Dr. Pam Fisher, the external evaluator that recently did a mock evaluation of the Northern Marianas College, found many positive things happening at the institution—all key to meeting the requirements and standards of the accreditation commission.
“It is apparent that many good things are happening at the college, from career and technical education to certificates and degrees and its extensive baccalaureate degree programs in education. Staff, faculty, and administrators are committed to their students,” said Fisher yesterday, adding that it was also readily apparent that NMC is absolutely vital to the community.
As part of its accreditation efforts, NMC went through an evaluation visit from Aug. 26 to 30 to prepare its employees for the accreditation team visit that will occur after the submission of NMC’s show-cause report on Oct. 15.
Fisher is part of the Association of Community College Trustees and is a former community college president, chancellor, and chairperson of visiting teams from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges
As part of her preparation prior to visiting NMC, Fisher corresponded and met with NMC president Dr. Sharon Hart and accreditation liaison officer Amanda Allen. She also reviewed the college’s accreditation history and the external evaluation team report from 2012.
Also, since governance was one of the major issues that NMC was asked to address, she reviewed many internal governance procedures, including the bylaws of the College Council, Faculty Senate, Staff Senate, and Student Senate.
While at NMC, Fisher noted that “the professionalism and hospitality demonstrated [by the college community] was precisely what should occur when the accreditation visiting team is on campus in late October.”
“A huge amount of work has occurred in order to resolve the issues around the two eligibility requirements and the eight recommendations made by the ACCJC in their action letter that led to the college’s status of being on show-cause,” Fisher noted. “It also is true that significant work still remains to be done that must be completed well and expeditiously.”
“In the next weeks and months the college community would be wise to focus on moving forward by implementing and following the new policies and procedures. …At the same time, the college community should identify ways to heal old wounds, improve communication, and come together with a unified shared vision for NMC.”
Meeting the regents
Fisher met with the Board of Regents on three occasions, each focusing on different topics that included best practices for effective governance, accreditation expectations, and preparation for interviews with the visiting team.
“Throughout all meetings with regents, the urgency of getting the new policies adopted and implemented was stressed. It will be especially critical that the Board of Regents has completed its adoption of all the new policies and that it can demonstrate it has implemented those related to board organization,” she said.
Fisher also held two open forums with the campus community. She acknowledged at the meeting that “some of the changes to longstanding practices had been hard to make and hurtful to some people who were still angry about them.” However, she commended the college leadership for working diligently with affected faculty to find alternative assignments and to offer support that would help them meet the new standards.
Fisher reassured college community members that what seem like radical changes are actually common best practices and “are absolutely essential” to the college remaining accredited.
“They were not out of the ordinary at all and not the idea of any one administrator,” said Fisher. She cited the new minimum hiring qualifications and the policy on honorary regents.
Fisher also met with all the standard teams at the college and gave them advice on the content of their narratives as well as suggestions for formatting their sections.
According to Hart, Fisher provided much needed help and guidance as the college community prepares for the submission of its show-cause report and upcoming visit.
“We are now reviewing the results of her assessment and sharing that across the campus to see how we can better prepare,” said Hart.