Student Success:
Innovative Practices
Raison d’Etre for Higher Education: Promoting Economic and Social Mobility of Students

Sonny Ramaswamy, NWCCU President

“You can resist an invading army; you cannot resist an idea whose time has come.” Victor Hugo

Formal (higher) education, as we know it today, i.e., a teacher or guru imparting knowledge via lecture and experiential learning, has its origins in religious teachings going back millennia to Mesopotamian, Indian, Greek, Chinese, and other cultures; for example, “gurukulas” in India, or synagogues, mosques, temples, and churches, which also controlled significant wealth, were the keepers and purveyors of knowledge. This connection between “church” and education continued over the centuries, including here in the United States with the establishment of colleges and universities affiliated with various religious orders and the education of clergy. The beneficiaries of such education practiced as clergy, and included the occasional individual, such as Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Gregor Mendel, and others, in the 17 th, 18 th, and 19 th centuries, also studying and teaching about “nature”. 

Dual Enrollment Partnership: A Case Study

Steven Meredith, Ph.D.
Assistant to the President for Institutional Effectiveness
Director of Music Technology
 Southern Utah University

During an August 2018 presentation to the Utah State Legislature Subcommittee for Higher Education Appropriations, Representative Derrin Owens, the House Vice-Chair of the subcommittee asked Scott L. Wyatt, President of Southern Utah University, the following question regarding the dual enrollment partnership between Southern Utah University and Southwest Technical College: “. . . I love what I see . . . but why has it taken us until 2018 to get a model like this that really serves students of every background and need? Why has it taken so long?” President Wyatt responded, “Well, we’re in two different worlds, and it is too easy to say ‘we might lose tuition money, or we might lose students.’ So, if you were to look at each of our institutions, it is probably not in our best interest, but it is in the best interest of students - - so it’s hard!” [laughter]

Students and Faculty Driving Change
Constance Tucker, M.A., Ph.D.
Vice-Provost, Educational Improvement and Innovation
Oregon Health and Science University
What does jaundice really look like in black skin? It was an Oregon Health & Science University student who asked this question to a faculty member who identifies as a white female whom we will refer to as Michelle Round, Ph.D., R.N. (pseudonym).  Readily available digital photographs of jaundice and other visible conditions that health care professionals need to recognize often do not reflect the diversity of our patient populations.

Learning Assistants Make Connections
Janea Triplett-Newell , Ph.D.
Instructional Designer, College of Southern Idaho  
A classroom utilizing a Learning Assistant Program looks more like a web and less like a line. In a course with learning assistants (LAs), experiences and content flow from and in between the instructor, LAs, and students.  
Jacqlyn King, Ph.D.
Learning Center
Innovation and
Success Center, College of Southern Idaho  
A Learning Assistant Program is a pedagogical approach to pair instructors with undergraduate students whose sole purpose is to support learning activities both in and out of the classroom. 

Information Literacy as an Institutional Outcome
Karen Clay, M.L.I.S., M.A.S.
Director of the Library and ALO,
Eastern Oregon University

At Eastern Oregon University (EOU) we are finding that student academic success is enhanced via exposure to information literacy concepts. These concepts are introduced to students in a variety of settings, thus ensuring that there is a good chance a student will have some familiarity with information literacy by the time they graduate. 
Donald Wolff, Ph.D., Vice Provost for Academic Quality,
Eastern Oregon University

The most innovative of these practices is the explicit incorporation of information literacy concepts into the First Year Experience (FYE) program via their inclusion in the curriculum of the three credit UNI course.  

EOU Library
Community Engaged Learning
Shelley McEuen-Howard, M.A.T.
of English,
College of Southern Idaho
Samra Culum-Williams, M.S.
Project Manager for the Center for Instructional Excellence; Community Engaged Learning Coordinator,
College of
Southern Idaho
The College of Southern Idaho is embarking on an exciting new journey, one that involves connecting the community and curriculum in meaningful and surprising ways with a local watershed.  Rock Creek is a local waterway that begins in the hills south of Twin Falls.
After flowing past multiple campgrounds to make a gradual three-thousand-foot drop to the agricultural landscape southeast of Twin Falls, Rock Creek cuts a rugged
canyon swath northwest through the city to empty its roughly sixty-mile length into the Snake River. Rock Creek is both beautiful and marginalized, transformed from being, quite literally, a town sewer and dump. Rock Creek now has a four-mile walking trail and an incorporated county park hosting an RV campground and playground. But looking closer, Rock Creek has a stubborn narrative of being undesirable, a throwaway working creek.

Rural Entrepreneurship
Stacee Mclff, M.S.
Department Chair,
Snow College
Through strategic partnerships and a community effort, Snow College has elevated entrepreneurship in its rural service area. In 2016, President Gary Carlston signed the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship president’s pledge. The pledge symbolized new commitment to institutional and community entrepreneurial activities.

See the NWCCU website at for additional stories of institutional accomplishments.
NWCCU Educational Programming

Jared Tippetes, Ph.D.,Vice President of Student Affairs, Southern Utah University
Eric Kirby, Ph.D, Vice President for Student Affairs (Completion and Student Success), Southern Utah University
In 2015, the presenters inherited a campus that had experienced eight years of stagnant or declining retention rates and were charged with turning things around. The good people on our campus had been trying everything outlined in the literature but just hadn’t seen the results and benefits of these best practices. So, our retention team went back to the drawing board and started over from scratch. From this exercise we developed and implemented our homegrown and cost-efficient ‘ASCEND’ model (Affordability; Support; Culture; Engagement; Nudges; Data). The result?

Webinar Acknowledgements
Valerie Martinez, M.Ed.
NWCCU Vice President

In October 2018, NWCCU launched a series of webinars designed to share successful practices from member institutions. The first two webinar presentations showcased methods of Eastern Oregon University and Willamette University by which each institution uses student learning outcomes to demonstrate mission fulfillment.

The third presentation spotlighted Seattle University’s efforts to support faculty-led assessment.

The commission and webinar participants offer a shout out to the presenters who stepped forward and represented their institutions’ experiences and successes – well done!

Special Thanks for their generous contributions to Webinars:

Dr. Donald Wolff – Vice Provost for Academic Quality, Eastern Oregon University
Dr. Stasinos Stavrianeas, Professor of Exercise and Health Science, Willamette University
Dr. Mark Stewart, Professor of Psychology, Willamette University
Ms. Sophia Sansone - Accreditation and Assessment Manager, Seattle University

Visit the NWCCU website to view recordings of these webinar sessions:
Notable Accomplishments
CHEA Announces Winners of 
2018 CIQG Quality Award

Dr. Lucas Kavlie, Vice-President of Compliance and Accreditation, Western Governors University, receives the CIQG Quality Award plaque from Stamenka Uvalić-Trumbić, CHEA Senior Advisor on International Affairs.
The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) International Quality Group (CIQG) has announced the winners of the 2018 CIQG Quality Award. NWCCU member institution, Western Governors University, was one of two nationwide institutions to receive the award. The CIQG Quality Award was established in 2018 to recognize outstanding performance of higher education providers in meeting the CHEA/CIQG International Quality Principles . "The award is a celebration of good practice and a demonstration of the major stake that higher education providers have in improving quality around the world," said Concepcion Pijano, an international consultant on accreditation and chair of the CIQG Advisory Council.
"This award is part of trying to build international investment in higher education quality and quality assurance," said Stamenka Uvalić-Trumbić, CHEA Senior Advisor on International Affairs. See CHEA website at:
Recognized by

We are pleased to announce that the board of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) has recommended recognition of NWCCU. The Commission is grateful to the work of former interim president Marlene Moore, senior fellow Mac Powell, commission chair Joe Brimhall, and the rest of the NWCCU staff for their hard work and dedication towards achieving this recognition.


Mac Powell, MBA, PhD
NWCCU Senior Fellow

The process of revising the NWCCU Standards of Accreditation and Eligibility Requirements has highlighted and expanded a renewed focus on student learning and student achievement – the driving measure of institutional success.

For more information, please contact the Academy’s Director, Dr. Mac Powell, NWCCU Senior Fellow, at


The Beacon Award is an annual award to recognize institutional or programmatic accomplishments in student achievement and success at the family of institutions accredited by Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

Information and criteria for the award will be sent electronically to all eligible institutions on or before April 1, 2019.

of Events
Recap on Workshops for Assessment Essentials
Newly Drafted Standards
As part of its ongoing process of self-reflection, and in accordance with U. S. Department of Education regulations and NWCCU Bylaws, NWCCU began its cycle of review for its Eligibility Requirements, Policies, and Standards of Accreditation on September 1st.

President Ramaswamy and NWCCU Staff have traveled to Alaska, Montana, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington to gather feedback in Town Hall conversations, in addition to holding two Online Town Halls to solicit feedback from members and the public.

NWCCU Data Trends
Averaged Graduation Rates and Retention Rates for All NWCCU Members
Overall, graduation rate and full-time retention rate for NWCCU member institutions are rising. Part-time retention rate is on a decline. Data is collected from IPEDS and NWCCU Annual Reports.
James Wagner
NWCCU Coordinator of Data and Records
The Beacon is NWCCU's quarterly newsletter to inform its member institutions and other stakeholders of up-dates, news, resources, and information pertaining to accreditation and higher education issues. Please send your comments to, or, contact Pam Goad ( or Jan Wilson ( if you would like to contribute to The Beacon.