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Bearings: News and Perspectives for Academic Affairs

Bearings: News & Perspectives for Academic Affairs

Making the Grade

Mar 17, 2013, 11:44 pm - Carey Adams

We usually think of a grade as marking the end of work that we have done.  A mark on a test, a grade on a paper, or the completion of that last class needed for graduation.  In fact, I can remember several times handing in an assignment and not really caring much what grade I received, I was just so glad to have the assignment finished.  But often a grade is only a comma or a semicolon rather than a period.  Sometimes the grade is incidental to the ongoing work to which we are committed.

In graduate school I remember the first time I felt like my relationship with my dissertation advisor had moved from purely teacher-student to something more like collaborators.  I had written a paper for a class I was taking from him, a research proposal.  At the end of the paper he had written my grade (an A- as I recall) and a brief explanataion.  Below that he wrote, "Now let's get on with the interesting stuff," and proceeded to write even more about where he thought I could go next with my ideas.

Our recent SACSCOC accreditation site team visit reminds me of that experience.  Yes, there is a "grade" associated with the reaffirmation process.  We won't know the final results until December, but we received some favorable feedback on our work so far.  Just as we urge our students to be more concerned with learning than just receiving a certain grade, our focus needs to be on how well we are accomplishing our mission and where we can improve.

I fully expect that, come December, we will earn a positive reaffirmation decision from SACSCOC.  I also fully expect that, come December, we will have made progress that extends far beyond our accreditation agency's minimum expectations.  The reaffirmation decision is just a grade.  Now let's get on with the interesting stuff.