Self-study to release to community later this month

Reaccreditation leaders Dearden, Pinnow talk Middle States summer updates

Even though the school year has just begun, many administrative projects from the past semesters kept progressing through the summer. One such was Allegheny College’s bid for reaccreditation.
The Middle States Commission on Higher Education is the accrediting agency administering Allegheny’s reaccreditation, examining the college and ensuring that they are offering a quality curriculum and education to the student body.
Last semester, the working groups were in the process of conducting a self-study of different facets of college life. Since then, they have completed their work and presented their findings as respective chapters in the overarching self-study report.
Associate Provost Jennifer Dearden and Professor of History and Global Health Studies Kenneth Pinnow have led the reaccreditation process at Allegheny and spent the summer break reviewing the study compiled by the working groups.
“Pinnow and I spent our days and nights in the library reviewing and revising the four chapters submitted to the steering committee by the student working groups,” Dearden said. “It was a long and thorough process, but we came away with a product that we hope the entire Allegheny community will be proud of.”
Pinnow elaborated that their work was not tied to those four chapters, and time was dedicated to improving the report holistically.
“We worked on the introductory chapter for the report and also created a sort of abstract that summarizes the contents of the report,” Pinnow said. “The conclusion is something we are working on presently and hope to complete after we have finished the final draft of the existing report.”
According to Dearden, the report will be over 100 pages and contain very dense, detailed data about the school from the past, along with a vision for the future, according to.
“We want to ensure that we can create a report that is attractive enough to catch the attention of the reader but also informative enough to do justice to an institution the size of Allegheny,” Dearden said. “That’s why the introductory chapter along with the summary of the report is so crucial to the success of this report.”
Dearden and Pinnow revealed that the current draft of the self-study report will be made available to the Allegheny community before the end of September, and will remain accessible for roughly a month.
“The report will be made available as an electronic document to those with an Allegheny email address,” Dearden said. “We will also be administering community feedback via an online feedback form.”
Pinnow said that the next steps in the reaccreditation process will not only include community feedback on the self-study report and the implementation of said feedback, but will also include two visits by the external accreditation committee.
“We will be visited by the Middle States chair for our reaccreditation process’ external team early in November this semester,” Pinnow said.
President of Saint Elizabeth University Gary B. Crosby is serving as the chair for the external team, and will be coming to Allegheny for a one-day visit.
Dearden added that another visit by the entire external team will happen in late March of the following spring 2023 semester.
According to Pinnow, the most important upcoming deadline for the steering committee is in late October.
“We need to ensure that all feedback has been implemented and that the completed draft of the self-study report is ready by the end of October,” Pinnow said. “Only by meeting this deadline can we ensure that the external team will have enough time to read and consider our report before their first visit in November.”
Dearden said that the external team visits are amongst the most important aspects of the reaccreditation process.
“What you do and say are often completely different things,” Dearden said. “The visits will separate the tale from the truth … the external team will obtain the most authentic and true representation of Allegheny upon visiting campus and interacting with the students.”
Pinnow added that students can be considered the most elemental resource of the college and that allowing them ample representation in the reaccreditation process is a target of the school.
Joshua Heiser, ’23, is one of the two students selected by the steering committee to represent the student body on the committee.
“I was asked by some professors I have worked closely with to represent the study body on the steering committee last fall,” Heiser said. “I was told that my name came up several times during initial discussions in the reaccreditation process and felt privileged to act as a voice for the student body.”
Heiser added that, in his role on the steering committee, he and Ashlyn Peachey, ’23, the other student representative, have had the opportunity of being involved in each step of the process.
“I’m very happy with the school’s initiative to be transparent in this process,” Heiser said. “(Peachey) and I have been asked our opinions and critiques at every discussion.”
Heiser mentioned, however, that he spent last semester studying abroad and was not kept up to date with proceedings on campus as well as he expected.
“Coming back to campus this semester, there were a lot of things I was unaware of and unclear on,” Heiser said. “I think there could have been more communication from the steering committee or maybe they should have invited someone to take my place in my absence to make sure that enough student body voice was present at the table.”
Dearden said that student involvement and success are atop the list of administration priorities not just regarding the reaccreditation process but in general.
“We learn from trial and error and we have learned a lot over the last three semesters about making sure everyone is involved and on the same page,” Dearden said. “We created student working groups for the reason that everyone should know more about their institution.”
Pinnow added that many other challenges were overcome by the steering committee and all those involved in the reaccreditation process.
“All the recent changes such as dining services and student pay rates along with larger changes caused by COVID-19 have made this process unique to the past,” Pinnow said. “We have worked diligently to paint the truest and most detailed picture of Allegheny, but we have to concede that every single change cannot be accounted for.”
Dearden and Pinnow both agreed that they learned a lot in leading the reaccreditation process.
“I think the most impactful thing I took from the report is being able to see proof of Allegheny fulfilling its mission statement,” Dearden said.
“For me, the thing that stood out the most is the amount of time and resources that Allegheny invests into its students,” Pinnow said. “I’m a professor here, yet I still learned about new resources that are available to students at Allegheny.”
Dearden and Pinnow reinforced the importance of re-accreditation.
“Without reaccreditation, there is no Allegheny as we know it,” Dearden said. “It is only through accreditation that we are able to be recognized as an institute of higher learning by the federal government.”