Managing Change in Higher Education
Value Proposition
Sonny Ramaswamy, NWCCU President

This is a gist of my conversation during a recent Uber ride.

The identity of the Uber driver and the institution are concealed to protect them.

The Uber driver, female in her 20s, recent graduate in the health area from an NWCCU-accredited four-year institution, first generation student of color, Pell recipient, with approximately $20,000+/- in student debt.

9:25 pm. November 14, 2019

After initial pleasantries, Uber Driver: Hope you had a good flight. Where are you coming back from?

Me: From Washington, DC, returning home to Redmond.

Uber Driver: I love Washington, DC. What were you doing there?

Me: Me too.

My organization supports and holds universities and colleges in the Pacific Northwest accountable. We are an accreditor.

I attended a meeting with other accreditors, United States Congressional representatives and staff, and US Department of Education staff.

We had conversations about higher education. The cost of higher education and indebtedness. Graduation rates. The value of higher education.

Uber Driver: Oh wow. That’s cool.

They failed me and my classmates.  
Managing Change

Marc Johnson President,
University of Nevada, Reno

Institutional change is inevitable and controversial, requiring careful management to achieve peacefully. Several elements contribute to smooth transitions:

Preparing the Environment: Since change is inevitable, a leader can prepare the institution in the present for change that will happen in the future. Communication with all segments of the organization on a regular basis develops personal relationships between the organization’s leaders and various student, employee and community groups. Clear communication about core missions and strategic goals forms a common bond across the institution about priorities and the importance of each organizational constituency in the development of these priorities. At the University of Nevada, Reno, the President and vice presidents meet monthly with leadership representing students, classified employees, faculty, and less frequently with Alumni and Foundation Boards. Regular communication builds awareness and trust. 
NWCCU’s Paradigm Shift
Alana Hoare , Quality Assurance 
and Accreditation Liaison Officer, Thompson Rivers University
Pamela Goad , Senior Vice President,

As we come closer to the change and launch date of the newly adopted Eligibility Requirements and Standards for Accreditation, we anchor to the NWCCU mission like an immutable piece of identity for accreditation – quality assurance and continuous improvement to promote student success.

For those who have found meaning in higher education, why do we now find ourselves in this tortuous moment of cognitive dissonance? Concepts like equity, not equality, and accountability, have infused our discussions leaving behind doubt, confusion, and even remorse. Are accreditors partly to blame by furthering the status quo beyond its effectiveness in today’s society? How can accreditors address this state of affairs in a substantial way? The challenge is rightly aimed at those requiring quality assurance and continuous improvement in higher education institutions: NWCCU and other regional accreditors. Ultimately, NWCCU must change its paradigm. Change is no longer only a concept, it’s the deciding factor for promoting success, as well as being a moral imperative.
An Achievable Plan for Student Success
Leslie Webb,   Ph.D., Vice President for
Student Affairs & Enrollment Management,
Boise State University
Almost three years ago, I stepped into this role and delivered a simple statement of clarity to the division. We are focused on the recruitment, retention and employability of our students. At a new staff orientation, I said, “Everyone should be able to see their work contributing to these three objectives.” One staff member raised their hand and said “No, I don’t think I contribute to any of those…” She and I spent a few minutes in conversation about her role on campus – a front line staff member- and I asked her a few questions about her interactions with students. Her face lit up at one point, and she said “You know, I had a student come up to me and tell me thank you. I asked him why he was thanking me, and he said ‘because you’re the one person who says hello to me each day.’” What a heartwarming story to share with new staff in the division. I thanked her and suggested that she had a positive impact on that student and likely contributed to their desire to come back to campus the next year. It’s common to hear staff wondering about their direct correlation to student success – helping them to understand the indirect contributions is key.  
Photo credit to Boise State Photo
Artificial Intelligence:
Considerations for Colleges and Universities
William O’Shea, Director, I nstitutional Research and Assessment, Pacific University

One commonality among our colleges and universities is the dedication to provide distinctive and meaningful educational experiences to our students. It is clear on any campus that human intelligence and human relationships drive these educational experiences. As such, the prospect of applying artificial intelligence (AI) in higher education may seem unwise or even threatening to these important parts of institutional cultures and student success. However, this is exactly why it is important to engage and explore what AI means for your institution and students now.
NWCCU 2019 Annual Conference

The hard work of our staff during the last almost 12 months preparing, organizing, designing, contacting, food menu-setting, negotiating, and contracting paid off.

In spades.

By all accounts, the 2019 Annual Conference was a roaring success. The almost 550 registrants blew all expectations out the water, including that of the hotel management.

The well attended workshops on Day 1 included sessions focused on sharing approaches to promote student success and close equity gaps, along with a special session on campus security, cybersecurity, accreditation, and information about federal regulations for presidents, chancellors, and CEOs of NWCCU member institutions. Concurrently, training on the 2020 Standards, Eligibility Requirements, and Policies was offered to Accreditation Liaison Officers and Evaluation Team Chairs.

Day 2 started with the mayor of Seattle proclaiming November 21, 2019 as Higher Education Accreditation Day. The well-received Plenary Sessions included nationally and internationally recognized speakers from the academic, private, governmental, and non-governmental sectors who touched on the future of education to federal regulations to employee pipeline issues to financial challenges to the use of cloud computing and artificial intelligence in higher education to evidence- and data-driven approaches to promote student success and close equity gaps. Day 2 included a luncheon celebration with the presentation of the Beacon Award for student Success and Achievement to Whitman College and the University of Nevada, Reno.

The Panel Discussions on Day 3 included conversations about approaches to promote success in students from underserved communities and use of actionable data to drive institutional change.

The conference ended on Day 3 with two Plenary speakers who provided case studies of approaches to promote success in students from underserved and Native communities.  

Many attendees said the theme, Value Proposition: Student Success, and the focus on closing equity gaps were particularly timely. Informally, they offered kudos for the hotel and location, organization, reputation and quality of the speakers, and help and support offered by NWCCU staff. Interspersing each day with a reception offered an opportunity for the attendees to mix and network.

Over the next few weeks we will analyze the formal evaluations submitted by the attendees and use our learnings to inform development and deployment of the 2020 Annual Conference.

Tune in.  
The Beacon Award for
Excellence in Student Achievement and Success
The Beacon Award for Excellence in Student Achievement and Success is an annual award to recognize institutional or programmatic accomplishments in student achievement and success at the NWCCU family of institutions.

Three separate categories of The Beacon Award were offered, based on unduplicated student enrollment during the most recent fall student headcounts: institutions with fewer than 2,000 students; between 2,000 and 6,000 students; and more than 6000 students.
First-time awards winners have been selected and were honored at the November 21, 2019, Annual Conference Luncheon. Each award recipient’s institution will receive a cash award of $2,500 and a custom-made blown glass Beacon Award of Excellence.

See the NWCCU website at for additional information for the Beacon Award for Excellence.
2019 Beacon Award Winner

Felicia DeWald,
Director, NevadaFIT
University Nevada, Reno


The University of Nevada, Reno is on the leading edge of a growing number of universities that offer a program to help students successfully transition from high school to college. NevadaFIT (Freshman Intensive Transition) takes place the week before the start of the fall semester, and is designed to increase success for all students in every major. NevadaFIT is based on the “BIOS” program that was established at Louisiana State University for biology majors more than a decade ago. The University of Nevada, Reno modified the BIOS model in several ways to make the boot camp impactful for students across all disciplines. Each college and school has its own version of NevadaFIT, which allows students to connect with faculty and students within their major. 
2019 Beacon Award Winner
Lydia McDermott, Director of the Center for Writing and Speaking, First Year Experience Writing Coordinator, Associate Professor and Chair of Rhetoric and Composition
Dana L. Burgess , the Charles E. and Margery B. Anderson Endowed Professor of Humanities and Professor of Classics, Whitman College
Writing Assessment Program Offers First-Year Students Needed Support

Whitman College is celebrating the success of its first-year writing assessment program, which has received the 2019 Beacon Award for Excellence in Student Achievement and Success from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

The program was started two years ago, crafted by Charles E. and Margery B. Anderson Endowed Professor of Humanities Dana Burgess and Associate Professor of Rhetoric, Writing, and Public Discourse Lydia McDermott, who also serves as director of the college’s Center for Writing and Speaking. 
Notable Accomplishments
2019 Higher Education Excellence in
Diversity Award
Please join us in congratulating Central Washington University, Eastern Washington University, Oregon State University, and Washington State University-Vancouver for being named recipients of the 2019 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award.
2019 Sustainability Awards
The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education Sustainability provides global recognition to the individuals and organizations leading the higher education sustainability movement. With the help of volunteer judges from the community, the awards program raises the visibility of high-impact sustainability projects, pioneering research, and student leadership, helping to disseminate innovations and inspire continued progress toward environmental, social and economic health.

The colleges and universities that scored highest in the 2019 Sustainable Campus Index included 15 with full-time-equivalent enrollment of less than 5,000 and nine with full-time-equivalent enrollment of 20,000 or more in 2016-17. The index recognizes top-performing colleges and universities in 17 distinct aspects of sustainability.

NWCCU Award winners include:

Master’s Institutions
Number 1: Thompson Rivers University, Kamloops, British Columbia
Number 4: Seattle University, Seattle, Washington

Associate Institutions
Number 3: Portland Community College, Portland, Oregon
Number 4: North Seattle College, Seattle, Washington

Oregon State University (OSU) is  increasing its outreach to Native American communities in Oregon and across the country by enabling tribal members to earn college degrees through OSU’s nationally ranked online programs. The new initiative is a partnership between  Oregon State Ecampus – the university’s renowned online education provider – and OSU’s  Office of Institutional Diversity to help Native Americans easily navigate the higher education landscape and assist them toward graduation.

“As a land grant institution, OSU is uniquely poised to provide a high-quality, accessible education for all,” said Oregon State President Ed Ray. “We value and acknowledge our moral and ethical responsibility to Native Americans, who are the original stewards of this land, and are pleased to advance our mission of service by partnering in developing distance education programs that align with tribal goals.”
NWCCU Academy for Retention, Completion,
and Student Success
The NWCCU Academy for Retention, Completion, and Student Success kicked off on November 20th with 115 institutional representatives from 20 member institutions participating in an all-day workshop with regional national experts on student success. Michael Baston, President of Rockland Community College and Aspen Institute Presidential Fellow for Community College Excellence, shared experiences working across the country and the critical need for deep engagement in the work of closing the achievement gaps for underrepresented populations. Shauna Davis, Executive Director of Holistic Student Supports at Achieving the Dream, spoke about the need for a systems approach to change and the critical elements of building buy-in and capacity-building to support campus equity work.

Questions about the Fellowship should be directed to Dr. Mac Powell, Senior Vice President.
Themes for The Beacon 2020
The 2020 Themes for The Beacon guide the content of The Beacon’s featured articles and support the efforts of the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. Four themes have been determined for the next two issues of The Beacon in the 2020 academic year. They are:

  • February 20 – Closing Equity Gaps
  • May 20 – Global Citizenship

The required format for featured articles in The Beacon is simply to provide content in a professional manner appropriate to the Northwest region. The software interface accommodates any type of media including video. Please submit articles for consideration in association with the theme of one of the four issues and email the article as an attachment one week prior to publication dates, or earlier. If you have any questions, or would like to submit an article, please contact Pamela Goad at [email protected].
NWCCU Calendar and Events
Educational Programming 2019-2020
NWCCU Webinar: Leveraging the Black College Experience to Support African-American Student Success in the NWCCU Region
Tuesday, December 3rd, 2019
Noon – 1 pm (Pacific Time)
Presenter: Dr. Harry L. Williams, President and CEO, Thurgood Marshall College Fund

Mission Fulfillment Fellowship
June 2019 - March 2020

Assessment Essentials: Assuring Standards of Educational Effectiveness and Quality Improvement
Spring 2020
Salt Lake City, UT, and Seattle, WA

NWCCU ALO Workshop
March 2020
TBD: Date and Location

Events 2020

NWCCU 2019 Annual Conference
November 17-20, 2020
Hyatt Regency Seattle Downtown
Seattle, Washington

Next Two Commission Meetings:

January 8-10, 2020
Hyatt Regency Seattle Downtown
Seattle, Washington

June 24-26, 2020
Whitney Peak Hotel
Reno, Nevada

See the NWCCU website for registration for specific events, and for more details:
Thank you
The Beacon is NWCCU's quarterly newsletter to inform its member institutions and other stakeholders of updates, news, resources, and information pertaining to accreditation and higher education issues. Please send your comments to Pamela Goad ([email protected]) or Jan Wilson ([email protected]) as well as inquiries for a contribution to The Beacon.
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