Just as we individually strive to improve ourselves over time, the BYU-Idaho aims to better accomplish its mission “to develop disciples of Jesus Christ who are leaders in their homes, the Church, and their communities.” April 2021 will mark the third time the university has completed an accreditation cycle since it was announced as a four-year institution in 2000. BYU-Idaho is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU). The process is designed to help BYU-Idaho fulfill its mission.
Director of Institutional Effectiveness and Accreditation Boyd Baggett oversees the university’s preparation efforts for the upcoming accreditation visit April 21-23.
“The accreditation process reviews student achievement and student learning data as well as many of our internal review processes and policies,” Baggett said. “Both the NWCCU and BYU-Idaho have the same goals, and those are 1) to align efforts across the university with our mission and core themes and 2) to foster a climate of self-evaluation and continuous improvement.”
The university’s four core themes are:
1. Build testimonies of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and foster its principles in a wholesome academic, cultural, and social environment.
2. Provide a high-quality education that prepares students of diverse interests and abilities for lifelong learning and employment.
3. Serve as many students as possible within resource constraints.
4. Deliver education that is affordable for students and the Church.
These core themes are reviewed annually in President’s Council, University Council, and President’s Executive Group. Even more importantly, the university has established 10 strategic priorities that are reported on annually in a variety of venues across campus as well.
As part of Core Theme 2: Quality Education, BYU-Idaho has identified four institutional learning outcomes which were launched in Fall 2020. These outcomes include helping students become:
1. Disciples of Jesus Christ
2. Sound Thinkers
3. Effective Communicators
4. Skilled Collaborators
“We hope that no matter what subject our students are majoring in, every student will graduate with these key competencies,” Baggett said.
The university prepares extensive reports for each of the NWCCU’s visits, which occur approximately every seven years. The school’s last comprehensive evaluation was in April 2014.
“After every accreditation visit, we realign our goals and prepare for the next evaluation,” Baggett said. “After our April evaluation and once we receive our full report back in June, we will immediately begin working on our efforts for year one of the new cycle.”
Another part of our Quality Education review process is the Academic Program Review. Every three years, two colleges within the university hold program reviews to evaluate if their students are meeting their individual program learning outcomes.
“During these program reviews, we hope to identify where there may be gaps in student learning and take steps to improve in this area,” Baggett said.
Student learning data is reviewed along with data collected from student surveys and faculty perspectives. The reviews are presented to academic leadership and the university curriculum council seeking additional feedback to improve the academic programs.
“The question we are always asking ourselves is ‘How do we create a culture for self-evaluation and continuous improvement?’” Baggett said. “’Are our students becoming disciples of Jesus Christ, no matter their career goals or interests? Are they becoming agents of their own learning? Are we improving as a university to reach out to them and help them get there?’ That’s what this process is all about.”
The goal of the NWCCU evaluators will be to verify that the prepared reports are accurate, review university policies, and determine that the quality of education is at an appropriate college level of rigor. After reading the reports, the NWCCU evaluators will come to campus for a virtual visit on April 21-23. During the evaluation, they will interview a variety of people (leaders, students, faculty, and staff), based on their need to verify the information in the report and to assure BYU-Idaho is meeting the NWCCU standards. There will be three forums organized for staff, faculty, and students respectively to make comments and answer questions.
The meetings are currently set for the following times:
Staff: Wednesday, April 21, 12-1 p.m.
Faculty: Wednesday, April 21, 2-3 p.m.
Students: Thursday April 22, 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
During the week of the visit, emails will be sent to staff, faculty, and students, with Zoom links inviting any who are interested to join the forum meetings.