, what most stood out to you about the strength of this University?
NULL: People at Baylor love the institution. I would say the work that the Board of Regents has done on the assessment of the board — the complete reorganization, if you will — stands out as terrific work. I would say the work that’s been done in athletics by Mack Rhoades to move that department forward and reorganize so many things there stands out. Our student life area is always terrific with the reports they submit with their care and concern for students.
I can’t leave out the academic affairs area, the work we’ve done in the Provost’s Office. We’ve always been strong with all of our processes, procedures, documentation, and so forth. If I had to pick one area in academic affairs where I think we’ve really done great work, I would say with the general education assessment area.
To hear the complete interview or conversations with other podcast guests, visit baylor.edu/connections.