SIP 5.1 Preparing Your Class for the Higher Learning Commission Accreditation Visit

Thirsty for a Strong Instructional Practice?

Have you ever had that feeling that there is a buzz about something on campus– something that you don’t quite understand but realize is important–and you choose to turn the volume down and listen to the other, louder voices in your head?  Well, this is how the SIPsquad was collectively feeling about the impending HLC visit.  In an uncharacteristically bold move, we decided to listen to the HLC whisper and engage head-on with a topic of HUGE importance to our entire campus community.

The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) is the accrediting body that makes us legit. If MSU Denver were to lose its accreditation, a variety of bad things could happen:  students would lose the ability to receive financial aid, students’ credits would not transfer to other accredited institutions, students would not be eligible for admission into graduate programs at accredited schools, and basically the MSU Denver diploma would be essentially worthless.  Every ten years the HLC visits MSU Denver to make sure that we are running the ship in a manner deserving of accreditation status.

The good news is:  we are really doing the things we say we are, and a substantial team of MSU Denver administrators has been working since January of 2015 to prepare a report that documents how.  Really, there is no reason to be concerned that we will lose our accredited status.

That said, all of us need to come together as a community to positively interact with HLC accreditors when they visit our campus on April 10-11, 2017.  Everyone–administrators, staff, faculty and students–need to be on the same page and demonstrate our understanding of what we do, why we do it, and how the magic happens.  So how can we prepare?  And most importantly, how can we prepare our students?

Take a SIP of This: Preparing Your Class for the Higher Learning Commission Accreditation Visit

Conceptually speaking, there are a few ways you can get in the know:

  • A good place to start is to check out the MSU Denver Strategic Plan.  A two-minute perusal of this site will give you the bullet on the MSU Denver vision, mission, strategic themes, and, most importantly, our institutional core values–which are really our mission.
  • These values are:  Community, Access, Diversity, Respect, and Entrepreneurship.  As an acronym, this is:  CADRE.  It is a good idea for you and your students to know what CADRE means to you, and how you exemplify these values as members of the MSU Denver community.  Take a minute or two in class to brainstorm with your students and make a list of the many different ways that CADRE is visible on campus.  If anyone is asked about MSU Denver’s mission, just talk about CADRE!
  • Within your role (faculty, staff, etc.), know the mission of your own area and how it fits into the vision, mission and values of MSU Denver.  Not a bad exercise, regardless of the shadow of an accreditation visit looming large!
  • For faculty, there are a few specific things you can do to bring your work with teaching and learning into sharp focus for yourself and your class:
  • Take a look at your class syllabus, and ask your department chair or curriculum committee rep to help you find the “regular syllabus” for your course–then compare the two.  Realize that this has already been done on an institutional level as part of the accreditation process, but it is important to know how the “official” curriculum matches up to your “on the ground” manifestation, and then be able to talk about it.  Remember, HLC will be more interested in our “on the ground” syllabi than our “regular” syllabi.  They want to see what students see!
  • Talk about learning outcomes for your class with your students.  How do they fit into the vision and mission of the institution?  How do they reflect the values of CADRE?  Make sure that your students understand that what they are doing in class is part of a larger MSU Denver enterprise.
  • Invite your students to contribute ideas that will further enhance our vision, mission and values.  Accreditation is very important, and the April visit is certainly a big moment.  But the teaching, learning, and institutional activity that prepares us for and sustains us during the periods between HLC analysis is just as important.  Help your students to engage with these aspects of university life so that they can contribute even further to the overarching mission of higher education.


  • Think about a quick “elevator speech” or even just a sentence on how you think you engage with the values of CADRE in your work on campus.  If an HLC accreditor stops you and asks, it will be nice to be prepared!  You don’t need anything big or complicated, but one brief blurb on what your work means to you and how it contributes to the success of our school will give accreditors a particular insight into the very special place we have here.

Still Thirsty? Take Another SIP of Preparing Your Class for the Higher Learning Commission Accreditation Visit

Check out the HLC visit web pages.  There is a wealth of information there that can help you to further understand the many nuances of the visit.  You will be amazed to see how many of our colleagues, from all different walks of university life, have been working hard to make our re-accreditation a reality.  Shout out a thanks the next time you see them!

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