Commentary — 25 August 2011

Greetings for this week.

As you read this, the University’s Board of Regents is holding its regular summer quarterly meeting at the Hopkinsville Regional Campus today—after having spent all day yesterday in a retreat/work session at Lake Barkley State Park.  So before I get into the substance of my comments for this week, I want to first publicly thank the many MSU staffers at the Hopkinsville campus, Breathitt Veterinary Center, and the main campus in Murray for tackling the extra work to make the “Regents’ Road Show” possible.  I’m gratified to see our Board’s willingness to take some meetings to our regional campuses—and it bespeaks the University’s overall dedication to outreach and support of the area we are called to serve.

You’ve noted if you’ve been reading my column over the past couple of weeks now that I’ve said I’ll be talking occasionally about refinement of our Strategic Imperatives and related University-wide initiatives we’re moving toward—all in anticipation of my State of the University address in early October.

In this week’s missive, then, I want to spend a few moments bringing the campus up to speed regarding the next full-scale work that is already getting underway in support of our Excellence imperative—as we soon begin to wind down the combined campus efforts around HOLD THY BANNER HIGH, our comprehensive fundraising campaign.

And no…the HTBH campaign is not over yet and we shall still be aggressive in our fundraising…remember, we’re pushing toward a stretch goal of $70 million by the 2012 Homecoming…but as I stated last week, our campus posture is now starting to shift toward the Next Big Thing…and that is described below:

As I mentioned in my previous column, the new initiative around Excellence will encompass the University’s “reaffirmation” of our ten-year regional accreditation (or more simply said…reaccreditation), which is slated for 2014.

Many on campus are aware that our regional accrediting agency is the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools/Commission on Colleges (SACS/COC).  This body is approved by the United States Department of Education to be responsible for the all-campus accreditation of degree-granting higher education institutions (from associate to doctoral degrees) across 11 southern states as well as a variety of Latin American countries.


In order to continue our accreditation by SACS/COC, we are required to undertake a massive and comprehensive compliance audit of MSU that is comprised of a self-study and assessment of all programs and courses offered by us both on- and off-campus, including distance learning.  Meeting the SACS/COC Principles of Accreditation—including “Core Requirement Areas,” “Comprehensive Standards,” and “Federal Requirements”—entails demonstrating compliance with roughly 80 or so separate indicators covering nearly every aspect of the University’s endeavors.  These indicators apply not just to academic standards, but include such things as financial and physical resources, faculty qualifications, student affairs and services, library resources, planning, et al.

The compliance audit and certification will be sent off to SACS about two years from now—followed by an on-site review team visiting the Murray State campuses sometime during the Spring 2014 semester.  That seems like a long time off, I know, but the wholesale nature of this undertaking means that our work has to start now.  In fact…and these people know who they are…about 100 letters went out to key faculty and staff across the U just recently seeking assistance in this critical institutional effort.

As we gear up to accomplish what is required of us for reaffirmation, you will no doubt be seeing an expansion of activities and requests and undertakings as our Campus Review Teams begin meeting and functioning. This new initiative we’re moving into will indeed take a collaborative approach involving MANY faculty, staff, and students at Murray State—an effort that is about as high-stakes as it can get for any college or university.  That being said, I know with the knowledge, skills, and diligence I see exhibited every day at our campuses, MSU’s reaffirmation will not only lead to success, but it will leave the University even better prepared for other challenges that surely lie ahead.

Overall coordination is taking place out of the Provost’s Office, and I have asked Associate Provost Jay Morgan to serve as the Director of this campus-wide initiative, assisted by a steering team of highly qualified campus leaders. (In his administrative role, Jay already had the responsibility of serving as our SACS liaison.)  Each of these individuals will be providing important direction and guidance as we push toward the completion of the compliance certification by September 2013 and prepare for the subsequent SACS staff reviews and on-site visit.

Since the founding of Murray State University in 1922, we’ve had a distinguished presence in the Commonwealth and region stretching back to our first accreditation in 1928. This heritage provides us with a firm foundation to continue the excellence we have come to be known for. This reaffirmation of our accreditation is one of those “marks of distinction” in higher education that symbolizes quality, effectiveness, and a dedication to development of the full student experience.

I’m ready to get started on this work and I look forward to seeing the results as yet another way to show that “We Are Racers”…a University of high quality…“spirited and proud”!

Have a great week.

Randy Dunn

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