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Accreditation open forums solicit feedback

As part of the accreditation process, four evaluators from the Higher Learning Commission met with 40 students at an open forum to discuss the college and what should be improved.

The Higher Learning Commission is one of six institutions in the United States that can grant accreditation to post-secondary schools.

The evaluators were here Nov. 4-6 to observe the college and possibly grant accreditation, according to Dr. Mike Wohlfeil, who was co-chair of the self-study process prior to the campus visit.

“The evaluation team was pleased with the preparations that Concordia College had made and appreciated having access to complete information about the college,” Wohlfeil said. “They especially enjoyed their interactions with the faculty, staff, students and Regents.”

Mike Edmonds, the dean of students at Colorado College led most of the question-answer portion of the forum. He started by asking what students like about Concordia, and, in their opinion, what could be done to improve the college.

Several students said they appreciated the close-knit community on campus. They also appreciated the professors’ ability to teach necessary material while simultaneously allowing students to learn independently.

Students raised few concerns, but there were some regarding the difficulty of classes and the “Concordia Bubble” environment of the school.

Edmonds then asked about the mission of the college and how it applies to our college experience thus far.

One student classified themselves as a lifelong learner because of how the college mission has transferred to the classroom. According to the students, the college’s mission encourages critical thinking.

Praise for the “dedicated to the Christian life” part of the mission statement came from a student who identifies herself as atheist. It has encouraged her to discover other faiths and now has a new appreciation for Christian morals, even though they do not directly apply to their beliefs.

The student forum was the last of three open forums held by the HLC during the week. The first two were for any staff and faculty of the college that were interested in contributing to the process.

The forums provided attendees the opportunity to converse openly with the evaluators and ask any questions they wanted. The members of the HLC did the majority of the questioning, however, so they could get multi-dimensional feedback before granting or denying accreditation.

Both the college and those judging the processes of Concordia valued the attendance of students at the forum, according to Wohlfeil.

“The forums were essential to the success of the on-site,” Wohlfeil said.  “The participants were vocal, especially about their commitment to Concordia College and its mission. The team particularly noted the impressive turnout at the student forum and the thoughtful comments made by the students.”

The evaluators had the opportunity to walk around campus and ask any students or staff questions about the college, but the open forum allowed them to get a formal response to any questions they had about the experience of studying and working at Concordia.

The representatives from the Higher Learning Commission  will now spend the remainder of the calendar year creating a report and will then decide whether to grant or deny accreditation.

Concordia will be notified of the results in late January, and a campus-wide report will be sent out soon after.

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