Twenty years after St. Mary’s College of Maryland earned the title of Maryland’s “Honor College”, administration, faculty, and students are evaluating whether St. Mary’s continues to achieve this status. This self-study is part of the college’s re-accreditation process and is expected to be completed by Spring 2016.
Accreditation validates that an institution can provide quality education and re-accreditation is performed periodically to ensure that this quality is maintained. Every decade St. Mary’s College of Maryland is re-accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, a non-profit association recognized by the U.S. Department of State. Middle States accredits degree-granting institutions in the mid-atlantic region. In Fall 2015 a committee from Middle States will visit the college to decide whether or not St. Mary’s will be re-accredited.
Middle States lists 14 standards a school must meet in order to continue to be accredited; these standards include that a college have a mission in the context of higher education and that faculty, administration, and the education properly achieves the goals laid out in said mission. Earning re-accreditation is significant for a school to continue being recognized as a valid institution and for receiving proper funding. Mark Heidrich, co-chair of the self-study, says that St. Mary’s has little threat of not being re-accredited, “We have to have a structure in place that demonstrates we are meeting our goals.”
In addition with gathering evidence that the school is meeting the 14 requirements laid out by Middle States, St. Mary’s would like to use this opportunity to evaluate if the school is performing as an honor’s college. St. Mary’s was designated a Public Honors College by state of Maryland in 1992 but the requirements for this designation were vague, simply claiming that St. Mary’s should provide academics above the average Maryland public college while at the same time maintaining affordability. “A lot of people are asking what does it really mean to be the public honors college of Maryland?” says Dr. Cynthia Koenig, co-chair of the self-study. Since the evaluation for re-accreditation is very much evidence driven, Dr. Koenig believes that this is a good opportunity to revisit what it means to be a public honors college and to identify where the school could improve.
Dr. Koenig and Hiedrich have established five working groups composed of administrators, faculty, staff, and students to look into the college’s mission & goals, leadership & support, planning & resources, curricular excellence, and assured excellence. Dr. Koenig says it would be ideal to have everybody involved. The working groups met in two open forums on September 24th and 26th that all were free to attend and share their voice. Dr. Koenig explained that they hope to have an opportunity similar to these open forums once a semester so everyone can be involved in the process and that if anyone is interested in the process to feel free to send the co-chairs an email. “We want everybody to be as involved as possible,” said Dr. Koenig.